Archive for June, 2013

Chapter One

I’m posting Chapter One so that people can get a better idea of where the book is going. Oh yes, the working title for the moment is Traveler. For some reason, WordPress is not indenting my paragraphs, so please don’t hold that against me. 🙂 Thanks for reading and for the responses!
Chapter One
October, 2013

Twelve-year-old boys are supposed to live ordinary lives. They are at that wonderful age when the world of adults is beginning to make sense but they are still comfortable enough to be able to play games like Tag or War, running over neighborhood lawns and through backyards screeching like banshees and firing foam darts at one another. They are supposed to be able to play video games for hours until their eyeballs feel as if they were going to fall out and to try and cajole their parents into letting them see movies that are still too violent and grown-up for them to watch. They are supposed to live lives that consist of homework, messy rooms, dirty socks under the bed, and noticing girls for the first time.

Tommy Andrews was fully aware of what a twelve-year-old boy’s life was supposed to be like and for the most part, his was exactly that, except for one missing piece.

He watched from his bedroom window as his friends’ fathers played catch with them, or showed them how to properly wash the family car in the small front yards of their little neighborhood. He wished that he had a father to play with, even if it was a father that he only saw on weekends, like many of his friends who had parents that were divorced. Tommy Andrews’ parents weren’t divorced. They were still married after many years. The problem was, simply, that Tommy’s father had disappeared, almost twelve years ago, when he was one year old.

In spite of not having his father around, Tommy’s mother really did everything she could to make his life a normal one. She worked all day as a schoolteacher in the little town in western Michigan where they lived. Each day, they would walk home together to the small farmhouse that was very old, creaky, and somewhat shabby, but clean and cared for.

While Tommy went to his room to start on his homework each afternoon, (he was very familiar with that particular part of a twelve-year-old boy’s life) he could hear her humming and banging around pots and pans in the kitchen before starting supper for the night. Soon, the lovely aroma of something, often Italian with basil and garlic, would float upstairs and creep under the door to his small bedroom, tickling his nose and making his stomach feel like a bottomless pit. His mother would beam when he came down for dinner at the stroke of six o’clock and inhale all of the hard work that she had put into feeding him. She could turn something as ordinary as spaghetti and meatballs into the most delicious meal.

After dinner, he would help her with the dishes as much as he could before she shooed him away to go out to play catch or foam darts with the neighborhood kids while she corrected papers and made lesson plans. Sometimes he would go out, but not terribly often. The other kids were nice enough, but he didn’t feel as if he really fit in with them. So many of them were obsessed with the latest video games or their new phones and Tommy wasn’t really into all of that. He surfed the internet, but usually for information, not games, although some of the informational sites had games for kids on them that he enjoyed.

If he didn’t go out after dinner, Tommy would often read to himself. He liked books about history and had a weakness for comic books that he would buy with his allowance. He felt silly talking about the history books with most of the other kids in the neighborhood so he kept his reading a secret from them.

There was one boy in the neighborhood, however, that Tommy considered a real friend, someone who he felt had more than video games for brains. Nick Jones was just his age and had no brothers or sisters, either, but his parents were divorced. This meant that for at least five days out of the week, there was someone sort of like him, without a dad. On the weekends, Nick’s dad would drive up in a red convertible; a mid-life crisis, Tommy’s mother called it. Nick’s mother called it something else, but Tommy wasn’t allowed to repeat it.

Nick even listened to Tommy talk about his favorite history books, when they had a good adventure in them, anyway, and they shared a passion for comic books, spending summer afternoons and their allowance in the small comic shop downtown. Because Nick’s parents were divorced, though, they didn’t get much time to spend together at each other’s houses. He went with his father every weekend and for two weeks during summer vacation.

Nick’s father seemed to sweep him away in a red blur every Friday afternoon for a weekend of water parks and laser tag. It had always sounded so exciting until Nick confessed to him that his dad really didn’t go on the water slides with him but sat talking on his cell phone or texting the whole time while Nick tried to find someone to pal around with. It was really very lonely and Nick said that he was always glad to come back home on Sunday nights. Tommy sometimes thought that even a lousy father might be better than having no father at all, but he kept that to himself so that he wouldn’t hurt his friend’s feelings.

The whereabouts of Tommy’s father were a mystery, at least to him. No one seemed to know where he had disappeared to, except perhaps his mother. Tommy was convinced that his mother kept any evidence about his father locked in a box in her room. The box was somewhat large, about the size of a coffee table book, and made of wood. It was old fashioned looking and carved with spiraling, metal, decorations on the top and sides. The wood was dark, almost black, and the hinges were a dull brass. His mother kept it on her dresser along with a framed picture of Tommy on his first birthday. She wore the key to the lock around her neck and had never let Tommy look inside, no matter how much he begged and pleaded with her. She always promised that she would open it for him when he was older, and then made it clear that the conversation was over.

When he asked her about his father, she would tell them that he had been a gentleman, a real gentleman, whatever that meant, and that he had loved them both very much. When Tommy would ask why he went away if he had loved them so much, his mother would get a sad smile on her face and say, “Sometimes, people don’t have a choice.” That part always made Tommy feel angry. To him it was a simple choice: stay with your family or run away to who-knows-where to do who-knows-what. It was maddening.

Tommy had only one picture of his father and it was of whole family together, the only one that was ever taken, as far as he knew. In it, his mother was curled up in their blue reclining rocking chair, the same one that they still had in the living room. Her dark curls were neatly brushed and held back with a green headband. She was looked at the camera with tired, but happy, eyes. It must have been just a day or so after coming home from the hospital with Tommy because she was holding him, all bundled up in a soft-looking blanket. Tommy had a small knit cap on his head to keep him warm and his face was all scrunched up-looking. There were little mittens on his hands (“To keep you from scratching yourself”, his mother said) and his eyes looked impossibly big and blue.

His father was kneeling in front of the chair, but had angled his body toward his family on the chair, his hand resting gently on the bundle that was Tommy. His face looked right at the camera, almost as though he were aware that this was the last picture that he would take with his new son. He had worn his brown hair long, brushed back into a neat ponytail. His eyebrows were arched in a way that made him look surprised even when he wasn’t. He had dimples in his cheeks, something that he had passed onto his son, and his eyes were a clear blue, like his. Tommy looked like a mixture of both of his parents with his mother’s dark, curly, hair and his father’s eyes. If he had to really describe himself, though, he’d say that his face looked like his father’s. He even had the small cleft in the middle of his chin like his father did in the picture.

It was such a happy family picture, even if it was taken with a self-timing camera. They all looked very content, like they were supposed to be together. In it, there was no indication that very soon Tommy’s father, Geoffrey Andrews, would disappear from their lives forever.

Tommy often fantasized about how his family life would be if his father had stayed in the picture, if he had been a real father to play catch with and to teach Tommy how to fish. He didn’t know much about him but what he was able to squeeze out of his mother was that his father was a great outdoorsman, but that he also liked to read anything he could get his hands on, as though he wouldn’t ever be able to get enough books. He liked to hunt with a crossbow rather than a gun and during the two years that they had been married and together, he had brought home enough deer meat to last for a long time in the freezer. Tommy’s mother had sold the crossbow long ago. She was worried that Tommy would get a hold of it and shoot himself by accident.

“But what was he like?” Tommy would beg his mother. “What job did he do? Where did he come from? Does he have brothers and sisters? Do I have cousins, or maybe grandparents? Is there anybody in his family that I can meet?”

His mother would sigh and close her eyes as if those were the most difficult questions in the world instead of being dreadfully ordinary.
“Tommy, your father’s past was a difficult one. He didn’t have any living family and had grown up as an orphan. He wasn’t a bad person, not at all, but he was always watching over his shoulder to make sure that no one was following him. There are evil people in the world and he wanted to make sure that you and I were safe. He was the kindest, gentlest man I had ever met.”

“He was born in England, but he was very content living here in America with us.” She seemed truly sorry that she couldn’t tell him any more information. Tommy could see it in her eyes, pleading with him to not make this any more difficult for her than it already was. For her sake, he’d stop the barrage of questions, but only to stop her from being sad. If it were up to him, he would have gone on forever, but he couldn’t resist just one more question.

“Did he say if he was ever coming back?” he would ask her over and over again.

His mother shook her head. “No,” she said, “He had to go; he didn’t have a choice about it. He really didn’t. It wasn’t something that he made up. He left us some money to help out. Most of the money was very old; antique coins and such. Some of them were more than four hundred years old! Some of it I sold to help us out and some I’ve saved for you for when you’re older. Then you can do with it what you want to, but to answer your question, he just didn’t know. I’m sorry.”

The story sounded stranger to Tommy the more he found out. His father thought people were following him? He had left antique money for them? What kind of person was Geoffrey Andrews, anyway? The more he learned about his family history, the more of a mystery it became. Tommy was more than determined to figure things out, once and for all. He began to hatch a plan inside his head, a plan that would certainly get him into trouble if his mother ever found out, but it might just help him find out what had happened to his father. Heck, it might even help him find his father, a possibility that Tommy hardly dared to think about.

He was weighing the consequences of his plan one night when he was supposed to be working on a research report about the American Revolution. He tried to keep his mind focused on Samuel Adams and the significance of the Boston Tea Party but instead his mind kept drifting to the significance of his father leaving behind old money and who could possibly have been after him. It occurred to him that he would most likely need some help in the matter; help from someone who understood his father dilemma and who might be willing to help, even under the threat of being discovered by whoever his father was afraid of or worse: his mother. Someone who liked a good adventure. He decided to talk to Nick after school the next day.

The next day seemed to drag on forever, each class more boring than the last. Tommy was so focused on talking to Nick later and not sounding like a complete idiot that he couldn’t wrap his mind around the new algebra formulas first thing that morning and was reprimanded by the math teacher, Mrs. Beydoun, for not paying attention. He got through gym class alright. They were only swimming laps mindlessly and he could think about what to say at the same time.

Home Economics, however, was a nightmare. He was supposed to be measuring and timing, but as a result of his daydreaming, the egg whites did not turn into a meringue; they looked more like the suds at the car wash. Ms. Ferris, the cooking teacher shook her head as she prodded the sodden mess with Tommy’s spatula.

“Mr. Andrews, where is your head today? I’ve never seen a meringue look so… flat.” She wrote something in her grade book and moved on to the next person, Susan Wright, who always did a perfect job at everything. She had giggled at Tommy’s meringue mess and now had her nose up in the air, smiling smugly as Ms. Ferris praised her perfect meringue, stiff with white peaks, like a mountain range.

“Susan’s meringue is perfect enough to go on top of a lemon pie right this minute!” Mrs. Ferris proclaimed. Susan smiled pointedly at Tommy. Tommy scowled and looked at the floor. What he really wanted to do was to take her perfect meringue and shove right in her face. He smiled as he imagined Susan’s shocked face, dripping with egg white while the class laughed. Maybe the sugar would even attract a swarm of bugs that would all go after her. He smothered a laugh as he imagined Miss Perfect running down the hallway, dripping with meringue and pursued by a cloud of flies and gnats, maybe even a yellow jacket or two. It was difficult, but he did manage to get himself under control and begin to clean up his mess before Mrs. Ferris noticed.

The last half of the day dragged even more slowly than the first half. Lunch was a blob of something that they had had for lunch a few days ago, meat loaf perhaps. The President’s new rules on lunchroom nutrition had obviously not made it to Michigan yet. At least the chocolate milk was actually milk. After lunch it was English grammar in Language Arts, boring under the best circumstances, followed by Social Studies.

Social Studies class was the one place where Tommy was usually really interested. He was fascinated by the explorers who had traveled the world, the problems that they had faced along their journeys, and where they ended up. Then, they had studied about the Puritans and were now, at the end of the year, studying the Revolutionary War. There seemed to be an endless networking of spies and strategies, just like in some of the video games that he played at his friends’ houses; but this had not been a game that the Americans were playing. He found it incredible that people were willing to die for what they believed in. He couldn’t imagine being able to do that, or the neighborhood kids being able to do that. They seemed, so, well, immature sometimes.

Tommy’s teacher, Mr. Barnhart, was very interested in the American Revolution. He was English and would joke with the students about what would have happened if the Americans had lost the war. To make history a little more interesting, he would often bring in papers from his own personal collection. It wasn’t unusual for him to supplement his lessons with real historical objects that he owned himself; primary sources he called them.

During their unit on European explorers, he had brought in artifacts from daily life in the 1500’s and 1600’s. For the American Revolution one day, he brought in some first-hand accounts that soldiers had written home to their families.
One of the letters spoke of a drummer boy, just eleven years old, who had been killed in battle. The soldier wrote of the young boy’s bravery under heavy fire and how the remaining soldiers wept when they buried his body. That passage hit Tommy hard. For the rest of that day he wondered what it would have been like to be that boy, who was a year younger than himself and playing his drum while bullets flew through the air around him. It was a hard, heavy, feeling to shake off.

On this day, like in all of his other classes, Tommy found it unusually hard to concentrate in his favorite class, even while they were having a debate, something that he loved to do. Mr. Barnhart noticed it, too, and asked Tommy to stay after for a minute.

Tommy sat there nervously while the other kids shuffled out, curious why Tommy had to stay. Of course, Susan Wright was whispering with all of her annoying friends, about him, he was sure, but he wasn’t worried. He didn’t want to tell Mr. Barnhart what was going on, but he knew that his teacher wouldn’t push him too hard about it.

When the classroom was empty, Mr. Barnhart shut the door and turned to look at Tommy for a moment.

“Is everything alright, Tommy?” he asked. Many of the girls at school had huge crushes on Mr. Barnhart because he was a younger, good-looking teacher and spoke with that accent.

Tommy nodded and fixed his eyes on the history book in front of him.

“I’m just asking because usually, you participate in the class discussions. It’s not like you to sit quietly out of it, especially when we’re discussing alternate perspectives.” Mr. Barnhart was right. Tommy usually loved looking at historical situations from all points of view, not just the popular ones. For this particular lesson, however, he just couldn’t seem to focus. Talking to Nick had been at the forefront of his mind all day.

He realized that Mr. Barnhart was staring quizzically at him and was waiting for Tommy to respond somehow.

Flushing red, he stammered out, “I’m sorry, sir. My mind is just on other things today. It won’t happen again.”

Still concerned, Mr. Barnhart asked, “Is it anything that you’d like to tell me about? I’m a pretty good listener.”

Tommy felt torn. He really would like to spill everything out to his favorite teacher. His father’s mysterious disappearance, the other clues that he wanted to follow up on, bringing Nick into the situation, it was all too much. In the back of his mind, though, there was a little voice whispering to him, Not yet, not yet. Grudgingly, Tommy shook his head.
“No, but thank you. I’ll be back to normal tomorrow.” I hope, he thought as he gave Mr. Barnhart his best grin under the circumstances and gathered his things to head for the last period of the day. He was well aware that Mr. Barnhart didn’t believe him and felt his eyes watching his back all the way out the door. He often got the feeling that Mr. Barnhart knew more about him than he thought. He was aware that his mom knew Mr. Barnhart. They were both teachers in the same small town, after all. It just seemed that somehow Mr. Barnhart knew him. He shook the feeling off and went to his next class.

The last hour, Computer Technology, passed by surprisingly quickly. There was a substitute and the teacher had left instructions for a free day. In that time, Tommy used a few different search engines to look up whatever he could find on crossbows and old coins and while the information that he found was fairly interesting, it wasn’t anything that he felt would help him. When the final bell of the day finally rang, he bolted out of the door to his locker in order to catch up with Nick. He usually waited for his mother to finish teaching at the elementary school, but he had told her in the morning that he and Nick might hang out for a while that afternoon.

Stuffing his homework into his backpack, he caught up with Nick down the hallway at his locker. Although Tommy’s locker was messy, it was nothing compared to the nuclear explosion that seemed to have happened in Nick’s locker. Old lunch bags, crumpled papers, and even banana peels were all part of the disgusting mess. It was impossible to see where Nick put his school books or backpack.

“Wow”, Tommy said as Nick wrestled some papers from the mass inside, “Gross! How do you find anything in there?”
Nick just grinned as he smoothed out a math worksheet. “I have a system. What’s up?”

“Get your stuff and walk home with me. I’ve got a proposition for you.”

“A proposition, huh? This isn’t anything that going to get me into trouble, is it? I have enough to worry about as it is. My mom’s gonna kill me when she sees my math grade.”

Tommy shook his head. “Nope. If anyone is going to get into trouble, it’s me.” He glanced around, not wanting anyone else to hear what he had to say, especially Susan Wright who was only a few lockers away. He leaned in closer to Nick and whispered, “I want you to help me find my dad.”

Nick looked at him strangely. “Your dad? Is he still alive? Where is he?” Nick knew that Tommy’s dad wasn’t around, but he knew that it made Tommy uncomfortable, so he never asked him about it.

“I don’t know. My mom doesn’t know, either, or so she says. He left behind some stuff that I think will help us, almost like a map, but there are a lot of pieces missing. I need you there to help me figure it out, from a different perspective, you know? Maybe you’ll see something that I don’t.” Nick was looking interested now.

“I have to warn you, though. I’m going to need to break into something of my mom’s. I’ll do it so you don’t get into trouble, but I need your help. I think that there’s something in this box that she has that will help us.”

“Like a clue?”

Tommy nodded.

Nick stared at him. “You’re going to break into a box of your mom’s? Won’t you get into trouble?”

Tommy’s stomach churned. He didn’t want to break into the box, but the pull of finding something useful in there was so strong that he just couldn’t help it.

Looking at Nick he said, “I hope not. We’ll have to make a plan for when we can do it and put the box back before she notices that it’s missing. We aren’t going to steal anything. I just want to see what’s in there and copy down any information that we find. We’ll put everything back exactly the way it was. Then we can figure out if it will lead us anywhere or not. What do you say? Partners?”

Nick looked at him skeptically. “You really think we’re going to be able to find your dad with whatever is in your mom’s locked box?”

Tommy nodded. He wasn’t planning on telling Nick about the possibility of any people being after his father just yet. He didn’t want to scare him off. For now, he needed Nick’s brain power and companionship. If things got more involved, then he’d fill him in on the specifics.

Nick let out a heavy sigh and thought for a moment. “What’s in it for me? If we get busted, my mom will kill me.”

Tommy thought for a moment and then had an idea. “My mom has a lot of old coins that she’s been saving for me, ones that my dad left behind to help us out. She said that some of them are over five hundred years old. If you help me out, when she gives them to me, I’ll let you pick out whichever one you want. For keeps.”

“For keeps?”


“Swear it.”

Tommy sighed and tried to think up a good pledge. “I, Thomas Geoffrey Andrews do solemnly swear to give Nick Jones his choice of old coins once we are done solving the mystery of where my father went. There, will that work?”

Nick stuck out his hand and tried not to laugh. “Jeez, you’re a cornball. Shake on it.”

They shook on it and immediately Tommy felt better. Knowing that he had a partner in all of this was going to make things a lot easier, so he thought.

All the way home, Tommy and Nick talked about how they were going to get into Mrs. Andrews’ box. Nick wanted to dress all in black and sneak into her room in the dead of night while she was sleeping, but Tommy shot that idea down.

“She’s up really late at night, correcting papers and watching old movies on TV. Plus, she sleeps really lightly. She’d wake up in a minute and freak out when she found us. We have to do it when she’s out of the house. It’s the only way.”

“Okay, so when is she going to be out? She can’t sit and correct papers all the time. Does she ever go out on dates? When my mom goes out on dates she’s gone for hours.”

Tommy shook his head. “No good. She hasn’t ever gone out on a date. That’s another reason I think my dad is still alive out there. It would be weird if he came back and she was dating another guy, right?”

“Maybe you just don’t know that she’s going out on dates.” Nick smiled mischievously.

Starting to get annoyed, Tommy said firmly, “No dates. No way. We’re getting off the topic.” He thought for a moment. “She goes shopping on Saturday mornings. That’s only two days away. We can do it then.”

Nick thought. “I was supposed to be at my dad’s this weekend, but I’ll tell him that I’m going to do homework with you in the morning, so he can come and get me Saturday night instead. How long is your mom gone for?”

“A couple of hours. I think that’ll be plenty of time for us to get in there and do what we need to do. By the way, how are you at picking locks?”

“Well, I never have, but I think I could practice on the tool shed lock. My mom never goes in there anyway. I’ll look online, too and see what I can find out.”

“Great, me too. We need to make sure we do it without damaging the box. It looks really old and valuable.”

They were nearing the point where they would split off and head to their separate houses. They stopped and went over the plan one more time.

“Okay, so Saturday when your mom leaves to go shopping, call me and I’ll come right over. We’ll pick the lock, see what’s inside, and decide what to do after that.” Nick was getting excited now. He was talking fast and little splotches of pink were showing up on his cheeks.

“Yeah, but don’t forget that we can’t break the lock, or the box.” Tommy ventured nervously. Now that they had a plan in the works it actually was beginning to feel slightly devious and that made him uncomfortable. He had never really lied to his mom before; he really hadn’t ever had a reason to and she trusted him. It made him feel bad that they were going to sneak into her room and snoop in her things, but he told himself that he wasn’t actually telling her a lie, he simply wasn’t telling her what he was going to be doing.

Even with all of the reassurances he was giving himself, he still felt like a weasel, but was determined to see what was inside the box. Somehow he knew that whatever was in there would give him the clues to help find out what had happened to his dad. He could feel it! But still… He looked at Nick for a moment.

“Uh, I feel kind of like a jerk for doing this.”

To his surprise, Nick looked slightly sheepish, too. “Yeah, I know how you feel. Your mom’s a nice lady. She was my third grade teacher.”

Tommy knew that. Nick hadn’t been in his third grade class and his mom had taught almost half of the kids in the town. He felt better, knowing that Nick felt the same way.

“I still want to do it, okay?” Tommy asked him.

A mischievous glint appeared in Nick’s eyes. “You’re on!” He clapped Tommy on the back and turned toward home. “See you on Saturday,” he called over his shoulder.

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As plenty of folks know, I’ve been working on a middle-grade (middle school level) fiction novel for a while now. This summer is the time where it’s all about fine-tuning and getting ready to submit to an agent. I was lucky with my first book, in that  I only had to find a publisher and it was a pretty narrow market. I’m finding that the fiction market is a lot more difficult and there is a lot of competition. I want to post just a bit of it on the blog and see what people think, if they are so inclined. 🙂 If you’d like to, that’s great and I appreciate it! If you don’t want to, that also fine. I don’t want to impose! Thanks for reading!


Somewhere near Jerusalem, 1191 AD

            William quietly grabbed his sword, ever-present at his side, and sat up, waiting for the source of the noise to show itself. The curtain at his tent door rippled slightly and his heart began to beat faster, filling him with fear and dread at what was waiting for him outside. He gripped the handle of his sword more tightly and prepared to strike as the curtain began to open.

            Just as he was raising his sword over his head to surprise the intruder, a small face peered at him through the opening in the tent. A child! A girl. Still, it could be a trick.

            “Who are you?” he asked in Arabic. After months in this part of the world, he had managed to pick up a few phrases here and there, enough to make himself understood when it mattered.

            The child’s eyes widened at the sight of the gleaming sword ready raised high in the air, ready to swing. She began to tremble and whisper in Arabic to William. He couldn’t understand it all but he did manage to catch, “Please” and “Alone!”

            He yanked the curtain out of her hand and looked around outside of the tent. Outside of a few men sitting by their campfires, there was no one else about. He looked down at the girl, who was trembling like a leaf and he thought of his own small daughter and son back in England. He tried to give her a comforting smile and took her gently by the arm into his tent, out of the cold, desert night air.

            He gestured for her to sit on the rug that was covering the sandy ground and he sat on his cot expectantly, waiting for her to work up the courage to say what she needed to say. Finally, she spoke, surprisingly, in halting English.

            “P-p-please, sir”, she began, her liquid-brown eyes full of frightened tears. “Please don’t hurt my village”, she begged.

            William was stunned. What courage this child had! She had braved the sentries to sneak into the commander’s tent to plead for her village. He smiled at her kindly.

            “Such bravery, small one. Tell me, how do you know how to speak my language?”

            “We have had soldiers here before. Sometimes they stay a long time. We listen to them speak.”

            William was impressed. Such intelligence! But he still wasn’t satisfied that this was not a trick.

            “Who sent you?’ he asked.

            The child shook her head. “No one. Everyone left but us. My mother has a new baby and can’t travel. My father is dead, killed when the last soldiers were here. We are all alone. Please, please don’t hurt us! I can give you this.”

            From a fold in her robe she pulled out a small wooden box. Sir William shrank back for a moment, suspicious of the box, but when nothing happened, he reached out to take it from her. It was a very old box, the wood dark and polished from many years of handling. He opened it gently and peered inside.

            Four purple stones lay within, winking up at him as if they had a secret to share. As stones, they weren’t worth much, but maybe they could buy food or supplies along the way for his men.

            “What are these?” he asked the girl.

            She waited a moment before answering. “My grandmother called them travel stones.”

            “They look like amethysts.”

            She shook her head. “No, not amethysts. These stones are magic. Very valuable! We have kept them hidden for many years.”

            “Travel stones? Why are you giving them to me? Won’t your mother be angry?”

            Again, the girl shook her head. “My mother told me to bring them to you. She said to tell you their secrets. Hold one in your hand.” Perplexed, William picked up one of the stones. He felt a warm vibration in his palm as he held it.

            “What is it doing?” he asked her. She smiled at him.

            “It is waiting to take you, if you want.”

            “Take me where?”

            “Wherever you want to go, in time. You can choose, but don’t ever let go or you can’t come back. Say it out loud. Try it, you’ll see.”

            “But how do I come back?”

            “Just think of here again, this same time and the exact same place. Say it out loud again.” She shrugged, as if it were the most obvious thing in the world. “You try it now? I’ll wait for you.”

            “Now? This isn’t a trick, is it?”

            She shook her head violently, afraid again, and grabbed his arm. “No, no, sir! We want to live in peace, no more soldiers. Please take these stones and make your men go away. Try them and see!” William felt ridiculous, but the girl looked so earnest that he decided to play along.

            “Alright, my young friend, where should I go?”

            “Somewhere easy, to start. Go to the day you left your country. Say it out loud, the whole date, and don’t let go!”

            Still feeling ridiculous, Sir William held the small purple stone in his large calloused hand and felt the warm vibration again. Keeping his eyes on the girl he said, “I want to go to London, England, July 1, 1190!”

            Instantly, he disappeared from sight. The girl smiled to herself. It had worked and was happening just as her mother had told her it would. She hoped with all her heart that it would be enough to send them away. Then, just as suddenly as he had disappeared, William appeared again, thumping down from the ceiling of the tent onto the carpet and nearly knocking her over. He picked himself up slowly, staring at her with amazement. He was the one trembling, now.

            “Extraordinary! What kind of witchcraft is this?” She shrugged again.

            “I have never used them. Just take them and please leave us alone!” Sir William nodded his head.

            “You have my word of honor. Tell your mother not to worry. We will leave at first light. Your village is safe.” King Richard would not be pleased if he spared the village, but he would think of what to tell the king later. The stones were too extraordinary for him to let this opportunity go.

            The girl dipped her head to him in thanks and departed silently as quickly as she had come. William sat back weakly and opened the box to slip the stone back inside, then put the box securely in his shirt. He couldn’t let anyone know about this.

             He needed to tell his men of the new plan. After what he had witnessed tonight, he wasn’t taking any chances and besides, he was a man of his word.

            The village remained unharmed.



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