A Fear

I exhaled slowly and watched my breath as it swirled in the still air. The cold always had comforted me; today was no exception. I gazed into the valley. Perfectly coated in white, it was as though the world had begun again, and yet, it had a scar. A thousand soldiers marched through the new fallen snow. They were cold, and even this small dusting had slowed their pace considerably. I closed my eyes and felt the air. The earth seemed to hold its breath. It was keeping a secret. A horse snorted beside me Morticus's army is mere leagues away from the outer wall. I turned to face my lieutenant.The white horse beneath him neighed impatiently. ... We cannot wait for much longer. I sighed and looked the man in the eyes. No, we can't. I flicked the reins and turned my horse to face my knights. A hundred men cloaked in pure white looked back at me. They wore no armour and carried no shield - but they were valiant. There is no greater defense. Knights of Crestdale! My voice cut deep into the silence The enemy is on our doorstep. For too long we have let them have their way. For too long we have waited for help in our time of need, but none has come! No longer shall we wait. Today we stand. We stand for liberty, we stand for honor and we stand for our people. Today we shall turn the tide in freedom's favour! Today we shall avenge the lives of the lost! And today, we shall reign victorious! A shout arose from the Knights as they raised their swords. For valour! I said lifting my sword high And for victory! finished the knights. I spurred my horse and the white beast reared. A battle cry filled the air and my steed came crashing back down to earth. I turned and charged into the valley. A horn sounded and the black army scrambled into action. I hugged the neck of my mount and urged it to go faster. Arrows began to streak past and I felt my heart as it pounded within my chest. I drew my sword and rushed, full speed, into the enemy ranks. The sea of darkness parted before me as soldiers dove out of the way, barely escaping my massive beast’s hooves. But they couldn't escape my blade. Blood stained the snow in my wake as I drove deep into the heart of the enemy. A sword raked my horse's side, and it cried out as it began to fall. I leaped off and rolled to a knee. There would be time later to mourn the dead, but only if I was not counted among them. I brought my sword behind the enemie's knees, and three black armored soldiers crumpled to the ground. Two swords flew toward me. I batted the first away and sidestepped the other. A quick lunge and slash later, their blood joined the others. The dance had begun. A bit of movement struck from the corner of my eye. I whipped around and the dark knight's blade smashed into my defense. My feet slid back on the slick snow but I did not fall. I dropped to a crouch as the enemy's steel assailed the air above me. I struck and plunged my blade through a gap in the man's jagged armor. The man howled and clutched his arm, and I finished him off. I whirled around just as three opponents charged at me. Not quite fair, but I would manage. I lunged into the swing of the first and slammed my shoulder into the man's armored chest. He staggered back, winded. I then spun and turned to face the other two. One blade sped toward my head and the other lunged at my stomach. But I made a C with my body and ducked simultaneously, narrowly avoiding both. I slammed my blade down hard on the sword intended to kill me and delivered a slash to the man's neck before he could defend. Then, keeping my spin, I brought low my other opponent. I turned to face the last of the three. The black knight's eyes grew wide and he took a step back. Suddenly two swords, dark as night, appeared at the man's throat. Coward! hissed a deep voice and the blades slid. The man's body fell, headless, to the ground. But towering before me, stood a giant. His armour was as if iron had fused to man and become one. His helmet's jagged spikes cured around his head like a crown. On his back he carried two sheathes for his dark blades. His black eyes bored into my soul. Hello... general. The man's voice was like death itself. Get this scum out of my sight. the giant commanded, gesturing to the bodies littering the ground. Quickly, the black Knights dragged the bodies out of the way and gave their leader a wide berth. I'm going to enjoy this. He smirked and lunged toward me. I raised my sword and caught both his blades mid swing. Sparks flew, and the clash of masters reverberated through the valley. Pain exploded in my wrist and I barely managed to keep hold of my sword. But my enemy didn't wait for me to recover, and I found a sword streaking toward my head. I ducked and heard the sound of the blade as it narrowly missed me. I moved my sword to where I knew the other blade would strike. The shock of the impact rippled through my body and I leaped back. An ebony blade slashed the air before me. General, have you ever pondered death? the giant asked as I struck for a gap in his armour. Two crossed blades caught my sword and threw it back at me. One would suppose that a general, of all people, would be well versed on the subject. The giant darted forward and struck with lightning speed. I parried one blade, and barely avoided the other. But do you know what I've found? I took a step backward, and black blades smashed into my defense. I've found they will not even think of death. I felt my muscles burn as he increased the pressure And being the cowards that they are, they do all they can to flee from it. That's when I felt a fire ignite within me. I am no coward! I whispered and dropped to a knee. Two blades sliced the air above me as I propelled myself into his legs. The giant only took a step backward, but that was all I needed. I sprung to my feet, and with all the force my arms could muster, I swung at the giant's left. The man blocked it and took another step back. I pushed my offensive and began a rhythmic attack - left, right, jab, left, right, jab. My opponent began to fall under the spell, anticipating where the next attack would fall. I waited and finally the time came. I hadn't even begun to strike and my opponent was positioned to block his right side. I feigned a right attack, and then with great force, swung for the giant's left. But my blade only cut the cold air. With incredible speed the man stepped just out of reach of my sword. I couldn't stop myself, and the force of my swing spun me just a little too far. Suddenly pain exploded in my stomach. I gazed down at the tip of a black blade protruding from me. Blood began to stain my white coat and my vision began to fade. A dark presence loomed beside me. But death always wins. the giant whispered, and all went black.

Thunder Before the Rain

Thunder rolled ominously overhead. Just as weeping came before the tears, so thunder came before the rain. Roger glanced up at the stormy sky. Better hurry he thought. Too late. A heavy tear from on high shattered on the pavement. Please no, he pleaded, quickening his pace. God didn't listen.

Within moments the rain fell in sheets and he sprinted for the nearest awning. He huddled beneath the patch of shelter and jerked his phone from his pocket. It slipped from his hand and shattered on the cold cement. Fuming, Roger looked at the decimated device. He growled. Why Not! he thought, releasing a laugh that bordered on hysteria. First the job, then my car, why not my phone too! Roger just shook his head What else can you take away from me? he yelled above the roar of the rain. Lightning flashed and thunder shook the sky. He ignored its threats. For lack of a better thing to do Roger examined the franchise which so generously offered him its roof. It was a coffee shop, to which its name, The Beings Bean creatively attested. A heavenly smell drifted invingly from the open door, promising Roger a delicious respite from his unfortunate turn of events. Maybe something can go right after all, he hoped as he wandered inside.

The atmosphere was charged with friendly conversations, quaint decorations and, most importantly, that blissful coffee smell. Welcome to the Beings Bean! said a cheery barista How's your day going? Good. Roger lied passively. I'll just get a cappuccino, he said, pulling a ten from his wallet.

She eyed the bill and giggled. Don't worry, it's on the house. Roger blinked a few times before returning the bill to its place. Uh, thanks. he mumbled and took a seat at a nearby table. He let time tick past as he stared absently out into the pouring rain. The barista placed his coffee on the table and snapped Roger from his brooding trance.

What's on your mind? she asked.

Nothing, he answered dismissively and took a sip from his brew. He closed his eyes and let the drink sooth his nerves.

Had a bad day, huh? Roger frowned. Yes, in fact, I did, he replied curtly.

She smiled nonetheless. God's not angry with you. Roger started.

You messed up, but He's not mad. I just felt like I was supposed to tell you: He disciplines those He loves. She flashed a smile and she was gone, ministering to the next customer. Roger, stunned, stared out the window.

The rain still fell, but it seemed to be easing up. Then, for a moment, a ray of sunlight broke through the clouds.


Ian looked out the car window, as he watched the summer trees fly past. Putting his head back on his seat, he glanced over at his sister, Ava. She was playing a video game on her phone and didn't notice him. Ian looked out the window again with a sigh. He'd wanted an iPhone for almost a year now and didn't think it was fair that his sister could have one, but he couldn't. But, as usual, his parents said he would have to wait. Apparently, once you turn twelve you automatically became responsible, but if you are eleven you just aren't there yet.
It's not fair, Ian mumbled to himself. It wasn't fair that he didn't have a phone, it wasn't fair that Ava was older, and it wasn't fair that they had to move. His dad said it was a good house, but that's what dads always say. He had seen pictures, and he was sure he wasn't going to like it.
Wanna play? asked Ava, holding out her phone.
Yeah, sure, answered Ian. Thanks!
No prob, said Ava, as she settled back in her seat.
Do I hear some grumpy kids cheering up? asked Mr. Brokenwing, glancing back in the mirror.
Ava and Ian didn't reply.
Come on guys said their mom, turning around to look at them. It's not that bad. I know you'll have to go to a new school, but you'll get to make new friends. Besides, school doesn't start for another two months, and you'll have all this great California land to explore!
Ian perked up, when he heard the word explore but quickly returned to his game, when he realized what was happening.
Mom, just stop, ok? Ava pleaded with a sigh. You know this sucks, and trying to make it better doesn't help.
Hey! came Dad's stern voice from the driver's seat, You don't talk to your mom that way! Apologize to your mother right now!
Sorry, Mom, mumbled Ava.
Good job! I don't want any more bad attitudes, ok? The car was silent for a few seconds.
And Ava... said Dad. I want you to go exploring with Ian before the sun sets.
But Dad...
No buts, answered Dad. It will be good for you to get out and into the fresh air. Besides, I don't want Ian out there alone. Okay?
Ava looked out the window.
Okay? asked her dad again.
Okay, replied Ava. They rode in silence for the next few minutes, until they turned up the steep driveway to their new home. Ian tossed the phone to Ava and got ready to open the door. The car slowed to a stop. Ian jumped out, set on climbing the nearest tree. Ava stretched and breathed in the summer air. The California day was a bit warm but not uncomfortable. She examined the house, as Ian got a bird's-eye view.
It was a quaint house with only one story and a lot of windows. Mr. Brokenwing tried to find the right key, while Ava wandered around back. She found the back door and tried the handle. It was unlocked.
Who locks the front door but leaves the back unlocked? Ava asked herself as she wandered inside. The lights weren't on, but the house didn't seem particularly dark, as sunlight flooded through the windows. She walked slowly through what seemed to be the laundry room and into the kitchen. The room was painted a beautiful shade of dark blue, while the counters were made of black granite. She brushed her hand along the cold stone and came to the living room. Chiseled into the wall was a stone fireplace surrounded by cobbled gray brick.
Just then the front door opened. Finally, said Dad, as he stepped inside, followed by his wife. He stared at Ava. How did you get in? he asked, surprised.
The back door was unlocked, replied Ava with a shrug. Oh, he said and began to look around. This is nice. He nodded his head, as he examined the living room and kitchen. Have you found your room yet? he asked.
Uh, no, I haven't gone there yet.
Well, you better check it out before Ian does, teased her dad, just as Ian streaked by.
Hey! yelled Ava as she raced her brother down the hall. Ian won, but just barely. He launched himself through the first door in sight. Ava raced past and claimed the second room. Ian followed her shortly.
No fair, I want this room! complained Ian as he came in.
Nope, it's mine, I got here first.
But you cheated! accused Ian
How did I cheat? demanded Ava.
You are always getting the…. Ian was interrupted by his mom's hand on his shoulder.
Now Ian, Ava didn't cheat, and this is going to be your room anyway. I'm sorry, but you two will have to share a room.
What? cried Ian and Ava at the same time.
Guys, your mother's right, said Dad, walking into the room. I didn't want to tell you in the car, but you'll have to share a room while we live here.
But then my room will be all girly! objected Ian.
Dad! whined Ava.
I'm sorry, but there's nothing to be done about it. There are only two bedrooms in this house, and one of them has to be your mother's and mine.
Ava, you've done it before, and you can do it again. Now go out and explore, while we start hauling stuff inside…. and stick together! he yelled after them, as Ian and Ava dragged themselves out the door.
Ian kicked a rock, as they wandered into the woods.
I can't believe Dad is making us share a room, he groaned. Yeah, well, I'm not too excited about it either! his sister retorted, Your feet stink!
Hey my feet don't smell that bad! exclaimed Ian.
Yes they do! argued Ava
Only if I take my socks off!
No, they stink with or without your socks!
I can't smell them.
Well, I sure can. Maybe your nose is broken. said Ava
Or maybe your nose is just too sensitive. replied Ian
Hey! yelled Ava
I'm just tellin' the truth, said Ian, raising his hands defensively and taking a step back.
Ava shook her head and rolled her eyes, as the siblings wandered deeper into the forest. Ahhhhh! Ava screamed suddenly, as she fell into a small ravine. Ian skidded down beside her.
Uh! These are my favorite jeans!'' Ava mourned as she wiped the mud off her pants.
Aw, grow up, Ian said, taking a look around. Let's go climb those rocks. He pointed to a small pile of boulders down the ravine.
Alright, agreed Ava, as she pulled out her phone to make sure it wasn't broken. Ian jogged over to the rocks and started climbing. Ava followed him. She sat down on a fallen tree and looked around. She was in a small valley surrounded by towering trees with a few bushes scattered throughout them. The green grass waved in the slight breeze and looked as if it was bowing to the sturdy boulders where Ian stood. Ava scowled and looked closer at what appeared to be a little cave under one of the boulders. She walked over to the hole and peered inside.
Hey Ian! she hollered. Come check this out! After a bit of rock-hopping, Ian looked down from one of the boulders. What?
Check out this cave I found, Ava said, pointing to the cavern. Ian's eyes widened, as he scurried down the rock.
Have you gone in yet? he asked, as he stuck his head into the hole. No, answered Ava.
He pulled his head out and stuck his feet in. Then I claim it! he yelled and dropped in.
Wait! called his sister, but it was too late. Ava stared into the darkness.
Ow, moaned Ian.
Are you alright? she called down.
Yeah, I hurt my ankle a bit, but I'm fine.
Do you need me to go get Dad?
Nah, I'm ok, but you need to come down here. It's super cool!
How do I get down? Ava asked.
Uh, there's a ledge about halfway down; you can put your foot on it.
Ok, replied Ava hesitantly, as she slowly lowered herself into the cave.
What now? she called down to Ian.
Jump! he yelled, looking up while moving out of the way.
Alright, she said, and jumped off the ledge.
Isn't this cool! exclaimed Ian, as he ran to the back of the cave.
Yeah, but I thought it would be bigger.
I know, I hoped it would be too. Ian said, as he picked up a rock and chucked it at the wall. The rock hit the wall and exploded into a hundred little sparks and pieces.
Woah! shouted Ian, Did you see that?
Yeah! That was awesome! How did you do that?
I don't know. These rocks must be those rocks the Indians used to start fires or something.
You mean flint? asked Ava
Yeah, sure. said Ian with shrug. He picked up another rock and threw it at the back of the cave. Sparks lit up the darkness. Cool! he said and picked up another rock.
Wait! yelled Ava, just as Ian was about to throw the rock.
What? he asked, turning around.
Look! She pointed to the the back of the cave.
Ian glanced about, wondering what he was supposed to see. Then, just when he was about to look away, he noticed it. The wall was glowing!
What is that? declared Ian aloud, as he edged closer. The wall began to pulse, and with each pulse it grew brighter.
Ian, I think we better go! Ava called out.
Ian dropped his rock and reached toward the wall.
Ian...! Ava warned as she began to walk toward him. His finger was just inches away.
Ian! Ava yelled and ran towards him. She grabbed his arm, but just as she was about to jerk him away, Ian's finger touched the wall. Suddenly, a sound like a gunshot echoed through the cave, and a light like a lightning bolt blinded them. Ava screamed, while Ian threw himself to the floor. The world began to accelerate like the drop on a roller coaster. They felt weightless and grasped for something to hold on to, as the ground disappeared from
underneath them. Then, as if their world crashed like a car in an accident, the two flew forward. Just as suddenly as it had begun, it was over.
Ian felt the gravel beneath his feet. The flint rocks were gone, and a smell of damp humidity flooded his nostrils. Ian opened his eyes. Darkness. He was breathing heavily, and he could feel his heart beating in his chest. He heard too the sound of breathing beside him.
Ava! he whispered. Are you there? The breathing shuddered, as Ava tried to say something. Where are you? Say something! Ian called in the darkness, waving his hands in front of him.
I'm here. Ava whispered.
Where? asked Ian, turning to the sound of her voice.
Over here, she repeated, her voice growing louder as her courage grew.
Ian's hands bumped into something. Ava, is that you?
Yeah, it's me, she said, taking a deep breath. The darkness was filled with silence.
What happened? he asked.
I don't know. replied Ava, a tremor in her voice. More silence.
I can't see, can you?
Do you think we're blind?
I don't know, let me see if my phone works, Ava said, reaching her trembling hands into her pocket. She pulled out her phone and pressed the home button. Nothing happened. Then the darkness lit up as the phone began to reboot. Startled, both of them jerked back as one.
Ok, so if we're not blind then where are we? insisted Ian, while Ava turned the phone's flashlight on and looked around.
Wherever we are, it's different, Ava replied, as she inspected the gravel beneath them. Do you think we're in a different cave? Don't know. Let's see if we can find a wall.
After cautiously wandering around, they discovered that yes, they were in a cave, and just like the cavern they had found in California, they were at a dead end.
Maybe if I hit the back of the cave with a rock like I did before we could get back home, he wondered aloud.
Go ahead. Give it a try.
Alright, shine your light over here, said Ian, as he searched for a suitable rock. Hesitantly, he drew back and let the rock fly. It ricocheted off the cave wall and sent a sound echoing through the darkness. They waited, but nothing happened.
Here, let me try, said Ava, putting down her phone. Ava threw a rock at the cave wall. Again nothing.
Maybe the rock has to break? remarked Ian, as he grabbed a stone and threw it with all his might. The rock struck the wall and cracked in two. Nothing changed. Maybe it has to break into a lot of pieces, said Ava, who threw another rock at the wall.
Or maybe you have to hit a certain spot. Another rock clanged against the wall
Or maybe...
Ava, I don't think this is going to work. I think we need to get out of this cave and find someone who will help us.
Who's gonna help us, Ian? Mom and Dad can't. They don't even know where we are. Hey, we don't even know where we are, so how are other people going to help us?
I don't know, but we have to try.
We don't even know what this place is.
We have to try! insisted Ian.
No Ian, we have to stay here. See if we can open the portal or whatever it is and get back home!
Well, I'm going to get us out of here whether you're coming or not. Ian grabbed the phone and began marching towards the open end of the cave.
Ian, come back! insisted Ava angrily. Dad said to stick together!
Ian kept walking.
IAN! she yelled. Boys are so stupid! she mumbled to herself and chased after her little brother. Ian walked straight ahead, even as Ava caught up with him.
Fine, said Ava, as she snatched her phone from his hand, But I get to light the way.
Deal! replied Ian with a grin.
Ava rolled her eyes but couldn't hold back a little smile. Together they trekked through the cave in silence, each entertaining private thoughts, worries and fears. Slowly, the cave floor began to rise.
After ten minutes of walking, Ava spotted something. Look! said Ava, pointing to the ground. The gravel road had turned into a cobblestone. She bent down to take a closer look. The stones were old, ancient, even, and mostly covered in moss.
Look at this, came Ian's response.
Ava caught her breath. There were footprints in the moss.
Someone's been here! declared Ian.
Ava stood up slowly. The hair on the back of her neck stood on end. Everywhere she turned, it seemed as if she was being watched.
Let's get out of here, said Ian, experiencing the same hair-raising feeling.
Quickly they ran down the mossy stone road, turning around every once in a while to see if anyone was following them. Soon they reached a spiral stone staircase.
Ava stopped. Should we go up? She whispered, shining her light on the old cracked stone steps.
I don't want to stay down here! said Ian, looking over his shoulder.
Me either, agreed Ava, as they began to climb the steps. One, two, three, four… Ava whispered to herself as she counted the steps, but soon lost track as the staircase continued to spiral upward.
How long do you think these stairs are? Asked Ian, his quiet voice echoing off the walls.
I don't know, mumbled Ava, shaking her head. They continued to climb.
Suddenly, Ian froze.
What is it? Ava asked, as Ian peered into the darkness.
Turn off your light, whispered Ian.
The darkness ahead was getting brighter. They moved cautiously towards the dim light, being certain to land their feet softly upon the stone. Reaching for the top, they noticed the light spilling from a crack beneath a wooden door.
They waited for a minute, and then Ava whispered, This must be the top.
Yeah, agreed Ian What should we do now?
I guess we see if it will open, answered Ava, searching for a doorknob. Ian found a lever built into the stone near the door. Ian looked at Ava, his gaze asking
'should I pull it?'. Ava nodded and Ian pulled. It didn't budge. Ian pulled down as hard as he could. Still it failed to move.
It's locked, he said, letting go of the lever.
Do you think we should knock? wondered Ava.
Ava knocked on the door. Nothing. She knocked a second time. More silence.
Well I guess...
Shhhh, interrupted Ava.
Ian listened, and he heard it too. There were footsteps, and they were getting closer.
Hide! whisper-screamed Ava as she frantically searched for a dark shadow to hide in.
Where? whispered Ian over the clicking sounds of the door as it was unlocked.
Down here! said Ava bolting down the stairs. The door began to creak open and light started to fill the stairwell. Ian bound down the stairs leaping two or three steps at a time. He rounded the corner and froze, trying to muffle his heavy breathing.
I know you're in there, said a man's voice. Come out and drop your weapons! he commanded as he took a step down the stairs.
Ava looked to Ian, eyes wide, her gaze asking What do we do! Ian, just as terrified, shook his head.
Halt! yelled a voice. They jerked their heads up to find a sword pointed directly at them.
Move into the light, said the man, gesturing with his weapon.
Ava and Ian slowly came out of the shadows with their hands up.
Who are you? demanded the man.
Ian and Ava Brokenwing
Where are you from?
California, they both blurted out.
He paused. California, he mumbled. California?
He said again, scrunching his brow. Suddenly he turned his attention back to the Brokenwing children.
What year is It?
Ian and Ava stared blankly.
What year is it? He asked again.
2018, answered Ian.
By King George's beard, he said under his breath, lowering his sword. Why have you come here?
We did it by accident, said Ava. We were playing in a cave, and then it just sucked us up. Her breathing stuttered; the stress was too much. And...and now we can't get home... she couldn't help herself. She covered her eyes, and began to cry.
The man put down the crossbow and knelt next to her.
There there, he said, putting a hand on her shoulder. This must have been hard on you, on both of you, he said looking over to Ian. Don't worry. We'll get you home soon enough. Why don't you come inside. I'll tell Emma to put on the kettle and we'll have ourselves a nice cup of tea, shall we?
Ian nodded skeptically, and the man led the distressed children up the stairs and into a mansion. Soon, Ava was drying her eyes as they sat by a roaring fire with warm camomile tea in hand. Ian took a sip of his tea and almost spat it out.
What is it my boy? asked the man from his velvet armchair.
Nothing sir. said Ian, remembering his manners. It's just, I think someone forgot the sugar in this tea.
Sugar! Why, your father must be very wealthy to allow you to put sugar in your tea.
What do you mean? asked Ian. Sugar is cheap.
Cheep? asked the man, sounding as if he was trying to imitate a chick. What does cheep mean?
Ummm, it means, not expensive.
Oh, well, here sugar is not cheep. In fact, it's quite expensive, even for one as wealthy as myself, he said, gesturing to his mansion. But I can offer you honey. Would that suit your tastes?
Yeah, that would be great. Thanks!
Smashing! said the man as he gestured to his maid. Emma, would you get Ian and Ava some honey to go in their tea.
Certainly sir, said the maid and she bustled off.
Now, I know your names, but you don't know mine. My name is Henry James Beauregard, pleased to make your acquaintance, he said with a tip of his head. And you are brother and sister, correct?
Ian and Ava nodded.
Now, I'm certain you've been through quite an ordeal if you stumbled through a warp by accident, but...
Excuse me. interrupted Ava. What is a warp? Oh, of course you wouldn't know; foolish me. A warp is the thing that brought you here. Basically, it's an inner space and time portal that spits you out somewhere on the other side.
The children stared at him blankly.
Alright, think of it this way: If you go in one side of the warp, you'll come out at a random time in a random place on the other side. You could come out at the creation of the world, or come out somewhere in the future where there is cheep sugar. Henry gave Ian a wink.
So where, or when are we now? asked Ava.
Right now, you're in England, in the year fourteen hundred twenty-two, to be exact.
So you mean the time of knights and castles and stuff?
Well, I'll dare say my time has more than simply castles and knights, but yes.
Sweet! exclaimed Ian.
Henry frowned, trying to understand why Ian said sweet, but gave up as the honey arrived.
Thank you Emma. Henry said as the maid put a spoonful of honey in each of their drinks.
Mmmm, better. Said Ava as she sipped her tea. Thank you for letting us come in your house, Sir Henry.
Ah, you're quite welcome, my dear, and please just call me Henry. Ava smiled.
So, said Henry, sitting forward and putting his tea to the side, tell me how you accidentally stumbled upon, and opened a warp.
So Ian and Ava told the whole story, each interrupting the other to add in something one of them forgot, but eventually the story was told. All the way from arriving in California at their new home, to meeting Mr. Beauregard. Henry sat back in his chair.
Well, that is quite an interesting tale. Did you know fire opens the portal? What do you mean? asked Ian I opened it by hitting it with a rock.
Ah, but the rock produced sparks, did it not? And those sparks were the fire that opened the warp.
Ohhh, that's why we couldn't go back home as soon as we got here Ava realized. We needed fire to reopen the warp.
Precisely! said Henry excitedly. Although I am quite surprised you were able to find and open a warp by accident. They're quite rare you know; I've searched for them almost my entire life and only found the one you came out of. It was quite a puzzle discovering how to open one. It was only by accident my torch hit the cave wall while I was studying and it opened.
Henry, are warps always in caves? asked Ava.
Why yes, all the warps I've been through have indeed been in a cave. Why do you ask?
Oh, just cuz our warp at home was in a cave, and your warp was in a cave, so I thought there might be a connection.
Well done my dear. Ah yes, and that does remind me of the problem at hand. How are we to get you home?
Wait... Ian said, thinking hard. You said that warps put you out at a random place and time, right?
That is correct.
Then doesn't that mean we just have to keep going through warps until we find California by chance?
Henry sighed. Unfortunately, yes. Now, if we had an object from your era, that would be a different story…
What's the object of our era, or whatever you said? Ian interrupted.
Well the object of your era, is something that symbolizes the time that you are from. For example, the object of my era is a long sword because whenever anyone thinks of the fifteenth century they think of knights, castles and sword fighting. But…
What about this? Ava asked, holding up her phone.
What is that? Henry said, taking the device in his hand.
It's a phone. answered Ava.
A phone? Henry wondered as he pressed the home button. Suddenly the screen lit up. Startled, Henry jerked back. How did you do that? he asked Ava, looking up.
I didn't do it. You did. Ava replied with a grin. When you pushed the button. The phone turned off, and Henry pressed the button again.
Fascinating! He handed the phone back to Ava Does this represent your time period?
Yeah, I would say so. confirmed Ava, fingering the phone. Now if only we had the date. You don't happen by chance to remember the day you left? Do you? Henry asked hopefully.
No, Ava said.
But the date would be on your phone, right? chimed in Ian.
You know what? You're right! Ava responded, excitedly opening her phone and turning to the calendar. Sure enough, the date was there: 10/13/18.
Excellent! exclaimed Henry What else can that thing do?
Ian we need to get home, said Ava cutting him off.
Yeah, I guess you're right, agreed Ian, sitting back down. Ian, I would love to play your game, especially if it's anything like chess. I would dare say, I'm quite good... have you ever played?
Ian shook his head.
Oh well, I'll have to teach you, but some other time. Right now we will need to get you two home. Here, follow me.
He led them through his mansion's halls to a great room with a large dome overhead. He pulled out a chest and unlocked it with a key from his belt. The chest creaked open.
Here take this, said Henry, holding out a sword. I made this short sword for just such an occasion as this, but I didn't think two of you would come through my warp, so I'm afraid you'll have to share it. He handed the sword to Ian. Ava examined it closely. The blade was shiny and sharp, while the silver hilt glistened in the afternoon light.
That's real silver, you know. Henry said, gesturing to the hilt. I made that sword myself, and it's a fine work of craftsmanship, I dare say.
Indeed it was, but what caught Ava's eye was the green stone set in the hilt. She brushed her hand over it. Ian raised the blade and took a knightly stance. He thrust, parried, and spun to block the blade of his imaginary foe. But as he spun, he tripped on himself.
Eeeek! Ian released a girlish scream as he fell.
Ava and Henry snickered as Ian picked up the sword, his face bright red. A moment of silence followed.
Well, you best be going. Come along. And Henry ushered the children out of the room. A few things you must remember before you go back through the warp, Henry said, as they walked down the hall First, you must be touching each other when you go through. If you don't, you'll end up in two very different places at very different times. Second, to go to a specific place, first throw your object of era into the warp before you go in yourself. Third, to go to a specific time throw a parchment with the date you want to go to in before you. So if you want to go back home, throw your 'phone' into the portal and then a parchment with the date. Understood?
The siblings nodded.
Wait here a moment. Henry said and he walked briskly away. Soon he returned with a rolled up piece of paper. This parchment contains the date you left. throw it in and you'll get home sure enough. what about the sword? asked Ian something to remember me by. Henry smiled.
Sir! came the voice of the maid.
What is it Emma? Henry asked.
They have come sir.
Henry's face went white. Go, he said, pulling a book in the book shelf and revealing a secret door.
But what about you? asked Ava, a little worried.
I'll be fine, just remember what I told you, He grabbed a candle from the wall and handed it to the children. I will see you again soon.
Henry flashed a quick smile and closed the secret door. The stairway grew dark and the Brokenwings listened as Henry quickly walked away.
Do you think he will be ok? asked Ian, lifting the sword onto his shoulder. I think so, comforted Ava, turning on her phone's flashlight, as they began the lengthy descent back to the cave. Slowly, they made their way back to the warp, being careful not to let the candle blow out.
There it is! Said Ian gesturing with the candle. Ouch! He yelled. The candle flew threw the air and hit the moist gravel with a sizzle.
Ian, what did you do! accused Ava's, as the cave went dark.
Sorry! said Ian flailing his hand in the air. The wax burned my hand.
Now we have to go all the way back to get another candle, grumbled Ava as she turned on her phone's flashlight.
I didn't mean to, insisted Ian.
It's alright. We'll just get another candle.
Wait, said Ian, jogging over to Ava and grabbing the scroll, I'll put these behind this rock. We can pick them up when we come back.
Ok, Come on, Ava said, as they marched back to the spiral staircase. Eventually, they reached the stairs, and began the long climb back up. Finally they saw the dim light slipping beneath the door at the top. Ava pulled down on the lever and Ian pushed the door, swinging it wide open. He froze. The eyes of ten armed Knights were locked on him. The room was silent and Henry put his head in his hands.
Not hiding anything eh? smirked a knight.
Bind them! commanded the leader, gesturing to the children with a wave of his hand. The Knights drew their swords and began to surround them. Ian tensed up, ready to run. Ava looked to Henry.
What's happening?
Henry grabbed the leader's arm. You mustn't hurt them;
they're only children!

The leader shook off Henry's hand.
Tie them up! he commanded his Knights.
Ian had heard enough. He sprinted off down the nearest hall.
Ava's eyes widened as she realized what Ian had known seconds before. She needed to run. A knight lunged for her. She jumped to the side and sprinted off after Ian. Suddenly her head jerked back, as she found her hair painfully ensnared by a Knight's closed fist. She kicked and struggled, as the knight dragged her over to his leader. A cold blade pressed against her throat.
Halt! yelled the leader.v Ian didn't look back.
Stop or I'll kill her! threatened the knight.
Ian skid to a stop. He whipped around. The man held Ava's hair in one hand and pressed his sword to her throat with the other.
Ian stood, motionless, at the sight of fear on his sister's face.
Return, or I shall end her! the man said, as he jerked Ava's head back.
Ian felt rage boiling up within him. He clenched his fists and walked slowly back toward the commander. The knight sneered.
Good boy.
Ian's knuckles grew white; no one treated his sister like that. One of the Knights tied his hands behind his back.
Excellent, said the leader, shoving Ava into the clutches of another one of his men to be tied up. He turned to Henry. Now we shall see how much you are truly hiding. The leader signaled to four of his men, and they marched down the stairs. Soon their footsteps could no longer be heard.
All is well, my lord! yelled one of the Knights. The leader looked to Henry.
No traps? Why, I expected more from you. Henry just glared back at him.
You were hoping, weren't you?
Henry looked to the ground.
Hoping someone would find you after all this time. Then just as someone does, I arrive and take everything from you! A pity, I would have preferred you die a slow death, but I suppose it can't be helped, he sighed. And now your little friends must die with you.
No! shouted Henry, struggling against the ropes that bound him. It's me you want, not them!
No, said the man firmly. I have made up my mind. They have seen too much. Now, if you'll excuse me. With that, the man signaled to four more of his Knights, and they disappeared down the stairs. The remaining two Knights tied their three captives together and stood watch.
No! uttered Henry, under his breath, trying to free himself from the ropes.
This can't be happening!
Silence! commanded one of the guards, as he struck Henry with the hilt of his sword. Henry crumbled to the floor, pulling Ava and Ian down with him.
Henry? whispered Ava, kneeling beside Henry's still body. Henry, can you hear me?
I said silence! yelled the guard, drawing back his hand.
Ava shook Henry's body.Henry!
Ian jerked Ava away, just as the guard struck. The knight missed and stumbled forward.
Don't mess with my sister, growled Ian, doing his best to stand up to him.
Why, you little...
The other knight stopped him, and whispered in the angry guard's ear. Muttering something under his breath, the guard glared at Ian.
Did you kill him? asked Ava, who was close to tears.
The guard didn't say anything.
Did you! insisted Ava.
He's not dead. Not yet anyway, said the guard, without looking at her.
The Brokenwings knelt in silence, Ava doing her best to care for Henry, and Ian struggling against the ropes. Eventually the Knights emerged from the cave, their leader with a sly smile on his face.
Children, remember this. Sometimes things do turn out better than you hoped. He turned his gaze to Henry's crumpled form. What is this? He asked the guards sternly. The guard that had knocked Henry out stepped forward. Sir, he was causing trouble, so I thought....
With lighting speed the commander put a dagger to the guards cheek. Blood began to trickle as the commander slowly cut downward.
You thought! Did I command you to think?
The guard flinched, but did not move.
This is a warning. If you disobey me again this blade shall pierce your heart. The leader backed, away as the guard gasped and clutched his bleeding cheek. Untie them, but leave their wrists bound! I shall not have my guests dragged across England!
One of the knights unsheathed a dagger and cut the ropes that bound them together. Ava and Ian struggled while another knight put Henry over his shoulders.
Oh, how I would have so liked you to have seen this part, said the commander to Henry's still form. He took a candle from the wall and dropped it on the carpet.
Such a waste, he said, shaking his head.
The carpet caught fire and, and the leader made a motion with his hand. The children were shoved forward as the knights escorted them outside. A storm was growing over head, as dark clouds filled the night sky. Shortly after, they entered a prison carriage, and Henry was thrown in beside them. The door closed and the bolt locked. A silhouette of the commander's face appeared in the carriage's one barred window.
I am afraid you will have to be a bit cramped. You did drop in quite unexpectedly, and I simply didn't anticipate your arrival. Is there anyway I could make your journey more pleasant?
Let us out! yelled Ian, trying to free his hands.
Suit yourself, but I suggest you get comfortable. We have a long journey ahead of us.
With that, the leader left the window, and the carriage began to jostle forward. Ian pounded his shoulder into the door, while Ava did her best to help Henry.
Ian! said Ava, as Ian's shoulder grew sore. That isn't going to work now help me get Henry up.
Reluctantly, Ian abandoned trying to batter down the door and instead helped Ava try to sit Henry up against the wall. Eventually they sat him up and Ava noticed a large bump developing on Henry's head.
Do you think he will be ok? she asked.
Not if what that guy said was true, said Ian as he struggled to free his hands. He said he would kill Henry…. and us.
What are we gonna do? asked Ava looking wide eyed to Ian.
I don't know, but we've got to get these ropes off. Here, he said, turning his back to Ava. Maybe if we go back-to-back we can untie each other's ropes.
Alright, agreed Ava as she struggled to her feet. After a minute of trying Ian sat down.
It's no use, he said, laying his head back against the wall. Just then Henry moaned.
He's awake! cried Ava, as Ian scooted over to her. Henry cracked open his eyes and moaned again.
Henry, said Ian, can you hear me? Suddenly Henry's eyes popped open. He he tried to get to his feet.
Judas! he yelled. Ava and Ian jumped back. Henry began to realize where he was.
Ava? he squinted, trying to make out Ava's form in the darkness.
Yeah, it's me and Ian. Are you ok?
Where are we? he asked, leaning his head back.
We're trapped in a carriage. The knight knocked you out, and now that leader guy is taking us somewhere to kill us, said Ian.
Judas, said Henry again, sitting up straight and wriggling his hands.
Who's Judas? asked Ian.
He's the one that captured us. An old friend.
I don't think he's a friend, said Ava, as she watched Henry try to untie his hands.
Ava, dear, would you please pull on that loop?
Ava put her back to Henry and pulled on the loop.
Thank you, said Henry as he continued to work on freeing his hands. No, he's not a friend, at least, not any more. That's why we need to get out of here quickly!
How? asked Ian. Even if we get the ropes off, we're still in a cage guarded by an army of knights!
I know, said Henry, as he shook the ropes off his hands and began untying Ava. But every bit helps. Soon Ava and Ian were free, and Henry was gently rubbing the bump on his head.
Look, said Ava, pointing out the window. Henry glanced out and grasped the bars
No. he whispered.
There, in the distance, was Henry's mansion consumed in flames. Smoke billowed into the dark sky and lightning flashed. Thunder echoed across the sleeping valley.
All my work, gone. he said as he stared out the window. Henry slumped to the floor. Children, he said drawing Ian and Ava close. We need to pray. Henry got on his knees and put his hands together. Ava and Ian looked at each other, confused, but followed Henry's lead. Henry closed his eyes and said, Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. Holy and exalted One, we bow before you and ask you to deliver us from evil this day, yet not as we will, but as You will. Amen. Henry opened his eyes. May the Almighty have favor upon us, he said, as he stood.
Now, let us not leave all the work to God. Ian gather that rope! You and Ava tie it together!
What are we doing? asked Ian as he handed the rope to Ava.
Henry looked at him with a gleam in his eye You will see my boy, you will see.
Ava finished tying the rope together and handed it to Henry.
Henry looked out the window at four knights trailing behind the carriage. Is your phone any sort of weapon? he asked, making a loop with one end of the rope.
Not really, said Ava pulling out her phone.
Too bad, said Henry's disappointed voice in the darkness. Well we will have to make the best with what we have. Can you make it look like a weapon of any sort?
Uh yeah, I guess, said Ava. Brilliant! We need to make the guards believe it's some sort of weapon from the future. Something that could incinerate them in an instant or call lightning bolts from the sky. A weapon they have no chance against. Then we take one of their horses and get you home.
But how will we get to the cave when your mansion's on fire. asked Ian
I know a secret way. How I found the cave before I built my mansion. Ian looked to the ground and shuffled his feet. I'm sorry we got you into all this. We didn't mean to get you're mansion burnt up.
All is forgiven. said Henry, putting his hand on Ian's shoulder Now we need to get out of here.
Henry tossed the the looped end of the rope through the barred window.
What are you doing? asked Ava.
I'm trying to loop the rope around the bolt. If I can catch it, I can open the lock from the outside. After a few minutes of trying, the rope finally caught the bolt. Henry turned to look at the Brokenwings. Ava are you ready?
Ava held up her phone and put on a serious face.
Good, Ian, I want you to secure a horse before they realize we don't have a weapon.
Ian nodded. Just then a lightning bolt struck a tree nearby. Defining thunder washed over the valley. The children covered their ears but it was too late. A painful ringing filled their skulls. Henry jerked on the rope. The door swung open and the trio jumped out of the carriage. Ava held out her phone, flash light blazing, but lost her composure, as a frightened horse almost trampled her. She lunged to the side and looked for the nearest escape route. All around her, horses reared in fear, as their fallen riders tried to calm their mounts. Ian sprinted for a riderless horse and Henry ran after him. The Knights drew their swords, as Ava raced over to the horse, holding her phone like a gun.
Halt! Commanded a voice cutting through the chaos. All eyes turned to Jacob, as he drew his sword from atop his steed.
Don't move. yelled Ava, pointing her phone at Jacob.
The Knights took a step backward. They had never seen white light before, and it was like Ava's flash light was a star.
Cowards! yelled the leader, pointing his sword at his men. Seize them!
The Knights didn't move, as Henry mounted the horse and pulled Ian and Ava up with him.
You fools! screamed Jacob, but he didn't move ether.
Don't follow us! yelled Ava, as she wrapped her arms around Henry's waist.
The steed raced back toward the burning mansion charging recklessly down the road.
Ava looked back. Knights scrambled atop their horses They're coming! she yelled to Henry.
Henry kicked his heels into the horse's flank, and the horse pushed forward. The knights began to gain on them.
Ava looked to the burning mansion in front of them. They weren't going to make it in time! Suddenly Henry turned down a side road.
Where are we going! Ava yelled into the wind.
Henry didn't answer, but soon his horse slowed and Henry jumped off.
Quickly! he called, helping the children off and slapping the horse on the flank. The horse galloped down the road as the three ducked into the bushes.
Ten seconds later dark figures raced past. As soon as the sounds of the horses faded, Henry rustled out of the bushes.
Follow me! he commanded, as he walked briskly up a narrow path. Ava held out her phone and followed after Ian and Henry. They navigated the dark forest and came to to a little cave.
Down here! called Henry, as he bustled the children down the hole. Ava looked at her phone, the battery was running low.
Carefully they climbed into the darkness.
Wait here! ordered Henry, climbing down a small side passage. Minutes later, he returned with a lit candle and parchment in hand.
Where did you get those? asked Ian in amazement.
Henry grinned I had a secret stash just in case.
Awesome! responded Ian, grabbing the paper.
Henry looked confused. Yes I do suppose it is worthy of your awe.
Ian chuckled. No, it just means it's cool.
Henry's expression still looked confused
Never mind said Ian, who began to climb deeper into the cave.
Henry shook his head and muttered, The things people say in the future makes very little sense.
Soon they reached the main cave.
This way, said Henry, holding the candle high. He discovered the warp and stopped! Oh no! he said looking into the darkness. He turned to the Brokenwings. You don't by chance happen to have my sword hidden away do you?
As a matter of fact, said Ian, jogging over to a rock and popping out with a sword and parchment in hand I do.
Well done my boy! said Henry happily. He handed Ava the parchment he'd taken from his secret stash. This parchment contains the date a week from now. If you ever need my help come back on that day and I'll be waiting. Heavy footfalls echoed in the distance. They found us. You must hurry! Henry touched the candle to the stone wall. The wall began to glow.
Ava looked to Henry Will you be alright?
I will be fine. Now go, before Jacob and his knights reach us! The footsteps grew louder, as Ava tossed her phone into the portal. Then Ian tossed in the parchment.
Henry smiled a sad smile and backed away.
Ava and Ian looked to each other. Ian nodded, and grabbed her hand. Ava touched the wall. Again an explosive sound filled their ears, as a light blinded them. The cave began to accelerate faster and faster, until it dropped out from under their feet. Ian gripped the sword with one hand and his sister's hand with the other, as they floated, weightless, in the warp. They flew forward, and everything was still. Ian opened his eyes. They were back in the California cave. Relieved, he lay down on the rock and looked up at the ceiling of the cave. He let go of Ava's hand and lay his head back.
I can't believe we're home!
Me either, replied Ava
Yuh think Henry will get away in time?
He's smart. He will find a way.
Yeah, your right. What time do you think it is? Ian asked.
Probably around nine o'clock. It's getting dark outside.
Do you think mom and dad are worried?
What are we gonna tell them? Ian asked.
Don't know. I don't think we can tell them about this. I guess we'll just have to keep it a secret.
They lay in silence for a little while listening to the cicadas outside. What should we do with the sword and the paper? asked Ava.
I guess we'll just leave it here.
Ava sat up. Where's my phone?
It's right over here, said Ian, sitting up and pointing to Ava's phone lying on the gravel
Thank goodness, said Ava picking up her phone.
Guess we don't need this anymore! smiled Ian, fingering the scroll with the date from Ava's phone.
Not really but we need to make sure not to lose the other scroll, if we ever want to see Henry again.
Yeah, so where should we put the sword and Henry's scroll? asked Ian
Just put them in the corner I guess, she said with a shrug. Dad and Mom are probably looking for us.
Yeah, let's go, responded her brother.
Climbing out of the cave, Ian and Ava trekked up the hill back to their new house and opened the door. Their mom, who was on the phone, smiled broadly, as relief washed over her face. Oh, you know what, never mind officer, I just found them. Thank you so much for your help bye-bye. She hung up the phone and ran over to them, engulfing them both in a hug. Where were you two? You've had your father and me worried sick.
Ian and Ava looked at each other.
We were exploring Mom, explained Ava.
Where? she asked, pulling back and holding them at arm's length.
We searched the entire forest for hours. Didn't you hear us calling you?
Well, we went a little past the forest. answered Ava.
Where did you go? She wanted straight answers.
To the river! answered Ian.
There isn't a river nearby!
Ava scowled at her brother and added, Well it was a stream but it felt like a river.
Well, I don't want you to go there again! You hear me? It's just too far away.
Okay, Mom, said Ava.
Oh, come here, said their mom giving, them another hug. I'm just glad you're home.
Ian hugged her back Us too Mom!
Mrs. Brokenwing released them saying, You must be starving starving. I'll make you some mac and cheese, while I call your father. She bustled them over to the new kitchen table and sat them down, as the water began to boil.
Dad's going to be upset, isn't he? asked Ian solemnly Yeah, probably, agreed Ava.
Within half an hour Mr. Brokenwing arrived home, finding his kids eating at the kitchen table. He exploded. Where were you?
We were exploring, Ava answered.
Don't you know you had us worried? You were gone for five hours, we thought something might have happened to you.
But Dad... Ian's attempt at defending Ava and himself was cut short.
No. You're grounded for a week, now go to your room.
Honey, said Ava's Mom softly, as the kids walked down the hall. You don't think they should be grounded for a week, do you? They were only exploring.
No, they need to learn, argued their father, as Ian and Ava closed the door to their room.
Dad is really mad, said Ian, sitting on his new bed and looking at the floor.
What were we supposed to tell him? That we magically traveled through time and space, and that's why we didn't come home. said Ava, flopping down on the other bed.
Ian was quiet. Soon a knock sounded on the door.
Come in! yelled Ava into her pillow.
Their dad came into the room.
Look, said their father, sitting down on Ian's bed
I'm sorry I got mad. It's just that we were worried about you.

That's ok, said Ian, still looking at the floor We're sorry we got back so late.
Well, it's over, said his father, giving him a hug But you are both still grounded for a week because your mom and I want you to learn that staying out that long isn't ok.
We know, Dad, said Ava with a small smile.
Good, he said, as he arose to his feet. class="quote"I want you to go to bed. Your toothbrushes are in the bathroom and no talking late into the night either!
Alright said Ava
Love you guys. said their dad, as he closed the door.
Ian waited for his Dad's footsteps to fade. Guess we're not going through the warp for at least a week.
That's alright. We need time to figure things out anyway. replied his sister.
Ian nodded his head.
Brother and sister brushed their teeth and got into their PJ's, and soon were drifting into the land of dreamers, where boys save the universe, and girls grow wings.

The Girl Behind The Mirror

She wanted to play princess's, knights, and dragons. A thrilling game where dad was the dragon, mom was the princess and she was the knight, sworn to defend the princess at all costs. She used to like to be the princess because she got to dress up and look pretty but now she liked to be the knight. Hitting dad with her sword was way more fun. Normally mom and dad loved to play but today all they wanted to do was watched the boring people talk. She had tried everything: whining, begging, even asking nicely but every time she was meet with a mumbled not now Lilly. After pouting for a few minutes by herself she decided that that was even boringer then the lady on the screen. So glumly she returned to the lounge. She didn't see what was so interesting. It was someone talking into a microphone and a bazillion different pictures of the same space rock. Occasionally there was a picture of a shooting star which was kinda interesting but most of the time nothing really happened. Maybe the words are interesting Lilly thought and she tried her best to understand what the people were saying ...believe we have confirmed that this alien substance is in fact, the gateway to a parallel dimension, a parallel universe! If someone were to jump through it we think they may discover a galaxy very similar to our own. so you're saying scientists have confirmed the existence of a mirror universe and possibly, a mirror earth? Almost, you see there's still so much we don't know, what multidimensional travel would do to a human...! Lilly pulled herself into an upright position. Maybe there was something interesting about this after all. She hopped out of her chair and walked into the bathroom. She didn't know what mil-ti-do-men-tonl meant but she did know what a mirror was. Ever since she was little she had wanted to meet her twin that lived in the mirror. Mom and dad had said that her twin wasn't a real person, that she was only a reflection of Lilly but Lilly knew they were wrong. The only problem was that whenever Lilly tried to put her hand through the mirror her twin's hand stopped her. No matter how fast she was her twin always knew where she would put her hand. But know she knew how to get through, the man on the TV had said it! You just had to jump through it. Lilly stood in front of the floor to ceiling mirror beside the sink. Her twin stood there too, ready to try and stop her the moment she tried to get through. But she wouldn't stop Lilly this time. Lilly took two bigsteps back. Then she ran, as fast as her legs could carry her and just before the mirror, she jumped. Lilly hit the ground with a splash. She stood in a creek as deep as her knees in a forest full of tall green trees. Lilly almost screamed in delight. She had done it, she had jumped through the mirror. Lilly scrambled onto the bank of soft green moss. It squished in between her toes. She looked around for her twin but didn't see her. Maybe she's hiding,she thought I should go find her! Lilly ran across the moss. After looking for about a minute Lilly gave up. Her twin would come out when she was ready. Pink leaves fell when the wind shook the trees and Lilly tried to catch them. After a few moments of doing that she decided she would make a pink flower with all the leaves; to show her twin when she came out. Lilly hopped across the moss until she had all the leaves she could carry and then dropped her precious cargo in a pile. She squatted down so she could begin crafting her masterpiece. Eventualy a beautiful pink leaf flower lay on the deep green moss. Lilly thought it was perfect. She looked around again, her twin still had not come out. Lilly was about to call for her until she realised she didn't know her twins name. Lilly frowned. What would her name be if she were a twin? Then Lilly grinned, she knew exactly what it would be. Amelia! she called as loud as she could. Lilly felt certain that her twins name would be Amelia because, as long as she could remember, Lilly had always wanted Amelia to be her name and if her twin was anything like her, then she would want Amelia to be her name too. Amelia! she yelled again.

The gurgling creek was her only reply. Maybe she can't hear me, Lilly thought, so she marched into the forest in search of her twin. No sooner had she set foot on the moss then a rock stabbed her foot. Pain raced up her leg and Lilly began to cry. Tears fell and no one wiped them away, Lilly was alone. Lilly sniffled, she missed mom and dad. She wanted to go home. Lilly rubbed her eyes and looked for the mirror back home. There wasn't one. Suddenly fear gripped her heart. Behind every tree lurked a monster just waiting for her to get close enough. Hidden in the bushes was a lion ready to pounce. The forest wasn't fun anymore. Lilly scrambled back to the creek. Desperately she searched for a mirror, any mirror. She looked back to the trees. They stood there waiting, watching. Suddenly the wind picked up and and bone chilling creaks filled the woods.

The monsters growled. Lilly frantically looked back to the creek and froze. For a brief moment she saw her reflection. A leaf hit the water and warped the image. The mirror, the creek is the mirror! Lilly realised. Without a moment to lose she scrambled to her feet. The monsters were right behind her, she knew it. Then, with a scream, Lilly jumped.

Lilly tumbled out onto the bathroom tile. She jerked her head up and looked around. Gone was the forest and the monsters. Lilly sprung to her feet and raced to her parents. They hadn't moved.
MOM! Lilly yelled, her voice edging on tears. Her mom snapped from her TV watching trance and raced to her daughter's aid.
What's wrong! she asked. Lilly broke into tears, mumbling something about monsters and mirrors.
Awww. said mom, scooping Lilley up in her arms, it's alright, here, do you want sit with me and dad? Lilly buried her head in Mom's neck and nodded.

Don't worry, said Dad wrapping his arms around Lilly and Mom, We won't let any monsters get to you. You're safe.Lilly sniffled and rested in her parents embrace. Mom? asked a little voice. Lilly looked over her mom's shoulder. She cracked a smile Amelia!

The Perception of Prayer

Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. Mark 11: 24 (NIV).

Two years ago I made the mistake of taking a dare. I jumped into the Sacramento River and cut a two-inch gash in my foot. Of course I was rushed to the ER and stitched up, but that's not what I remember when I think about this experience. What stands out like a lighthouse in a storm was when I limped into church a day later.

There was a call for healing after the service and I hobbled up to the front because I read this very verse. Never before had I ever had such faith that God would act. Yet my faith was shattered; the gash on my foot remained. I had asked, I had believed, and yet God did nothing.

Even now, two years later, I can feel the scar. So why didn't He answer my prayer? To this day I still don't know but there is something I learned. So often we toss up a prayer like we toss a coin yelling heads I win, tails you lose. If it's tails, God said no. And we add that no to the pile of experiences showing God doesn't really car. If it's heads, the wound heals alright, yet we still throw the experience onto the pile. Why? Because the answer can be explained, so we reason it is no answer at all. In fact, only if the coin stands on end, if the inexplicable occurs, do we fall down and worship the Lord. So what I want to say to you today is this: God does say yes, so much more than we realise, we just refuse to see it. So let me pray.

Father, help us to see your love in the everyday. Give us a heart at praises you when you split the seas and give us our daily bread. For every good gift is from your hand, remind us of how much you care.


Eternity. That was the word that came to mind. The believers said everyone got it: be it reincarnation, enlightenment, heaven... or hell. But Jacob knew. No one ever made it to eternity. Yet, he was the exception. If there was one thing Jacob had learned it was there were always exceptions...always. He would make it to eternity, of this he was almost certain. His corpse would float through the vacuum of space forever. Surrounded by the cold and darkness of nothingness it would never decay; his dying gasp would remain etched in perfect agony as he drifted endlessly. Eternal. But there was just one thing, he wasn't certain. He told himself almost was enough. That 99.9999999% meant 100%, but it didn't. Jacob knew he wasn't certain, because he lived. If he really believed it, he would he dead by now...long before now. He would have died with his wife. That's when life should have ended, when it was meaningless and ripe with sorrow. But now it had rotted. How foolish he was to think he could find meaning... That a new world, a new planet, could give him a new life. No. Earth wasn't dying... he was. He carried in his cells the cancer, and no rocket could bear him far enough away. Only death could cure him now. He drifted.

The air was stale. Jacob knew panicking didn't help but he forgot. He gasped. It burned. Like needle legged spiders crawling within his lungs. What did knowing matter now? Pride said it mattered. Jacob knew it didn't but he forgot. His chest expanded; he harly breathed. Pride. It was all he had left to hold on to. Pride wouldn't abandon him. Even in death. Through all the years he had been Jacob's only friend, he wouldn't leave. By why? Why wouldn't he leave? Everyone else had left, happiness, love, meaning but Pride stayed; He remembered the voice of his wife Pride is like cancer... Jacob forgot to remember. His lungs burned. Why had it mattered before? Did it still matter? No one would see him. They would never know if let his only friend go. Pride told him to forget. Jacob forgot to forget. Fire ants feasted on his chest. He drifted.

No one. Nothing. Alone. Darkness began to surround. NO! it didn't matter, nothing never listened. Struggle. Fear. Death. Try; hope said he had to try. God... Surrender. Beg. Forgiveness. Nothing hurt, love didn't. Everything went dark. Peace.

Your Time is Running Out

Your Time is Running Out.

The words were etched into the stone, crude, ancient, immovable. And on that stone sat an hourglass. Sand trickled through, endlessly. The sand never ceased to fall and yet the glass was always half full...always half empty. Now one knew where the glass came from. Some people said the owner put it there, before the first customer ever came; others claimed it just was. But there was one thing everyone agreed on... it didn't belong in the casino. I watched the sand through glass. My grain was in there; when it fell my time was up. The steal cuff on my wrist would constrict and the black venom it carried would be thrust into my veins... just like my mom.

There was a time when I didn't notice the hourglass. A time when I was just like every other customer, engrossed in the games; Volition War had been my favorite. We were playing, Mom and I, I was winning. There was no warning. The cuff turned red hot and began to tighten around her wrist. She screamed as the burning metal branded her skin. I tried to get it off her. Gritting my teeth against the pain I had pulled with everything I had. I wasn't enough.

I felt the scars on my hands as I gazed absently into the hourglass.

Then it was too late. The black venom entered her body and I saw her veins begin to darken as it slithered up her arm. Mom shrieked. She clawed at her flesh and peeled away the skin. Black blood stained her fingers. Her body began to spasm and she crashed to the floor. I grasped her hand and screamed for help. No one came. Mom's gaze met mine. Black veins clutched the whites of her wide eyes. Then it was over. Her body stopped shaking and lay still. Dark blood trickled from her mouth; frozen in an eternal scream of agony.

Soon the security guards took her from me; they tossed her body out the door and into the wasteland outside. Dad's corpse soon followed. He said the games weren't worth playing without Mom so he tightened his bracelet himself. I tried to play the games again. I couldn't. No matter what I played I always saw the hourglass. My grain was in there; when it fell my time was up.

Now, I was desperate. I had started playing new games. Games that weren't any fun but promised to give you the anti-venom if only you could win. I had won. They were all the same; dishing out a cheap plastic syringe with likely nothing more then dyed water. There where thousands, hundreds of thousands and each claiming to be the only way to stop the black venom. I didn't have time to play them all. And so I had come to the hour glass. Praying that by some miracle I could discover the real anti-venom...if it existed.

How are you today sir! I glanced to my left to find the white bearded man that had spoken.
Good I lied.
I notice you're not playing any games and was wondering if I could interest you...
No! I yelled. All eyes fell to me. The man was silent. I ran my hands though my hair and calmed myself the answer is no, I don't want to play your game. The man grinned
That's what I hoped you would say curiosity pricked me. I have come on behalf of the owner. He wants to give you the anti-venom and in return asks you give it to everyone who will listen to you. The little spark of hope that ignited in me died. I glared at him
Do you think I'm really going to believe the Owner is just going to give me the anti-venom? I don't have time for this.
This isn't a joke. the man assured me. He pulled a glass and metal syringe from his pocket. The blue surim inside sparked like electricity as he placed it beside me. He wants you to know his offer still stands. The man smiled at me from beneath his beard. As long as your blood's still red it's never too late. He turned and walked away. I shook my head and fingered the syringe.
Stupid, I mumbled to myself.

I stared at the hour glass and watched the grains of sand slip through. The cuff on my wrist began to tighten .

Tick Tock...

The old grandfather clock ushered in the midnight hour. As it chimed the director's voice echoed in my ears, You have until morning, tick tock... I had to concentrate. The clock began to count out the hour.
One. tick...
Three. Tick...
Four. tock...
Shut up. I growled.
I ran my hands through my hair.
Something in me snapped. I grabbed my flashlight and hurled it into the clock. It shattered and glass exploded over the crime scene. It would never tick again. I chuckled. Shaking my head in denial I did something I hadn't done in the fourteen years of my career as a field detective; I sat down.
I fell into the armchair and laughed hysterically. I've lost my job. I told the dead man beside me. Mr Ingle's wide terrified eyes remained fixed on the kitchen knife protruding from his chest. I sat forward and stared at him Do you know what strings I had to pull just to get the director to give me sixteen hours with you? I staked my whole career on proving your wife innocent. He didn't thank me. Looks like both of us are screwed now. I mumbled.
It hadn't made sense to me then, it didn't make sense to me now; why would Mrs Ingle murder her husband in his own living room? No one ever murdered their husband and didn't try to hide it. The case was perfect; the timing, the kitchen knife, even the look on the corpse's face pointed to her but I had interrogated Mrs Ingle... she wasn't guilty.
I knew the face of a lier and it wasn't hers. Someone else had killed Mr Ingle, I just had to find out who. But they needed evidence and dang it, I had none! I stared at the blood stained carpet. I blinked and sat forward. Was that dirt?
I hopped out of my seat and took a closer look. It was! But the Ingles never wore their shoes inside... It was hardly discernible but the dirt was in a print, a shoe print. The print of a cowboy boot, no less, judging by the uncompressed carpet between the toe and the heel. Whoever wore this boot was heavy. My mind began to race.
In ten minutes I had picked out seven of Mr Ingle's fat acquaintances. People who were known to carry a grudge, people who had a motive. I began to flip through them No, no, no, maybe, no... I stopped. Looking back at me was a man whos sagging face didn't even fake a smile. He had a thick white beard, an oversized stomach... and cowboy boots. I retrieved my flashlight from the decimated clock and was relieved to discover it still worked. I began to search the ground. AlI needed was anything that could prove it was him, a fingerprint or... I grinned as I pulled a hair from the carpet.
It was white.

Angel Wars

There's nothing more surprising than waking up with a knife in you're chest; unless you planned it that way.
Apollyon grit his teeth. The pain washed over his body in fiery waves. With each beat of his impaled heart it grew hotter.
Apollyon trembled but he couldn't take it out, not yet. He grabbed the blade's white handle and turned. A torrent of pain erupted and consumed his mind. An ear splitting shriek filled the cavern.
He yanked the blade free and black blood flowed onto the cold stone. They were gone. Instantly the darkness enveloped him and began the restoration. It weaved him back together and Apollyon took a rasping breath. He reached into his memory and felt the ashes that remained. Finally they were gone.
Soon his heart slowed and his breathing became deep. The reset was complete. There were a few benefits to being practically immortal; resetting was one of them. Apollyon flexed his wings.
Pain, it was one of the father's greatest gifts; it could destroy anything - even himself.
Eons ago he discovered that an angel's blade, while deadly in the light, was the perfect tool to forget. When combined with the restorative powers of darkness, it inflicts the pain that other weapons lacked, the pain necessary to complete even a total reset.
But he wasn't that desperate yet, for now he only need a patch, a controlled burn to keep him from remembering… something.
Apollyon stood. He hoped he didn't remember soon; resetting was necessary, not pleasant.
He spread his wings and launched into the moist air. He saw the rock formations race by, as he navigated the caverns by memory. Nightwash caverns had been a refuge for him for centuries, it would take a lot more suffering to burn that memory out.
Moments later he burst out into the night air; the full moon gazed down at him like an all seeing eye. He felt a chill go down his spine. The moon wasn't toxic like the day but it was vexing. A constant reminder the sun still ruled half the earth, something the father promised to soon remedy.
Apollyon gilded over pines clad in silver light. He drew his demon's blade and admired once again the serpent coiled around its hilt. The father said the time had come.
The moon would turn to blood.
Michal's fiery blade sang as it carved through the air. It struck its foe like white lightning; he didn't rise again.
Michael didn't waste a moment. With practised precision he flicked his muscular wings and jumped just out of reach of the demons black blade. With a two-handed stroke he carved into the creatures back. It released a hideous shriek and crumpled to the ground.
Vision! he yelled. Instantly two of his soldiers appeared at his side and enacted his command. Michael and another other sword bearing combatant whirled around a lone female archer who shot down enemys that tried to descend upon then.
It was a whirlwind of death.
Within moments dozens of legion lay motionless and dismembered in the dust. Their putrid black blood stained the ground.
The archer scowled. Do you know why I hate field missions? she asked.
Michal tilted his head back in exasperation Arina we've been over this! Yes, it's a messy job but someone's gotta do it and it might as well be you. The Father knows you're the best archer we've got.
Arina cracked a smile at the compliment. Ya, I am the best, aren't I.
The other sword man nonchilantly flicked some black filth off his blade in her direction. It landed on the snow white fabric in the crease of her armor.
Enoch!she exclaimed. She staired at the blood soking in. You know how hard that is to get out!
Enoch shrugged Teach you to think twice about boasting.
Michal chuckled Enoch's right, you know how the father feels about bragging. Now c'mon, we need to get moving. Michael and Enoch launched into the crisp blue sky.
When is Enoch ever right? Arina muttered and climbed up after them.

In the Light of the Stars

The house was a disaster. They say a house reflects the state of the family that lived in it and right now Emily was pretty sure they, who ever they were, were right. Unwashed dishes towered menacingly in the sink. The unswept dirt stuck to her bare feet. Blankets, clothes and pillows lay scattered across the room.
It's my turn! Carisa screamed.
Go play with your dumb dolls, Leo growled.
Hey! Emily said sternly. Her big brother didn't take his eyes off the TV. Emily put a hand on her hip That's not how you treat people. Leo jammed the buttons on his controller
You can't tell me what to do! Emily's jaw clenched
That's it! she mumbled Mom!her call found no reply. Mom? She called. Nothing. Carisa started to cry. Emily spun on her heel and marched down the hall.
Shut up! Leo said just before she rounded the corner. She heard the angry roar way before she reached the door.
John, this isn't about you...
So everything's about you then!
No I didn't say...
But that's what you meant!
Emily pounded on the door. Mom! Leo's bullying Carisa.
Her mother tried to fake a normal voice Not now dear, Dad and I are having a discussion. Emily rolled her eyes, a pretty loud discussion, she thought. She tried the handle. Locked.
Dad, Leo's…
Her father interrupted her, We said not now.
Fine Emily fumed and she stomped off. She entered the living room and stared at Leo draped on the couch. Leo give Carisa a turn. she commanded.
No. he answered.
Emily strode toward him. Leo get of the wii right now or I'll…
Leo took his eyes off the screen and stood up, Or you'll what?
Emily stopped. Leo tossed the controller on the couch and flicked back his long black hair. Mom and Dad won't listen to you so what you gonna do? Make me! Emily glared at him. Silence. C'mon Carisa, Emily relented, swooping her up in her arms, Let's go to your room.
Leo flopped back into the couch and picked up the controller. That's what I thought.
Emily carried her sniffling little sister into her princess themed room. She set her on the bed and gave her a hug.
Leo's a jerk sometimes. she sighed.
Carisa buried her head in her big sister's chest,
More like all the time she mumbled. Emily forced a smile,
Ya, I guess so she whispered. Here, she brought out her phone from her back pocket and pulled up Netflix. How about some Ladybug and cat Noir? Carisa nodded and took Emily's phone. She was entranced in seconds. Emily got up and closed the door behind her. She needed a walk. Careful to not attract Leo's attention she snuck through the kitchen to the mudroom; not like she needed to sneak, a bomb could go off and Leo still wouldn't stop falcon punching.
She slipped on her black north face coat and stood in front of the floor to ceiling mirror. She looked horrible. She had given up on makeup and acne cream a week ago and the fall out was staggering. Combine that with hair that hadn't been brushed in three days and minimal sleep and you got a zombie. She almost smiled; at least it couldn't get any worse.
Emily pulled her dirty-blond hair behind her ears and put on a beini. She opened the front door and stepped out into the cool night air. She closed the door behind her. Quiet. An orchestra of crickets played their nightly chorus as Emily hopped down the steps. Her bare feet hit the gravel drive. Ouch she grimaced as a pokey rock stabbed into her foot. There were a lot of benefits to living in the country; gravel roads were not one of them. She looked over her shoulder and thought about getting her shoes. Not worth it she reasoned.
With great care Emily tiptoed onto the manicured grass that composed the front lawn. It was cool and it popped up in between her toes. Good call she told herself as she basked in the joys of free feet. A chilly night breeze washed over her. She tucked her shoulders in and pulled down her coat's sleeves. She took a few more steps and sat down. She lay back in the grass and gazed up at the stars. What am I supposed to do God? Crickets were her only reply. She took a deep breath and let it out slowly that's what I thought you would say.
She just stared at the stars. She smiled. Kinda crazy I can see them. Balls of fire billions of miles away but here I am looking at them… An endless void of darkness and still their light shined through; she needed that kind of light.
An image impressed itself on her mind. Darkness enclosed around the center. It was jagged, formless yet threatening. It pounced upon someone in the center. That someone was her. Emily's determined green eyes stared at her in her mind's eye, daring the world to give it its best shot. And around her was her family, the way they used to be. Smiling, united, and giving her the biggest bear hug ever. Around them there was this light, light like the kind the stars had, light that no matter how dark, always showed through. She pushed back the darkness. Like a forcefield it protected them, it kept them safe.
Emily felt the image settle in her mind and her fingers tingled. She had to draw it, she just had to. Emily tucked in her legs and rocked to her feet. Within moments she was back inside, furiously wearing her 2B pencil to a nub. Emily yawned as she put the finishing touches on her sketch. It was perfectly black and white but at the last moment she had decided to put a bit of green in her eyes. It felt right.
Stifling a yawn she wandered into the kitchen and stuck it to the fridge among dozens of other sketches. Leo was still furiously entranced in Mario Smash Bros. Emily turned off the light.
He didn't seem to notice. Mindlessly she slipped into her P.J's and opened her bedroom door. Carisa lay curled up among a mess of covers. Emily smiled. She grabbed a pillow and a sheet off her bed and settled down on the carpet.
Peace embraced her as she closed her eyes. Emily drifted off to sleep.

Sunlight streamed through the lacy white curtains. Emily blinked and stretched. It had been a great night's sleep, best she had in months. She tried to check the time on her phone. Dead. Looks like Carisa forgot to plug it in. Emily rubbed on eye and wandered down the hall.
The unmistakable smell of pancakes filled the air. Dad was flipping the pancake dangerously only to narrowly catch it moment later. Good morning sleepy head! he exclaimed How did you sleep? Emily eyed her unusually cheery Dad suspiciously.
Fine… How about you?
Dad chucked Horrible. He cracked a smile But you know the long night gave me some time to think. After a night of praying and stargazing with your mom I feel better. A lot better actually.Emily was wide awake now. She slid onto a bar stool.
Really? Just then Mom emerged from the hall.
Look who's up early! she exclaimed as she gave her daughter a one armed hug. Emily looked at her mom as if she had just died her hair neon green. Why do you look so surprised? Mom asked just before giving Dad a peck on the cheek. Emily snapped out of her trace
Uh, it's just, you seem… different.
We are different. Dad explained. Mom and I worked it out. Emily could hardly believe what she was hearing
Really! What changed?
Mom smiled. You. We saw your picture, it reminded us -me- of the family I used to have. Your father and I have decided we want that back again, even if it means we have to agree to disagree. Emily felt joy spring up within her.
That's incredible! she rushed over to her parents and wrapped them in a hug. I missed you guys so much.
They hugged her back We missed you more, Dad whispered. And there she stood, embraced in the light of the stars.