The Granny Adventure: Part 1
It was 9am on a Tuesday. The sun was peeking out from the clouds, a chilly fall breeze was blowing, and the streets of Clifton Springs were bustling.
Shirley was on her way to her weekly knitting gathering at the church. Bundled up against the wind, she made her way into the church and met with the other women sitting in their chairs, already deep in conversations about the news and grandchildren and new pasta salad recipes from the cooking network. She took out her newest project, a scarf she was planning on giving to her son, and began to quietly knit and listen to the other women chatter and gossip. Shirley silently mocked the other women’s biggest life problems, the audacity that someone would dare change their cookie recipe just did not seem like a world ending problem and gossip over another woman dying her otherwise grey hair blonde really did not interest her in the slightest. The problems were trivial, but she enjoyed the company.
Standing about 5 feet tall, Shirley had short, white, curled hair, deep laugh lines, smiling blue eyes, and a constant smile on her face. She made a habit of getting out to walk daily after the passing of her husband in order to stay active. Most days she brought along Sophie, her Yorkie, but today the dog had stayed home.
At lunch time when the gathering ended, Shirley made her way back towards home. She noticed that the garden in front of the local hospital seemed to be greener than usual and the mums had come in nicely. I could stand a small detour today, she thought to herself, It has been a while since I have stopped to smell the flowers. The mums were beautiful shades of yellow and deep maroon, the smell was light but distinct in the air, and the silence was golden. There was a rustle of unexpected movement in Shirley’s peripheral vision. She turned around to see a young man, early twenties at the latest, standing there with a messenger bag crossing his body and a mess of papers in his hands.
“I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to disturb you.” He stuttered, “I..I can be so clumsy sometimes, make a mess of things usually.”
Shirley smiled at him, “Oh son, don’t worry. I was just here admiring these mums, they are really lovely this year. You are a hospital worker?”
She gestured to the dingy, blue scrubs he was wearing.
“I am, I work as a patient care tech at the hospital, do the stuff the nurses don’t want to…professional butt wiping services essentially.”
He laughed and walked over to the mums.
“It is important work you do, nonetheless.” she reassured.
The two stood there admiring the mums a moment longer until a third set of footsteps approached them. The footsteps stopped behind the two, and there was a brief moment of complete silence followed by a deep voice
“Ma’am, My name is Agent Ethan O’Grady. I work for the CIA, special affairs department and we need your help.”
Shirley turned to face the towering, dark haired man with a smirk on her face.
“Oh yes, and I’m Lucille Ball!” She cracked, but his face remained straight and serious.
“Ma’am, this is not a joke. You have been chosen to assist with a mission that we have. It is crucial that you come at once to our headquarters to begin training.” He queried, pointing crucially towards the young man attempting to side step from the garden. “Boy, what is your name?”
“M-Me?” He stuttered, not looking directly at Agent O’Grady.
“Well, I don’t see any other boys in this garden, do you?” O’Grady snarkly replied.
“My name is Levi…Levi Sykes, I work at the hospital over there.”
O’Grady appeared visibly annoyed at the answer, “Well,” he remarked, “I guess you get to tag along too.”
Levi began to protest but was interrupted by a stern O’Grady, “That was not an offer, it was a demand. Come on, the both of you.”
O’Grady lead Shirley and Levi to a yellow VW Bug parked in front of the garden.
Levi laughed, “You can’t be serious…a punch buggy? You drive a PUNCH BUGGY?!” The look on O’Grady’s face was not one of amusement. His neck began to get red, and that red traveled up his face. It was as if you could see the blood boiling inside his body. He silently opened the back door and motioned for Levi and Shirley to get in. The door slammed behind Levi as he got in and O’Grady went to the drivers door pausing slightly to look around. Levi noticed the humorous size difference of the car to the agent and felt it when the car sank a few inches upon his sitting in his seat. The VW pulled away from the curb, and the group began their venture to the headquarters.
The ride was silent for the first half hour or so, when Levi broke the silence “How long is this going to take? I didn’t bring a change of clothes and I have to work tomorrow.”
The annoyed eyes of O’Grady glanced at Levi in the rear-view mirror and he continued to drive in silence. Levi awkwardly began fidgeting and looked out the window at the passing fields and pastures.
Another half hour went by when Shirley quietly asked, “Agent O’Grady, Sir, I have high blood pressure and take medication for it at bed time. Is it going to be possible to get that? I am not supposed to go too long without it.”
The agent sighed, “I don’t understand why they were so insistent on you.” The agent took a deep breath in and stifled a loud sigh, careful not to let his annoyance show.
“Teenagers,” he continued. “While not as emotionally stable, don’t have nearly as many health problems and medications to take.” The mountain of a man began to talk under his breath. “She will be fine, they said. She has more free time, they said. The public school system won’t question why she has been gone for so long, they said.” It was clear that Agent O’Grady was just as excited about this expedition as the passengers of his car. “So yes, Shirley we have your medications. In fact, Levi, that will be your job. I am putting you in charge of making sure that under no circumstance does Shirley miss her medications.”
The group traveled for some time after this.
When it began to get dark, the car pulled up to a large wrought iron gate. On either side of the gate stood tall, dense shrubberies that seemed to go on without end. O’Grade flickered the headlights and the gate began to squeal open, revealing a long white stone driveway. As they drove down the driveway Levi and Shirley noticed the many topiaries of fairytale creatures; dragons, elves, unicorns, and many other kinds of creatures they could not recognize lined the drive. Eventually the outline of a building came into view. As the car drew closer, more detail could be seen in the building. A large victorian home, siding and shingles beginning to show their age, with a porch looking as if nobody had touched it in a decade or two.
Levi’s eyes widened, “This is the headquarters for the CIA? Is this a joke? This is an old rickety house!” Shirley agreed, but kept the comment to herself, as she saw the anger and annoyance on the agent’s face. The car came to a stop in front of the house and O’Grady got out. He came around to the passengers doors and opened them with a motion to get out and go into the home.
As they got onto the porch the lights in the home turned on and footsteps could be heard approaching the door. A shadow could be seen through the frosted glass, illuminated by the yellow lights within the home. There was a pause, the knob turned, and the large blue door opened into the warm interior of the home. In the doorway was a young woman, smiling and ushering the group in.
“Welcome! Welcome! We are so excited to have you!” The young woman was of average height, she had short brown hair, large brown eyes that seemed to smile and sparkle when she spoke, and she was in what appeared to be pajamas.
“My name is Marilla. Marilla Lipker. I will be your contact while you are here, feel free to pop on into my office whenever you need, I am always available!” Marilla was walking and talking quickly as she made her way down the dimly lit hall. During a pause in her rapid flurry of words she realized that she could no longer hear the small group moving behind her. She turned around to see that the group had fallen slightly behind.
“I’m sorry dear, my knees are starting to go bad as the years go by. You walk so fast, I just can’t seem to keep up!” Shirley said in a quiet and kind voice.
Marilla smiled as she waited for them, I don’t understand how this is going to work if she can’t even keep up to walk down the hallway she thought to herself. She then quickly began explaining, “This will be your home for the duration of the mission. All of your training will be here, there is no real reason to leave the home until the completion of the mission.”
Levi began to object, but was cut off by Marilla “Do not worry, we have a room for each of you that has all the things you will need while you are here. This won’t be painful at all. Well,” she hesitated, and glanced at Agent O’Grady and then to Levi and Shirley, “For the most part.”
The group came to a stop in front of a large wooden door at the end of the hallway. Marilla paused, took a deep breath, and opened the door. Inside was a giant library, it almost seemed too large to be in the home. Shirley and Levi looked around in amazement. It was brightly lit, ceiling to floor with thousands of books. The smell was overwhelming and comforting all at once. Levi sneezed as some of the dust escaped the room into the hall way as they entered.
“Tomorrow, you will meet here with the Director. Don’t you worry, she is really cool! But for now I will show you to your rooms.” Marilla started towards the door again, Levi at her heels, Shirley and O’Grady slightly behind.
The group walked back down the hall following their guide, and rounded a corner to come to another corridor. This one brightly lit with a glass ceiling and a carpet the color of jade. There were intricate carvings in the mouldings that surrounded the doorways and lined the ceilings, wallpaper that looked like satin, and large windows opposite the doors that looked into a garden in the courtyard. Shirley noticed a large number of mums in the garden and quietly smiled to herself as Marilla rambled on about the sheets and how soft they were. These things were trivial to Shirley, she let Marilla ramble, but she didn’t really pay her any attention. She knew the drill, this was not her first time in this home- Something she was sure Marilla was unaware of.
The guests were shown into their rooms. Both were large, open affairs with queen sized beds and a large dresser filled with clothes. The sheets were indeed soft, just as Marilla had said, and there were more pillows on the bed than any person could ever need. Shirley found a set of pajamas carefully folded on the foot of her bed. It was really only a light purple cotton nightgown with a yorkie embroidered on the front. She missed her puppy back at home, but got into bed and quickly fell asleep.
Meanwhile, Levi paced the room anxiously. I’m going to get fired. Nobody is going to believe that this is happening ‘oh yeah I went out for a stroll and got casually kidnapped by some secret agent driving a punch buggy’ that sounds totally believable. He opened the dresser to find multiple sets of the same outfit purple isn’t really my color he thought gingerly but took a set of pajamas out anyway. Mind as well be comfortable if I’m going to be kidnapped.
Levi put his pajamas on, a linen button up shirt and pants, a light purple in color similar to Shirley’s. He tried laying down in the bed, but found that no matter her position he couldn’t get comfortable. He decided to go back to the library, maybe a book would put him to sleep. Tiptoeing towards the door of the library to avoid running into O’Grady and get in trouble for venturing out at such a late hour, he began to hear the muffled sound of people talking within the room as he approached.
“Do you really think she is still up for this kind of mission? It has been close to fifty years since she was here last!” A gruff man’s voice commented, Levi thought it may be Agent O’Grady, but he wasn’t sure.
“She was the best agent we had back in the day, if anyone is capable of completing this successfully it is her. I have no doubts about her ability.” An unknown female voice replied.
Levi was puzzled about who and what they could be talking about, but he didn’t dare enter the room. He put his ear to the door to listen and heard nothing but silence. Then the door suddenly opened and there stood an angry looking Agent O’Grady.
“What do you think you are doing eavesdropping on this! Go back to bed!” He said severely, straining to keep his volume low. Levi could see Marilla deeper in the room with another woman, he couldn’t see her face but she was in a dress the color of the pajamas and had black hair up in a bun with a necklace and grey flats on. Marilla looked shocked to see Levi standing there, but then quickly made her way over to the door.
“I will take him back to his room Ethan, you stay here. Don’t worry.” Remarked the hushed but urgent voice of Marilla.
Agent O’Grady looked as if he was going to object, but sighed and walked back to the other woman and began a muffled conversation with her.
Marilla quickly shut the door and took Levi’s hand. She started back towards his room in her typical purposeful bustle. At his door she turned to face him, “You are lucky you didn’t get in more trouble. This is serious, you can’t poke around here. Go where you are told to go, stay where you are told to stay.” She looked into his confused eyes and started back down the hall, pausing after a few steps to turn around “There is more to this house than meets the eye and you don’t want to find it alone.” Levi opened his door, perplexed at what the cryptic message could mean, and made his way to the bed and fell asleep.
The next morning Shirley and Levi were awoken by the booming voice of Agent O’Grady “Rise and Shine people, the sun is up and you should be too. We have a lot to get done today and you not being up is putting it off!”
Shirley got up, went to the dresser to see what clothes were there. Light purple shirts and black pants were the only articles of clothing found in the dresser. She sighed and got dressed. Nothing has changed since the last time I was here. Same old purple and black outfits, you’d think they’d modernize for goodness sakes. As she opened her door to leave her room she heard a familiar noise coming down the hall, “Sophie!” She gleefully explained as the puppy ran to her “Oh I missed having you around!”
Marilla poked her head around the corner with a giant smile glowing across her face. At the same time, Levi emerged from his room, same purple shirt and black pants, hair a mess, and proceeded to yawn and stretch
“What’s for breakfast? I’m starving!” He queried.
“Well sleepy head,” Marilla came down the hall, “you will have to go see for yourself,” she smirked playfully at him “it is in the library.” The three made their way to the library, Sophie trotted behind.
Upon entering the room, a small buffet of eggs, toast, and bacon was found. It took no time at all for Levi to shovel his breakfast into his mouth and go up for seconds. Meanwhile, Shirley found herself a pice of toast and a cup of black coffee and sat quietly sipping it watching out the window at a turkey vulture circling above a tree line. Levi and Marilla were talking loudly on the other side of the room and O’Grady silently stood by the door.
Then Levi noticed the woman from last night standing on the upstairs level of the library looking down at them. She was sporting a similar purple dress from last night, and smiled as she brought her coffee cup away from her face, “Good morning,” she greeted as she began to descend the staircase towards the group.
“My name is Belle Onderdonk. I am the director of this unit and I will be supervising your training and mission completion.” She paused, for what Shirley assumed was dramatic effect in typical Belle fashion. “While I will not physically be going on the mission, I will be with you every step of the way.” Levi looked concerned and puzzled, he had heard over and over again about this mission but nobody had told them the logistics of it. “I would also like to extend a warm welcome to Agent Goodman, it is a pleasure to have you back in the building.” Belle looked to the chair where Shirley was sitting, her back to the group looking out the window.
Shirley slowly lowered her coffee cup to a coaster on the table beside her chair. “I haven’t been Agent Goodman in over 50 years, Belle. Just because you don’t age doesn’t mean nobody else does either. I retired from this. I had a family, a true love, a home…I left this part of my life behind.” Shirley didn’t move from her seat and room was quiet.
“Agent Goodman,” she paused, searching for what to say “Shirley, you know why we brought you back. You must have figured it out by now. You are the only one for the job,” Levi noted a hint of concern and pleading in her voice “you are the only person who ever successfully completed the mission.” Belle pleaded with her, but Shirley continued to stare out the window.
“He’s back, isn’t he.” Shirley’s voice was flat and disengaged. It was like a distant memory was playing in her mind as she attempted to remain in the present.
Levi finished chewing his food and in a confused tone began his inquiry “Wait, so this old lady was a CIA agent? How old are you? And who is back? And why do I have to be here?”
Belle looked sternly over to Levi, “Yes, this old lady was an agent, but we weren’t the CIA when she was.” Belle paced past the breakfast buffet, glancing to note the lack of food left on the table. “We were a separate entity of the government, a collaboration of agents from all over the world. Our task was to protect the world from the things that were only known to people in fairy tales and dreams.” Levi stopped chewing, eggs and bacon still being held in his cheeks, Belle has his attention. “There is a whole world out there that you don’t even realize exists. It is where people like myself come from. A tyrant from that world that we believed to have been banished to another realm has returned and it is posing a threat to this world.”
Where people like her come from? Levi was overwhelmed with questions What does that even mean? Oh crap! Levi noticed in his daydreaming that his mouth was gaping and a few pieces of egg had escaped his mouth and found their way to his lap. He looked sheepishly at Marilla, who despite attempting to appear professional was holding back a laugh but showing it greatly in her eyes.
Belle noticed the looks between Marilla and Levi but continued, “If he is allowed to continue to grow with power, he will again attempt to enter into this world and destroy it. Agent Goodman is the one who successfully defeated him the last time this happened, that is why we brought her back.”
She noticed Levi feverishly trying to clean off his pants, not paying attention any longer to her report. She raised her voice slightly to regain his attention, “You are here because you happened to be with her when Ethan-” she paused as Agent O’Grady shot her a look from across the room that could have cut glass “I mean, Agent O’Grady, went to retrieve her. Shirley does not have high blood pressure, so you keeping track of medications won’t be a problem. I am pretty sure she said that to try and get out of coming back.” Shirley sighed from her chair but remained silent otherwise.
Belle continued, “So for the next few days, you will learn all you can about the beings that inhabit the land and prepare to enter the world for the mission. I suggest you take this seriously, Levi. Your life will depend on you knowing the ins and outs of the land. That is all I have for now, if you need something contact Marilla.” And with that, she turned and went out the door.
What on earth did I get my self into? Levi’s mind was racing. I literally have no experience in fighting. Good grief, I broke an ankle walking across the gym floor in high school. I am not mystical being fighter material. I’m going to die. Straight up, gonna die. This is great. This is so great. Marilla noticed Levi’s eyes reacting to an internal monologue he was having with himself, she wanted to know what he was thinking, but figured he was probably having the same anxiety that all new recruits had.
Agent O’Grady stepped forward from the doorway, “I would start reading today. The physical part will start tomorrow. Read today, rest tonight, be prepared for the morning.” And he too turned and walked out the door.
Shirley finished her coffee, rose from the chair she had been so quietly inhabited and left the room, “I already know this stuff, it hasn’t changed.” She grumbled on her way out the door.
Levi and Marilla were left in the room, a pile of books in front of them to go through. “Better get to it!” Marilla announced “I’ll stay and help you.” She smiled and sat across a table from Levi and took a book from the top of the pile. “Looks like we are starting with Elves today. They are fun…mostly. Temperamental always, but usually fun.” And the studying began. After going through Elves, Faries, Unicorns, Centaurs, and Dwarves, Levi looked at his watch. “It’s 3am!” He exclaimed “O’Grady is going to be waking me up in three hours! I have to go to bed.” Marilla looked at Levi with that smile in her eyes but a tired look on her face and nodded. The two headed out the library and went their separate ways towards their rooms.
The Granny Adventures: Part II
There he was, Vaurcar stood in front of his throne laughing at the group. His face just as wrinkled and wretched as she recalled. The stench of him reached across the room and tickled their noses, their eyes began to water as the smell of rotting garbage and garlic overwhelmed them.
Levi was cowered behind her and O’Grady, “It’s a good thing these pants are black.” He whispered, it was obvious he was shaking. Vaurcar reached for his sword with his long gnarled fingers, his finger nails were caked with dried blood and dirt and appeared black.
“You have lost your edge, Agent Goodman, let me lend you some of mine.” His voice was raspy and harsh, but calm. He murmured something under his breath and the sword leapt from the table to his hand. His yellow eyes pierced their bodies and as he pointed the sword came flying towards them.
Shirley awoke with cold sweat running down her face and her heart racing. The sun was shining through her window and she could hear footsteps outside of her door, they were too light to be a person and they went past her door so she didn’t think twice about it. She sat up in bed for a few minutes gathering her bearing again before making her way over to the dresser. Pulling out the same outfit as the day before, she got dressed for the day and making her way to the library, trying to put the dream to the back of her mind, but doing so poorly.
Levi woke up to the sound of his door opening but refused to open his eyes if my eyes are still closed he thought to himself then the day hasn’t started, he heard footsteps approaching the foot of his bed and then they stopped. He opened one eye and saw nobody there. “Marilla, stop playing around. I know it’s you, joke is over” he grumbled.
“Sir, I believe you are mistaken,” came a voice from the foot of the bed. Levi didn’t recognize the slightly high pitched voice and crawled to the foot of the bed to peek over the frame. When he did so he found himself nose to nose with a man half his size.
He had large green eyes the color of clover fields and a mop of brown curly hair that slightly covered his eyes. He was wearing a similar outfit as the rest of them, purple top and black bottoms, but he also carried a small bow and quiver of arrows. The bow and arrows seemed to have a gold tint to them that caught the sun beaming through the window. “My name is Gideon Waverley, you’re with me today training.” Levi couldn’t help but stare, this man was half his size and ordering him around. “Stop ‘yer gawking and get up! The day won’t wait for you!” And he went out the door.
Levi rubbed his eyes, I have got to be dreaming, closed his eyes and reopened them. He found his shoes and made his way to the library for breakfast, running into Marilla on the way. “Did you meet Gideon this morning? He said he wanted to get you up himself.” She had a sleepy smile on her face when Levi stopped walking and looked at her.
“That actually happened?” His voiced dropped to a whisper, “What is he?”
Marilla chuckled, “We didn’t get to his kind last night but he is what’s known as a halfling. He is incredibly intelligent and well versed in combat. You will be in good hands learning from him.” She gave Levi a push towards the library, “Don’t worry, it will be fun!”
The door to the library opened and Belle was standing there beaming with the sunshine lighting up the room behind her. These people are too happy this early in the morning Levi thought to himself seeing the activity behind Belle. Shirley was sitting in her chair again looking out the window drinking her coffee. Sophie was curled up by her feet, also looking out the window.
“Hurry up and get breakfast in ya!” a familiar high pitched voice came from behind where Levi and Marilla were standing, “Or you won’t be eating until lunch. There is much to do today, and it is all important. Meet me out in the courtyard in ten minutes.” And he walked away.
“There’s a courtyard?” Levi looked at Marilla, confused.
A familiar gruff voice came from the stairwell, “It’s out that door,” he pointed to a narrow door on the other side of the room. It looked more like a shutter with a knob than a door. I’m not even shocked anymore at this, of course the door is too small to fit through and is a shutter, obviously. Levi was showing his lack of enthusiasm on his face, despite his halfhearted attempt to hide it. Breakfast was the same as the day before, Levi loaded up the plate with bacon and made his way towards the door. I don’t know what kind of ‘courtyard’ is back here, there wasn’t anything here when we first pulled up and I didn’t see anything out my window the last few days, he thought as he turned the brass knob and pushed.
He opened the door into the greenest garden he had ever seen, roses were in bloom and the aroma of them was perfect with the smell of fresh cut grass. The ground was covered in elaborate stone work with marble pillars holding potted plants speckling the garden. The sky was a beautiful shade of blue and was dotted with the most fluffy looking clouds he had seen, it was perfect. How did this not catch my eye until now? This house is falling apart on the outside, the grass was dead in the front…I am sure of it.
Gideon saw the puzzled look on Levi’s face, “You can’t see this from the road,” he gestured towards the garden and the back of the house, “You have to enter the house in order to, you’ll notice if you go out front the house looks like it did when it was built.” He gestured toward the home “They keep it looking decrepit so people aren’t tempted to come knocking on the door.” There was a pause, Levi looked down to where Gideon was standing, he looked anxious. “There is too much at stake for someone to just wander in.” With that he turned on his heels towards the garden.
Belle approached Shirley, “I’m sorry we had to bring you back into this, you must know that I am. But you can’t just sit here, we need you. This country needs you, and this world needs you. You know what he was capable of the first time, he is capable of more now.”
Shirley continued to stare out the window, silent. Belle stood there for a few minutes, and turned around defeated. “You’re not sorry you had to bring me back into this. You’re scared because of why you had to. You don’t think you can do this without me.” Shirley said flatly and took another sip of her now lukewarm coffee. “You’re sorry that I had to get old while you stay the same 22 year old you were when we first got into this whole thing. But don’t throw your apologies at me, don’t you dare do that. It doesn’t change anything.”
Belle looked as if she would burst into tears at Shirley’s remarks. She quickly turned and went down the stairs and left the library, slamming the door behind her.
“Do you still have my quiver?” She looked to O’Grady, who had a mouth full of scrambled eggs.
He was red with embarrassment, “I think it’s out there with Gideon, that is what he was showing the kid today.” So Shirley got up and made her way down the stairs, she got to the garden door, and looked at it in frustration.
“I’m not as wirey as I was last time I went through this door.” She whistled and the door widened. “That’s much better. Now to get on with this nonsense.” She turned the brass knob, pushed, and was met with the warm breeze on her face.
“It’s about time you showed up!” A joyful voice came from behind a shrubbery at the far end of the patio, and Gideon appeared. He looked just as Shirley remembered him, but with a little bit more grey in his hair and a change of clothes from his usual green getup.
“I am not late, Giddy. I didn’t want to come.” She made a sly smile in his direction. Just as Gideon opened his mouth an arrow came flying through the shrubbery followed by a scream from the same direction.
“Oh my goodness! Oh My! Oh I am so sorry! I’ve never…..” a startled Levi came running from the garden with a bow in hand and a quiver rattling with the 4 arrows he had left.
“I thought I told you not to shoot unless I was there!” A stern look had taken the place of the jovial one that had been plastered on Gideon’s face as he glared at the scared boy.
“Gideon, not everyone can be a natural like I was,” Shirley laughed and nodded towards the boy “there has to be a curve or else it isn’t as exciting.”
She looked to Levi and motioned with her head to the bow then extended her hand out to take it from him. She set down her bag next to Sophie and motioned for the quiver. Taking an arrow out, she looked at Levi and Gideon with a smirk, “Pick a target!”
Levi looked around, “That rose bush, your two o’clock. The yellow roses.” Levi blurted out to break the awkward silence that was starting. Shirley nodded and put the arrow to the bow string, pulled back, aimed, and in a glorious moment released the arrow. It flew through the air like gravity couldn’t touch it, never wavering in the wind until it hit the bush with a small explosion of yellow petals.
“Give me another!” Shirley exclaimed, grabbing another arrow and nocking it in preparation. Gideon thought for a moment then stepped out of the line and began rummaging through his small linen bag. He drew out what appeared to be a large cotton ball and held it out on the palm of his hand. After a couple of seconds and a snicker from Levi, the thing in his hand began to roll from side to side until a pair of brilliant blue wings appeared.
“This is a training device, it flies around and will try to attack you until you are able to strike it down,” he explained “You can’t kill it, it isn’t alive. But you can hit it with an arrow to knock it down.” With a jerk of his hand the puff took flight and began darting around the patio.
Shirley drew the arrow back and tried to aim at the flying puff, letting the arrow go after much thought. A miss. She drew another, and again missed. She grabbed the last arrow, a newfound look of determination crossed her face and her brow furrowed looking for the flying object that she wanted to badly to hit. She hadn’t missed a shot in half a century and she was not going to let this puff defeat her. The arrow flew through the air with the same finesse as the shot that blew apart the yellow roses, meeting the puff ball with an explosion in the air that rained glitter down to the earth as a smaller version of the puff remained in the air and began to hover back towards the halfling with the outstretched hand.
He carefully tucked it back into his bag and smiled at everyone. “That’s enough for today I think.” He was about to turn to go back into the house when he quickly turned to face the garden again, “Levi, if you want to practice more you’ll have to fetch the arrows from the garden by morning. Otherwise, let’s go get some lunch and get you back to studying.” And with that the group headed back into the house. Levi thought he heard footsteps behind them, but when he turned to look there was nothing there, just a breeze too cool for the weather and a few leaves blustering in the wind.
Granny Adventure: Part III
They entered back into the library, lunch had been set out while they were away and a new set of books had been laid out on the small tables around the room. O’Grady had a stern look on his face, “They should be going faster by this point. They are slacking!”
He looked at Belle who glanced back at him from over her thick rimmed glasses, “The quality of the education is what is going to help when push comes to shove, Ethan.” She set down the notebook she had been writing in, “If they scratch the surface but do not ever fully understand then we are setting them up for disaster. This can’t end like the last group that tried.” She paused, a look of pain glimpsed her face “I am not lying to any more families about what happened to their husbands, children, wives, and mothers. I won’t do it anymore.” The library fell quiet as O’Grady backed away from Belle and made his way towards the door.
Levi was too engrossed in his tortellini salad and BLT to notice the intense moment that had just occurred in front of him. “So, what fun are we going to be learning about after lunch?” He paused, noticing Marilla’s look of minor disgust as crumbs from his sand which flew from his mouth and on to the carpet in front of him. He finished chewing and continued, “Can we do more of the archery stuff? That was SO COOL! I mean, did you see the way they were hitting those targets! It was amazing!”
Gideon cut him off, “You can practice more later, we are going to focus more on the history of what happened and why you are actually here today. It is time that you understood the real gravity of why you are here.” Gideon saw the look of utter anguish cross Levi’s face, as if the thoughts of disappointment he was having were being broadcast in the wrinkles of his furrowed brow, “If you don’t you won’t be as motivated to learn all you can.”
Belle came up in the center of the library with a serious look on her face. A projection screen began to descend from the bottom of the balcony across from her as the projector whirred to life. A picture of the most horrific creature Levi had ever seen appeared on the screen, and simultaneously the unswallowed bits of sand which were being projected into a napkin “What in the name is Pete is that?” Levi looked panicked around the room, making eye contact with every other person there, “It’s hideous! It’s disgusting!” Belle motioned for him to settle down.
“This is Vaurcar. He is what happens when elves are overloaded with the task of clearing out the nightmares caught in the dream catchers, called angayasse. They are made by a special clan of elves and are used around the world. This is not the first time, nor will it probably be that last, that this happens.”
Belle advanced to the next slide, showing a brightly lit room filled with apparently gleeful creatures in individual cubicles. The cubicles weren’t the typical grey of the office buildings Levi was familiar with, instead they were brightly colored and well decorated. Belle continued, “These are the elves that serve as the staff to the department of dream activity. They work tirelessly, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, all days of the year to ensure that evil forces can not penetrate the dreams of the masses. They obviously cannot prevent all evil from entering the minds of the sleeping, but they do a respectable job to say the least.” Levi was completely engrossed in the presentation at this point, eyes glued to the screen and hanging on every word leaving Belle’s mouth.
“The issue arises the most often in the department of nightmare destruction. You see, the things people call dream catchers, they are an elvish folk art item that has the ability to catch any evil that is lurking in a room that may attempt to enter into the dreaming mind of innocent people. Just like any net though, they can become full and les effective over time and need to be emptied.”
Bell clicked to the next slide, it showed a dark corridor of cells. “This is the Ranze Prison complex. The most dangerous and nefarious are kept here for the safety of the other people of the realm.” Belle paused to look around the room at the group. Levi was looking at the slide with such intent that his mouth hung open. Shirley showed little interest, you could tell that she was replaying imagines that were only contained in her mind as the story was told, Marilla had her gaze fixed on a Levi with a sheepish grin on her face, and O’Grady was asleep still standing in the doorway.
“As punishment for those reprimanded to the facility,” she continued, “depending on the severity of the crime obviously, they are subjected to the emptying of the angayasse. The inmates are secured using four-point restraints and the catchers are turned around and the nightmares are allowed to pass through them. Every nightmare caught in the catchers is viewed by the inmates at this facility.”
Belle had a sudden change in the tone of her voice, a sadness of sorts “Vaurcar was incarcerated on a petty theft charge, his exposure was a pure accident. He should have only received two rounds of this, however a bad guard was curious about what would happen if someone was subjected to days of nightmares instead of mere minutes. Vaurcar is what happens, the heart and mind turn as dark as the dreams that filled them and they begin to act on the things that they have seen.”
She continued, “When the warden had realized what was going on, it was too late and Vaurcar was too strong and too far gone to help return to his prior self. The darkness he had experienced was too much for his mind, body, and spirit to handle. He was placed in a solitary cell, but it did not hold him for long. He faked a serious illness and managed to escape the prison when they were taking him to the infirmary.”
Shirley’s voice came quietly from her chair, “He ran to the woods, not knowing where else to go. The woods held the same mystery and darkness that he did. It was here that he learned of his newfound abilities. He has telekinesis, it’s a hoot and a half to deal with.” She glanced at Levi, who looked more confused than she had ever seen him before. “It means he can move things with his mind.” Levi’s face went from confused to scared.
“I’m sorry,” He paused, it was obvious he was trying to process all of the information he had just been given “he moves things with his mind? That’s the stuff of movies, that isn’t real. Nope. Sorry, you’re mistaken.”
Shirley was beginning to get annoyed with the boy, “Not mistaken, Is this one of the times you’d like me to lie to protect your delicate emotional state? Or would you like to know the truth of how bad this actually is?” Levi looked stunned, so she continued.
“He is evil. He will kill you if he is given the chance. Belle can tell you all about it.” She gave a sideways glance to the director. “More people than we care to count have been killed by him in an effort to contain him. He knocks off the people loyal to him for sport, the evil that is in that thing is like nothing you have ever seen. Nothing in our world is even close to the caliber he is capable of. He is filled with the nightmares of your tyrants and dictators. The people that give you nightmares are scared of a being like him.” She stood and made her way to the door leading out into the hallway, “Keep that in mind when you think this is for fun or sport. This is for your life.” And she walked out of the room, Sophie trotting behind her.
The mood of the library was tense. Belle looked at the group, grasping for anything to say. With a loss for words, she sighed “Maybe you should just read some more for the day, get more familiar with what you might see out there.” A defeated director then left the room, Agent O’Grady close behind her. The murmur of their voiced could be heard going down the hallway.
Marilla and Levi sat down to start studying, but they were both distracted by what had just transpired. “Wait a second,” Levi closed the book he had opened and looked at Marilla “How did you get pulled into this whole mess?”
Marilla’s face was suddenly serious and sad. “My parents were agents when this started, they are some of the ones that did not make it back.” She paused, keeping her composure. “Belle promised them that she would take care of me if something happened when they went in. I’ve grown up in this house and was raised to do this work, I’ve helped train dozens of people.”
Levi looked confused. Before he could speak, Marilla continued “Not everybody has been training for this specific mission, sometimes they simply go to assist with smaller dealings. It really is not a big deal.” Marilla’s pocket buzzed and she took out a phone, looked at the screen, sighed and looked at Levi. “You know what? We need a break.”
Levi started to object but the look Marilla threw at him silenced him almost instantly. She played with something on her phone and music came from it. She whistled, in the same manner Shirley had to change the door, and suddenly the music was playing from what seemed to be the walls. Levi remained sitting at the table, confused, as usual. Marilla began to do a quirky dance around the room to the music. When she saw him sitting she danced over to him and grabbed his hand, “Get up! We are dancing the stress away and then we can study!”
Levi got up hesitantly and began to do a disco move he had seen in a movie, pointing from the ceiling to the floor across his body. “That’s fantastic!” Marilla exclaimed as she mimicked him. The two were lost in the break when a loud boom of a voice interrupted it.
“This doesn’t look anything like studying! This won’t help you there!” Agent O’Grady was standing in the middle of the library, looking as angry as a bull at a rodeo. “We just got word that there have been attacks on villages, multitudes are dead and even more are taken captive for labor. We don’t have time for this.” He threw a map down onto the table and looked into Levi’s eyes, “You are leaving tomorrow morning. I advise you to finish this studying and get some rest, Lord knows you will need it when you get going.” He turned and left the room, leaving Marilla and Levi stunned in the middle of the library.