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Over a decade ago, I had a dream that swirled in my sub-conscious with such power that it captivated my waking imagination.

In a conflicting battle death scene, an evil overlord was surrounded by his family. His family were fighting against him to stop his unquenchable thirst for power. But the torment of their love for family and loyalty to blood lines paralyzed them when it came down to making the final death stroke…

As I considered such a conflict, my question was, “How did we get to this?” And there began my journey of discovering the Trevel story-verse.

Ten+ years of creating later, three generations earlier, and here, finally, is book one of the trilogy:

The Chronicles of Trevel: Dragon Tears, where the story of this dream started.

But, if you have been following any of my writing, you will know that there are many other tales that are being leaked by the Trevel! Below is a list of all my writing to date, both the links to the published and the TBA current projects.

CHECK OUT THIS EXCITING NEW FANTASY/SCI-FI WORLD set in our modern world.

For a list of Gregga J. Johnn’s current writing check out her Author Page, and see the order of her writing as listed below:

(Rating is the author’s suggestion only)

The Trevel Story-verse Timeline: “Bacht, welcome to the world of the Trevel.”

The Forgotten Mermaid, novella [M15+ rating, for mild horror and sensuality] Soon to be published…

Diamonds, Beetles, and Lucky at War, booklet [M15+ rating, for bawdy profanity]

The Last Poinsettia, booklet [G+ rating, a Family Christmas Tale]

The Tales of the Trevel, collection of short stories [M15+ rating, for bawdy jokes]

The Chronicles of Trevel; Dragon Tears, novel [PG-13+ rating, YA+]

The Chronicles of Trevel; Dragon Sweat, novel [PG-13+ rating, YA+] (TBA)

The Chronicles of Trevel; Dragon Blood, novel [PG-13+ rating, YA+] (TBA)

 More books by Gregga J. Johnn from outside the Trevel Story-verse:

Seven Stories for Seven Sons, Bedtime stories for Imagineers of all Ages. [Family rating]

The Magical, Fantastical World of Springhill Farm, novella [PG-13+ rating, YA+] in two copies, with one in color and one less expensive black and white version.

How I Saved Myselves; an expose on the inner healing of a “crazy” mind, Inspirational booklet [M15+ Real World Issues]

Collecting Thoughts and Dreams, an anthology of short stories and poems. (TBA)

Intimate Meditations, a prayer and meditation devotional (TBA)

Transforming Weakness into Well Living, a prayer and meditation devotional (TBA)

Perception, an allegorical novel (TBA)

Save Our Souls, a play with a short pre-show play, Thumbs Up, A.OK (TBA)

Chronicles of Trevel: Dragon Tears, by Gregga J. Johnn

Chronicles of Trevel: Dragon Tears, by Gregga J. Johnn

INTRO to The Chronicles of Trevel: Dragon Tears AND FIRST FOUR CHAPTERS:

Preface and Introduction

The Trevel Universe is a place where fantasy and reality collide; where truth breeds her lies in shadow and the dark is the brightest place to shine.

All human legend, fairy tales, and stories of super human and mutant, or alien powers originate in the history of the Trevel.

To be Trevel is to be “at one with the power of the universe.” To be Bacht is to be “powerless, or human.”

But, these definitions are strictly from the Trevel who despise the Bacht for consistently refusing to bow to them as gods.

The Bacht (humans) don’t even know they are the Bacht.

Geography

The Trevel have lived upon the Earth since before any can remember and at one time walked among the Uplanders as gods. However, the humans (or Bacht), have a disease of spirit. They consistently refuse to be ruled and choose rather to rebel against their divine guides.

A great migration of the Trevel civilization was orchestrated at the sinking of Atlantis, which granted the Bacht their desire to be left alone.

Further transfers of civilization occurred throughout the latter years and now over 80% of Trevel live in caverns within the continental shelves hundreds of feet below sea level. Some still hide their true identities and share the Upland with the Bacht, but only out of necessary co-existence.

Human history is littered with the interruption, interference and sometimes, the intercession of the Trevel.

The Nine Energies of the Trevel Universe:

1} Illumination

2} Air

3} Electricity

4} Fire

5} Water

6} Fauna (animal)

7} Flora (plant)

8} Earth (& mineral)

9} Metal (& ore)

The Trevel have the ability to bend and manipulate Energy in manifestations of defense, attack, or simple daily convenience.

Most Trevel have one major and one minor in Energy, yet some double up in either a major or minor manifestation. Some even have a triple blend in minors, however, as rare as only in myth and legend is the Chameleon Energist who has access to all nine.

 

Mystic Vision

Introduction

Prologue

The nature of the Deeper Evil is appealing, attentive, accommodating, and patient.

Mystic Vision

The image was clear and vivid.

In her sleep, Colonah saw two women: one surrounded by family in a tree-cliff house, encompassed by Blue Mountains, the other alone in a rocky, underground blue castle. Both women were in pain. Both women were giving birth.

Colonah watched the agony continue until finally a son was born to family and a daughter was born to solitude. Fire sprayed as Colonah sneezed out of sleep. The five-foot red dragon called to her flock. She would share the vision with the dragon colony so they could seek out the time of the boy and the girl.

Introduction

Below the Great Barrier Reef, off the coast of Queensland, Australia is the most magnificent sight hidden from the eyes of the entire Bacht population. That is,

“The ‘human’ factor,” Franc Belle snorted these words as a curse whenever anyone even thought of the Bacht in his presence.

Although his buildings and design company, Belle’s Architecture, had been accused of reflecting Bacht elements, he insisted that they were influenced by him, not the other way around.

The term Bacht is the name given to any of the powerless, namely the current Upland inhabitants of the planet Earth.

The Trevel are not of their kind.

Thousands of years have brought about a mixing of the races. There is little difference between the pure Trevel families and the mixed ones; it is only that the mixed families do not know if their offspring will be powerful Trevel or powerless Bacht. It is rumored that some pure marriages have produced the rare powerless Bacht, but they are just rumors.

Mystery surrounds the origin of the Trevel. Some say it was celestial, some say it was beneath the earth. It is even said that they are images of a higher mind. It is only known that in ancient days, they came to seek dominance over the Bacht.

At first, the goal was to blend the two races and create a divine breed. They would live in the skies in a great tower that rose above the clouds. Only a sudden disaster of linguistic complication divided the Bacht races, causing them to abandon the project and disperse to the ends of the Earth.

“Any unification and true dominance on our Trevel part is now a completely unrealistic option.” Nimrod, the strongest of all the Trevel kings, shattered the table at which he sat, horrified to think that perhaps he must resign himself to a quiet leadership rather than ultimate dominance.

“We can’t control the Bacht.” The table crunched under his pacing. “Their frames maybe ridiculously fragile, but we cannot contain their spirit.”

Later, in continued efforts of domination, individual Trevel set themselves up over the larger civilizations, seeking a supernatural status in the Bacht society. Surprisingly, the Bacht continued to revolt, sometimes subconsciously as they simply ceased to believe in the existence of the Trevel.

When the manipulation of natural energy was mastered and engineered, the Trevel, to save their lifestyle from the growing number of Bacht, took the opportunity to vanish beneath the waters. Thus, as a civilization, they were gone.

Some remnant Trevel still strove for dominance, and others chose to live in harmony with the Bacht. Thus began the mixing of the races, and the secret lives of the Trevel began to weave in and out of Bacht history.

Today, about twenty percent of the Trevel population lives happily in the human world, and the humans don’t even know they are the Bacht.

The Boy

The Mines

The Cities

Royalty

Close Call

Boom!

Thunderstorm

Chapter 1

The Boy

Wattle-Gum Gecko Mitchell was three years old when he first saw anyone outside the Commune. The “Community” of Nimbin, Australia, was a happy, hot place to live. Everyone shared; everyone cared. Sometimes he quite forgot which of the uncles and aunties he played with were actually Daddy and Mummy.

Today, when the commune truck arrived, carrying town supplies and mail, Wattle-Gum was chasing a blue-tongued lizard. His shoulder-length, white-blond curls were tied up in a pretty ponytail, and his girlish features deceived any who didn’t already know him.

A special letter arrived that day from his gamma and papa in Brazil; airline tickets!

It didn’t take long to pack up their few belongings and hitch a ride to Lismore, another hot and lovely town in northern New South Wales. From there, they took a bus to Brisbane, then flew south to Sydney.

Wattle-Gum had never seen so many people dressed so strangely. All the people were shiny clean and wore clothes that covered all of their bodies. He also noticed that, for some reason, people called him a “pretty little girl.”

Too many people and too much noise all ended when he slept soundly for the first time in days on the big plane that would take them across the ocean to his Brazilian family.

Mummy and Daddy argued about how long they would stay in Brazil. Mummy had been born in Brazil and had not seen her family in years. But Daddy didn’t think Mummy’s family liked him, and Mummy was sure they didn’t.

Brazil was hot, too. There were still too many people but, everyone was nice and they stayed for half a year. Well, Daddy went home after three weeks.

Wattle-Gum forgot his name for a while. They called him Nino now or Gummo. Mummy cried a lot, and Grandpapa went away on a trip with someone called Angel.

Gamma was strong, so everyone kept saying. Wattle-Gum just thought she looked scary.

Mummy and Wattle-Gum finally went home after he was just about as confused as he could get. Where did he live? Where was he now? When would Daddy come home? But he liked the medicine Mummy gave him, and he woke up feeling much better, suddenly in Lismore.

They visited home: the commune, which was suddenly no longer home.

Now, in Lismore, Wattle-Gum learned his school lessons above the café that Mummy ran. Daddy still did not come home. Wattle-Gum forgot what Daddy looked like. He even forgot he’d had his hair cut in Brazil. It was long again and always in a ponytail at his neck.

Other kids laughed at him, but he had the last laugh. They went to school while he had lessons at home, and he could read any book he liked.

By eight years of age, Wattle-Gum had read many of the books on plants, animals, and alternative living in the local bookshop.

He wondered why anyone would want to live in a house. He was above a shop; everyone knew him and he played in the street.

Why would anyone want to stay inside? There was too much sun, wind, and rain to experience. And above all, why would anyone want to be quiet?

He cried to the wind, squealed in the rain, and chattered nonstop to anyone who passed in the lovely hot sunshine, for summer was best of all.

The Mines

Beneath the Great Barrier Reef, the water, the coral, and the ocean floor are caverns full of power—some might even say magic. Magic it is, if magic is found in the forces that hold the universe together.

Trevel minds are wider and can reach further into the air we breathe and touch the energies that flow through all things. “Magic” is in the redirection of Energy, and the redirection of Energy is in the hand of the one whose mind can draw from it and bend it.

It is the magic in the Mines of Hanain that causes the beauty of the Great Reef above. The essence of the power-force from processing the mined jewels feeds and enriches the Barrier, a glory enjoyed by all.

These mines contain an expansive yet concentrated measure of jewels and precious metals, twisted and distorted in a dizzying dance like that of an addict in delirium.

As riches buy power, the mines also contain a rustic gathering of peoples from all over the Trevel civilization. They come for the glory dipped in grime, then leave with the stench of their own greed.

“Those towns, my Prince, are not for you.” The Senate Minister always warned, “They are full of dark people.”

He insisted on restricting the movements of the boy, Prince Hadigan.

“Stay in the City Clusters. They are full of more light.”

Those Clusters, so full of light, were many, and they were the focus of the young royal’s curious imaginings. He memorized the facts of each flourishing development down to the smallest outpost.

A complete understanding of his father’s, King Darsaldain’s, entire empire was the desire of the boy, who was destined to become the Prince-in-One and heir to the throne of Lemuria, Atlantis, and the entire Trevel expansion.

The Cities

Atlantis is the center of trade and commerce. It exists today, 300 feet below the ocean in caverns, built into the oceanic continental shelves, coated in Trevel technology.

There is a force, HDP (hydro-plano) that can hold back the waters like a window holds out the rain. The cavern entrances are built with a double HDP wall that flows and sucks water and oxygen in and out with the tide.

Connections are made where the HDP touches the ocean and the ocean touches the air above. Everything is connected by the forces of energy that flow through them.

Through this flow, complete and complex climates are imitated to recreate what occurs above. Thus, one sunny day, Upland is enjoyed also by the Trevel nation’s Underland.

Bacht can and do survive in these surroundings. Even the transports of the Bacht, with a little HDP mechanics, drive, sail, and fly into the docks of the great city Clusters.

The busy White Circle City of Atlantis is set in the depths among great arches, columns, and supports.  There it thrives with businesses and many a townhouse, or second home away from the deeper Underland country estates, for a large, growing aristocracy.

But the wealthy Trevel aren’t the only inhabitants of the circle cities. All manner of peoples and creatures populate these energized and magical places.

In the middle of the city, at the top, are the places of centralized defense and tradition that trickle into high set living. Further around the spiral are comfortable middle class sets, and then on, down to the most ragamuffin of street urchins in the lowest levels.

There are enough characters living out their daily grind here to fill the largest of imaginations.

The military is also welcomed with open arms. To the Trevel, they are called the Strategist, or Strategic Defense Force. They fully support the current royal family, led by King Darsaldain.

The king does not reside in Atlantis, however.

The Royal White Circle City of Lemuria is the second largest nation city cluster. It is the center of all society and government. Here, Trevel royalty rights are not passed down strictly by birth.

A king has every right to elect his successor from wherever he wishes, but only as long as the Senate vote agrees with his choice.

Royalty

King Darsaldain has one son, Prince Hadigan. The Senate would have the king choose someone other than Hadigan to succeed him, for, from an early age, Hadigan exhibited distasteful choices. Yet the king has dreams of glory for his son and hangs on in life to see if he can prove the boy fit to be king.

“I will not die,” Darsaldain whispered from behind the bed curtains.

The Senate Minister rolled his eyes at the Trade Minister, the Strategist Director, and a number of other government heads in the quiet room.

They had all been here before. It was best to count the number of times the king’s health had failed by the age of his son.

Hadigan had been two weeks old the first time. The queen had died due to an illness from the birthing process, and the king lost interest in life without his wife. The next few times, Hadigan was six, nine, ten, and twelve.

Each time, the boy was hustled into the Poseidon Memorial Parthenon, ready to be crowned at a moment’s notice.

Five times Hadigan was expected to ready himself to take the throne. What does that do to a young boy? If he were close to his father, he would be glad not to be king. However, if he were ambitious and kept away from his father due to the business of royal life, the result might be less favorable.

“Let us hope this visit is also wasted,” said the Senate Secretary, chilled by the night air as he watched through the massive arched doors of the Poseidon Memorial Parthenon. The Senate Minister would arrive, maybe soon, and tell them if the boy, now fourteen, could go free or stay to take on the crown.

“I hope he doesn’t die. I’m not ready, yet.”

The Secretary nodded meaningfully and patted the young teen’s shoulder.

Hadigan Andrew Hades Darsaldain, the handsome prince, desirable to all the young girls of society, turned as if to wipe tears and snorted through a slender, strong nose over pinched and furious lips. He was not ready, not ready to make his move in a revolt.

Hadigan’s plans required many years yet. He fully intended to be king, but he knew the Senate would never allow him access to the power that would make him the greatest leader the Trevel nations had ever known, even above Poseidon, Zeus, or Hades, after whom he’d been named.

He must first complete his higher-level school training, preferably taking every course the school offered so as to not miss a thing. Then, power required money. Yes, his family was on a significant salary, but it was never enough.

Hadigan was a born businessman, and he believed that the key to it all was in the Mines. The Mines of Hanain were the centerpiece for his round table of power.

His chin-length hair was black and curly. It served as a good veil to cover his determined, ambitious eyes and complimented the compelling, handsome figure.

“I will have the Mines,” he murmured, and smiled as the Senate Minister waved heartily at the Hall entrance to say that the king was well that morning.

“But,” Hadigan smiled, genuinely relieved, “what of Latoona?”

Close Call

Some years later, Hadigan had the chance to visit the growing resort village of Latoona located in the Upland jungles of the Amazon, but not without consequence.

The marketplace rocked under the fire and smoke. Even the thousands of jungle birds, squawking and screaming and shooting into the sky, could not be heard over the explosions.

It began by the chemistry potions booth, the most fire prone of all the booths. There was a chain reaction that made it impossible to tell if there were further bombs or just fire spreading.

Hadigan hit the floor with three Strategist Agents on top of him. This was a blatant attack on the royal family! Everyone ran everywhere, and it was impossible to make a head count.

A camouflage Hummer showered the Agent pile with cool, wet dirt, and there was barely a break in time before they were all inside, pawing at the prince trying to confirm that he had sustained no royal injuries.

Hadigan looked dazed, but his personal Agent could not tell if it was from shock about the attempt on his life or a high form of excitement; if he was enjoying the experience.

Hadigan had always been a thrill seeker.

Last year, Hadigan had been kidnapped, and the terrorists demanded such an exorbitant amount of money that it drained the family’s charity budget for the year. Hadigan had been found, tied to the cavern roof, only inches from the incoming tide of the entrance walls. His manic laughter was naturally a reaction to the trauma he’d experienced, but watching the boy recover that night as he pushed his muscles beyond his usual strength work, his personal Agent began to suspect that the boy liked all the drama.

As the vehicle drove on, unseen by the jungle, the Agents buzzed and hustled around Hadigan, reporting the horror to their superiors by hydrotel.

Hadigan’s personal agent crushed an HDP bead in his hand and it opened up as water falling in a circle, hovering above his palm. The stern face of his commanding director answered through the center of the water,

“Report.”

“There has been an assassination attempt, sir. All are accounted for and the seal is intact with no physical injuries appearing,” the agent responded.

The commanding director listened to the personnel with him and ordered,

“Get to the extraction point; co-ordinates to follow.”

A series of latitude and longitude points followed and the agent squeezed his fist around the HDP bead again. It closed and was returned to a small shoulder pocket

As they drove off, Hadigan could not keep his eyes off the fire that licked around the village of Latoona. The reflection flickered hungrily in his eyes.

Boom!

Salla Dijex walked past the double cradle quietly and smiled over the sleeping heads. Baby Tanya curled around tiny baby Holly, and they slept in perfect peace. Tanya was just over a year old; Holly was a newborn.

They were cradle mates with different memas.

Beth and Salla, best friends from school, took turns watching each other’s daughter while the other went to work in the famous Latoona Village Market.

The sudden jolt of the cradle startled both babies awake, and they screamed in protest. Salla did not move to quiet them. The cradle swung up forcefully, and Salla stepped backward against the heat wall that surged through the house.

The door was open to admit the cool summer breeze, but now it only let in the horrific vision of flames crawling ten feet into the air.

The babies screamed again, and the neighbor girl ran over, frightened, seeking comfort.

“Watch the girls. You’ll be fine,” Salla told her, and ran to the fire.

The entire market, as well as the new resort construction site, was entwined in smoke. A partially invisible Hummer nearly ran Salla over as it careened out of the chaos.

In the next hours, injuries were catalogued and assigned healers in order of urgency. Salla worked frantically for fear that she wouldn’t see her husband in the line of the injured. Finally, he came. A quick bandage on his arm was all it took for them to break the silence before she asked about Beth and Dan.

“They will never hurt again.” A streak of clean slipped down Hal’s cheek, and Salla joined him in his grief.

“We can’t separate them.” Salla and Hal sat in the kitchen rocking Holly and Tanya to sleep.

“We won’t,” Hal reassured his wife. “We will keep them both and raise them as sisters.”

“I think we should keep the secret about which one of them lost her mema and deda today,” Salla concluded thoughtfully.

“I agree. They’ll both be equally ours.”

The girls were laid back down in their double cradle as the village quieted itself with the soft hiss of an extinguished tragedy.

Thunderstorm

The rain was so thick that the other side of the road was lost to the waterfall. Wattle-Gum watched through the window over the café. Still eight years old, he was proud that Mummy thought he was old enough to be left at home alone for a little bit while she ran down to the bank.

A long time had gone by, although he knew it always seemed longer than it really was. But then, he heard the music for their favorite TV show. He and Mummy watched it together every night; she would never miss that. It must be nearly an hour by now.

Wattle-Gum dialed the triple “0” on the phone to call the police because he knew that Officer Terry was working tonight.

“Police, what’s your emergency?”

“Hi, Linda, it’s me, Wattle-Gum.”

“Hey, hon, what’s up?” Linda couldn’t bring herself to call him by his name. “Tell your mum not to bring her pie down tonight; the road’s all washed up.”

Wattle-Gum was silent for a bit.

“My mum’s not there?”

“No kiddo, I haven’t seen her tonight.”

The bank was right by the police station, and Mummy liked to drop off pies and pastries for the night shift when she was down there.

“She’s been gone nearly an hour and our favorite TV show has started. She’d never miss that.”

“Hang on…” Linda called through to the other room, “Terry, Rachael’s been gone an hour and is supposed to have come down here. Have you seen her?”

“Is that Mitchell on the phone?” Terry switched Wattle-Gum’s first name for his last.

Linda nodded.

“Tell him I’ll come get him.” Officer Terry grabbed his slicker and keys on the way out the station door.

When Terry arrived at the little apartment above the café, he grabbed a few things and took the boy down to the police station to watch the telly there.

Terry said he would tell Mummy where they were. Bruce, the other officer on duty, had gone out driving in the pelting rain, checking things out around town. Terry was called out to join him, and Wattle-Gum was left with Linda. He fell asleep on Terry’s cot in the locker room.

Donuts were waiting for Wattle-Gum’s breakfast, and he learned that Mummy had been in a car accident and was in the hospital in Brisbane.

Officer Terry took Wattle-Gum on the two-hour drive to go and see her.

She didn’t talk when they got there. Wattle-Gum was allowed to go in and see her while she slept. He would not believe what the doctor said: that she wouldn’t wake up.

There was a lovely lady with long, curly hair, just like his. She took him to a hotel. They stayed there for two very quiet days until Wattle-Gum’s favorite toys and clothes arrived.

That afternoon, he stood in the cemetery and was expected to say goodbye. Such a ridiculous request made Wattle-Gum very angry, but he didn’t feel like telling anyone.

He and Danny, the lady, then drove south to Sydney. It was an eighteen-hour drive, all toilet stops included, and finally Wattle-Gum was allowed to go to bed in a tall, red brick building.

Little Girls

“Wattle-Gum” No More

Cheers!

Foster Home

Blue Castle

Tears

Chapter 2

Little Girls

“A dragon tear for you,

A dragon tear for me,

Will you ever see-

Dragons come to tea?

The song will rise above

The new song down below;

See the dragon come,

See the dragon go.”

A group of little girls skipped around in a circle tossing flower petals into the air. The light-hearted singing rose above them in the summer breeze.

“If you’re not careful, the dragons will answer your calling,” an old man sitting in the shade warned them with a smile and a wink.

The girls giggled and, throwing the petal-less flowers at him, ran off to the river fountain.

“While you’re there, Tanya, Holly, get me a jarful.”

The two girls ran back to their mema, Salla Dijex, to fetch the pretty jar she held out. Other memas called the same, and each of the girls left carrying a jar up the hillside to the fresh spring outlet.

The river itself was a simple water source, but at the top by the spring, some of the water slid through a little tunnel and bounced into a good-sized well. This was where the girls headed.

The tunnel was the key. It was full of mineral deposits that supplied the drinking water with such nourishment that it could refresh the heaviest heart or spirit. It was nicknamed, “dragon tears” by the locals, in honor of their very real and rather secret dragon neighbors.

On special occasions, the Latoona villagers would bottle up their mineral water and give it as a precious gift to an honored guest. This practice is what brought fame to the little jungle outpost. Bottled Dragon Tears were a rare and precious commodity.

The group of little girls chatted as they took turns drawing from the well.

“I’ve seen a dragon,” Tanya whispered to her friends.

“You have not.”

“When?”

“One sang over me when I was born, sang over Holly, too,” Tanya insisted.

“Did not.”

“Anyway, how could you remember that? You were just a baby.”

Both Tanya and Holly leaned in close. They chanted fearfully:

Once you’ve seen a dragon,

You never forget their song.

Once you’ve seen a dragon,

Your life will never go wrong.”

The other girls joined in, giggling.

Once you’ve seen a dragon,

Your heart will always be strong.”

They got a little louder.

Once you’ve seen a dragon . . .”

They shouted to the sky,

Your tales will always be long!”

Laughter spilled water all around, and the pack of giggles floated back down to the village.

On the other side of the river, hidden by the jungle, was a large crater, the only remnant of the market explosion from seven years ago.

On the far side of that, a five-foot red “something” sank down and slithered on four feet back through the trees, humming the happy song.

“Wattle-Gum” No More

Six months after Wattle-Gum arrived at the red brick orphanage, he was in the top of his class for all his subjects except physical education.

It seemed he’d lost his desire to move about. Any effort to encourage physical activity resulted in his flopping to the ground and sitting, immoveable, right where he was.

In all academia, however, none could come close to his scores. The orphanage director began throwing “genius” around and was sure he would be placed in foster care quickly.

Unfortunately, at nine years of age, exercising his mind was crushing his possibilities of making any friends.

Wattle-Gum was alone, scared, and picked on constantly by both the boys and girls in the orphanage. It wasn’t hard to find something to laugh at; long, curly, blond hair and the name Wattle-Gum Gecko Mitchell provided much ammunition.

But, a free spirit can only take so much.

One morning, Wattle-Gum woke up with his hair slathered in black, sticky, smelly vegemite. He carefully combed it through as if it were hair gel and went to breakfast. Even the teachers grimaced at the stench.

When he was strongly encouraged to go shower, he glowered at his laughing peers and quietly requested to visit the barber on their field trip to the shopping center that day.

By the time his classmates had exhausted their financial freedoms at the shops and were ready to return to the orphanage, the boy known as Wattle-Gum Gecko Mitchell arrived at the bus with his washed, white blond hair cropped just under his ears, the natural curls expressing a rough, movie-star look. The girls stopped laughing and took extra notice.

Chester stood up to him.

“I hope you don’t think a little haircut is going to change anything, Bottle-Lizard.”

The short-haired boy stood his ground and said,

“No, but I will.”

Chester landed flat on his back with a bloody nose.

“And, by the way, my name is Mitch.”

Mitch spent the night smiling in solitary confinement.

Cheers!

“Come in, Gash.” Prince Hadigan, aged twenty-one years, welcomed his eighteen-year-old friend.

The two sat on a private balcony overlooking the great columned Poseidon Memorial Parthenon.

“Remarkable feat that, don’t you think? Drink?” Hadigan motioned to a large selection of crystal bottles and decanters.

“N-no, no th-thank you.” Gash wrung his cap in his hand and peeked out over the balcony. “Ooh.” He stepped back again, not enjoying the height.

“That is the greatest memorial to the greatest king of our entire history. Cheers!” He raised his glass.

Gash wavered back from the edge and stuttered.

“M-m-m-maybe I will have a d-drink, j-j-just what you’re h-having.”

Hadigan looked to a tiny wrinkled man in the corner, who moved remarkably fast for his age and had an odd, long snout.

It took Gash a minute to realize what it was. He, being poor, had never seen one before and stared blatantly at the little figure pouring the drink.

The Kobolds—or box brownie, for that was what it was—are bad-tempered lizard-ish creatures. Their service is given, grudgingly, only to those who can afford it.

They come in boxes that are kept by their masters, who also keep many other boxes lying around to hide the real one. If someone other than the master opens the Kobold’s home box, setting it free, the Kobold will run riot in an impish raid of mischief.

The extra boxes have frightful carvings on them and ugly surprises in them that jump out at you should you open the lid. This fact usually deters any from meddling with the boxes.

Hadigan snorted the air with vigor.

“I love this spot. When I was younger, I would climb up the side here and go all the way to the roof. Do you know what it feels like to be on top of the world? I do.”

“This is s-s-soft d-drink?” Gash looked at the tumbler in his hand, at the Kobold by the bar, and then at Hadigan in disbelief.

“Spirits will cloud your mind, my friend. Didn’t you pay attention in Mind Powers class at school?”

The prince jumped up onto the balcony railing. An Agent in a suit the color of seaweed quickly rushed out and reached for him. Hadigan kicked him in the chest, jumped and spun in a straight layout over the Agent’s head, and landed walking straight back at him.

“I keep telling you people, I am NOT going to die! Just like my father, great leader that he is, says every time he tries to cheat death. I, however, will not, barely hang onto life. I WILL LIVE IT!”

Hadigan hissed at the Agent, who retreated to his quiet place trying to breathe out the kick in his chest.

“Gash, my friend, I tell you, we are the ones who will live. We will make our names so great that no memorial will be big enough to house us.”

He stepped over to his nervous friend and drew him right to the edge of the balcony. Leaning the both of them over it, he whispered,

“Stay my friend, Gash, and you will see more in life than anyone in this gilded cage could imagine possible.”

Gash threw up over the edge.

“I have just the place for you. A young scientific genius, with no family, wants a quiet place to work, right?”

To steady himself, Gash grabbed at the table set for tea.

The prince was mysteriously quiet.

“I will set you up in my hidden castle beneath the river. You will work your little potion-secrets in peace, and I will sell them for what they are worth. The Trade Minister has a son who offered his help, and we will be a happy little family. Now, go home and shower, you stink. I will call for you to leave tomorrow. Be ready. Cheers!”

Gash left with a green but greedy smile. His gift with chemistry was one he was as desperate to explore as Hadigan was to exploit.

Foster Home

Despite further roughhousing difficulties, enhanced by a sudden renewed love for athletic opportunities, the Orphanage Director was not exactly timely in assuming that Mitch would be soon placed in foster care. The boy lived at the orphanage for eleven months before his dream came true.

Tom and Helen Jaack always kept their eyes open for unique children. They looked for strong boys to train up on their horse and cattle homestead in the Snowy Mountains. They were drawn to Mitch not only by his healthy physique but also by his uncanny mathematical skills and already feisty attitude.

“I’m looking for a kid strong enough to control his own will. You think you can find that strength on the lonely mountains in the south?”

Tom Jaack squared his shoulders and examined Mitch.

“I’d do anything s’long as ya just get me out of the city and this scum house.”

Tom laughed heartily.

“I’ve got to agree with you there, about the city. C’mon, kid, your number’s up.”

Mitch liked his new home, a lovely open farmhouse in the Snowy Mountains. Even if the constant temperature was considerably colder than his northern home, it was perfect. How Mitch was so lucky he would never know.

He wrote his Gamma in Brazil:

“The whole house is wood, not just shop wood either, Mr. Jaack and his four sons built everything by hand. They all work their own businesses and Mr. Jaack Sr., my foster dad, runs a small stock horse farm so they’re hugely rich. It’s just like a movie here.

Mum would have loved it, but she would have frozen. Apparently, it snows here too.

I’m to be home-schooled, again, by one of the son’s wives, Becky. She is teaching me the basics. Her husband, Craig, is teaching me martial arts. I was woken up at 5:30 am for my first lesson. They tell me that that is the schedule every morning, rain, snow, or shine. They are really tough, especially Tom, my foster dad. If he weren’t so kindhearted, he’d be an ogre.

I like it here.

Oh, yeah, I’m to learn how to use a computer too. I played some games these last days and they say I’m pretty good, but that’s just the way they talk. They say everyone is good at anything, if you practice hard enough.

Maybe I’ll see you again, someday, Gamma. Bye.”

Blue Castle

Gash was tired but excited when he entered his new home. There was a calm, almost clear blue glow all around him.

The castle was the most beautiful place he had ever been in. He didn’t think it was beautiful for the majesty of the carved walls, the delicate balance of jungle courtyard and manicured gardens, or the clear river roof that ran overhead. No, Gash was enamored by the quiet Underland solitude.

There were only the two Kobolds to keep him company, and they wouldn’t talk often. This is the place where Gash would have his peace.

The aged Kobold spoke in a rusty voice,

“There is a rich market in Latoona, only ten miles straight shot from here, and if you like, the dragons are helpful if you respect them.” Both Kobolds then bowed and left.

Dragon compounds could be useful in chemistry, Gash knew. Their potency was beyond any other known source and had not been explored much.

Truly, did the creatures still live, or was the liquid called dragon tears simply a rich mineral water?

“Many hours, many minutes, all will be told when time will tell.”

Gash began to set up his laboratory. There would be time to see the rest of the place later.

Tears

Who could resist either of the Dijex sisters? The whole village loved Tanya and Holly.

There was a faithful agreement between Salla, Hal, and the villagers: they all chose to forget which of the girls had lost her parents in the bombing.

Now, seven years later, here was Holly with her rich brown hair shining as bright as her dark eyes. She had begun questioning everything when she was three years of age and never stopped.

Yet today, something was not quite right.

“I tell you that chemistry is a fine art, little one.” Karenina, the primary teacher for the village, tapped Holly’s head, reminding her to pay attention on this field trip to the Main Street Market. “It would do you well to attend to your studies.”

“But I want to go to that pagoda and see the garden.” Holly pulled at her teacher’s arm.

“It is not like you, Holly, to fuss like this. Now, stop and listen to the Potions Master.”

Holly dropped her head and peaked out from under her hair at Tanya.

Her sister was standing right up against the counter behind the Potions Master. He scooted her away as soon as he realized how close she was to his wares. But was too distracted by all the eager young students to observe her too closely.

The sisters exchanged a serious nod.

When school was let out, the girls ran home to play.

“Can we take our tea set out, Mema?”

“Just be home for early dinner,” Salla instructed. “I want to get to the memorial service on time.”

Tonight was the anniversary of the Market bombing, and a service was to be held at the top of the crater to pay respects to those lost. The cause of the bombing would also be discussed. No one knew the answer, but all the rumors would come out again.

The villagers spent too much time on the horrors of the past. There was still so much fear surrounding the attack that no recovery plan had been set in action.

Occasionally, a youngster would suggest they rebuild the resort and restart the plan for a Trevel vacation venue in the heart of the Amazon Jungle. But the elders would ominously warn them all that a royal life had nearly been taken, so the royal family would set a curse upon any who tried to rebuild over that sacred spot.

Holly gathered the teapot and two teacups from their play set while Tanya tugged at a blanket in the closet. They hugged each other solemnly and walked out the back door.

It took a lot of slithering and sliding to reach the bottom of the crater, but once they did, the ground was solid. Surprisingly, no water gathered here, even after the recent rains. It was dry, cracked, and hot.

The girls set up their blanket and tea set right in the center. Tanya pulled a small, red crystal bottle from her pocket and set it next to the teapot. It was delicately labeled,

“Liquide Compound: Tears, of the Dragon.”

She whispered conspiratorially,

“I’ve never stolen anything before.”

“I know. I’ve felt sick all afternoon.” Holly rubbed her tummy.

“Let’s just do this.” Tanya poured the clear, thick liquid into the pot.

“Let me stir the dragon tears; you sing.” Holly swirled the teapot around and around.

Tanya sang gently,

A dragon tear for you,

A dragon tear for me,

Will you ever see-

Dragons come to tea?

The song will rise above

The new song down below,

See the dragon come,

See the dragon go.”

The girls paused a moment to let the atmosphere build, then Holly poured into Tanya’s bright little sunflower teacup, then Tanya poured into Holly’s. Together they raised the cups high and chanted,

“As much as the parents who live are ours, so also the parents who died are ours, and together we vow to destroy the one that took their life from us.”

They drank.

As the friend-sisters lie there unconscious, overwhelmed by the potency of the liquid that passed through their young bodies, a rumor was whispered above them.

Some said the Market bomb wasn’t just an attempt to kill Prince Hadigan. They said it was also a plot to destroy the vacation resort that was being built. Someone didn’t want Latoona to benefit from the money it would bring. Someone wanted to divert that money elsewhere.

Some also believed that the prince had laughed at the tragedy.

The Healer

A Mountain Life

The Party

Finances and Farewell

Chapter 3

The Healer

The memorial service didn’t take place that night. When Salla couldn’t find her daughters, the alarm went out.

It took several hours of searching through the jungle and scouring the river before someone heard a scream over the crater. The girls were discovered quickly under a hot wind beating down on the place from a red cloud above.

An accurate guess as to the reason for their unconsciousness was made, and the girls were immediately taken to the Potions Master, Master Su.

“My friends,” Master Su addressed the anxious crowd at his doorstep after the girls were brought to him. “It is good you have brought them to me. I know exactly what must be done. Do not fear; Hal, Salla, and I will see to it that they are well again. Return to your homes and rest well.”

The door was forcefully closed, and the three healers took the girls to the cool basement to keep their temperatures down.

“You say a scream led you to them and some saw a red cloud?” Master Su reassured the parents. “It is Colonah. All will be well, then.”

“What is Colonah?” Hal interrogated the master while he wiped the crater dust off the girls’ faces.

“Who? She is the one who led the chorus when these little ones were born. I heard it clearly on the wind, and I know you did. I saw both of your faces.”

“Do you mean to tell me, my daughters summoned a dragon?” Salla brushed their hair. “They’re so young. Is that possible?”

“Dragons come to help those who call them, especially if it is someone that they are already watching. I don’t know what kind of tea party these two were having, but if it was with Colonah, it was serious.”

“Who is this Colonah?” Hal was frustrated by his inability to fix the situation. “If my daughters are calling to dragons, I want to know what kind.”

The Potions Master snuggled the girls under soft, leathery blankets and motioned for their parents to leave the room. By the firelight in the living room, he finished explaining.

“Very few dragons today are intent on evil. They are not the demons most think they are. They are ministers of help that watch over those chosen before they are born. You’ll only see the small beasts now, as the larger ones were all killed by Bacht knights. They have always had an awkward relationship with the Bacht, based on fear.”

“I heard they like Trevels.” Salla was hopeful.

The healing Master nodded and encouraged,

“If you respect a dragon’s power, he—or she, in this case—will respect yours.”

“So,” Hal pressed on, “what kind of beast is this Colonah?”

“Colonah is the Mother.” Su informed them, “The dragons’ social setting is a lot like the society of elephants. One mother matriarch cares for the colony. The males are loners and come back only for rituals and mating.”

Salla pondered,

“So, Colonah is the leader? What has she to do with my girls?”

“The question, Salla, is what do your girls have to do with her? They must have called out with a serious need. What great trouble haunts Holly and Tanya that they should call on Mother Colonah?”

They all fell silent and pretended to listen for any stirring in the other room.

Hal changed the topic.

“You said you knew exactly what to do.” He paced, desperate to do something. “What is it?”

“I do know.” Master Su tried to dismiss his concerns, “We let them sleep. That is all there is to do.”

But, Hal would not be so easily pacified and demanded,

“Sleep for how long?”

“Depends on how much they drank. It could be a few hours, or it could be a few days.”

A Mountain Life

Wattle-Gum Gecko Mitchell—forever, now, just Mitch—soon developed a passion for the martial arts lessons he was subjected to in the early hours of the morning. Jaack, as everyone called his foster dad, kept a close eye on his development.

As Mitch practiced his katas, Jaack would often remind him,

“The only time you ever use attack is to protect the ones you love.”

So once, when the boy was watching the wild horses that roam over the mountain, he spied some older youths with rifles, shooting over the creature’s heads for sport.

Mitch loved the horses; therefore, he thought he should step in and protect them despite their ability to take care of themselves, as they had done for hundreds of years already. Still, Mitch prepared to put into practice all he had learned.

He rode his horse down the hill to where the shooters had parked their Jeep.

“I don’t think you should be here,” he warned from his horse’s back, looking down on the surprised group.

“I don’t think you should be talking to us. Get lost.” A black-haired teen rested his rifle on his hip, the tip pointing over Mitch’s head.

“You’re lucky the stallion doesn’t attack you.” Mitch nodded to a great brown horse watching suspiciously from the hill. “He’s pretty viscous if you’re too close.”

“If he gets too close, I’ll shoot him.”

The snarly teen fired his rifle barely over Mitch’s head, who gripped the saddle with his knees as his horse reared, screaming. Mitch slid to the ground and calmed his mare, quietly feeding her carrot chunks.

There was no telling if the stallion’s intent was to protect his friend or to claim his carrots. Mitch always brought a bag of carrots at this time of day, and the great brown leader of the pack was beginning to expect them.

The youths scattered as the violent stallion stormed them and tromped a couple of rifles. Mitch joined the fray, and between horse and boy, much damage was done. The Jeep suffered also.

Interestingly, there was no mention of a twelve-year-old boy when the report was made at the hospital that evening. Only the nurse on duty questioned some of the injuries the older teens had acquired.

She called her friend Becky Jaack and just happened to mention some of the patients brought into the ER that night, and wondered out loud how such injuries would have occurred on a lonely mountaintop.

At breakfast the next morning, Jaack changed Mitch’s work duties.

“I need extra help feeding the cattle in the bottom field. I’ll meet you there in an hour.”

Mitch tried to work well, but he couldn’t help wincing and groaning as his aching muscles and bruises from yesterday’s battle surfaced. Jaack kept pushing and pushing him to work faster and harder.

From tossing bales of hay all around the bottom paddock, he was then required to help refit the corral fence, digging the holes and planting the poles. Then Mitch was called on to carry all the massive feed sacks from one end of the barn to the other.

At lunch, he could barely life his vegemite sandwich to his mouth. Jaack was nowhere to be found, and no one else would tell him why he was on such hard duty.

He spent the afternoon until dinner hauling trees, chopping them down, and stacking firewood. The evening of the week before his first teen birthday, Mitch dragged his aching body straight to the shower.

He heard Jaack walk down the hall, laughing with his wife after they had gone to town to see a movie, something they had never before done without him. He let the shower’s hot water rush down his back as the even hotter tears ran down his cheeks.

Despite the smell of store-bought fried chicken, Mitch pulled the covers over his head and was nearly sleeping in more tears when Jaack spoke in the darkness.

“Next time you attack anyone, older or not, if they end up in hospital, you’ll join them after fetching feed bags and chopping wood all night long.”

The tears and self-pity stopped. Mitch smiled and snuggled deeper under the covers.

If this had all been about discipline for his mountain fight, then that was okay. He slept very well that night.

The Party

The teen girl stood nervously on stage in the Latoona Village Gathering Hall.

“I’ve only been there three years, but I’ve found that if you work hard…”

“Like they have any choice about that?” Tomey lifted his glass of mineral water as he interrupted Katiel’s advisory speech. She smiled nervously and continued to read from her shaky script.

“…If you work hard, and keep out of everyone else’s business, you can have a really nice time.”

She stepped down and the audience applauded her shy efforts.

“There you have it, girls.” Chancellor Stonewall Tanker stepped forward. “Tomey says, ‘Get used to walking,’ Candice says, ‘Choose your friends wisely,’ and Katiel says, ‘Work hard and you can have a really nice time.’”

He then motioned Tanya and Holly to the stage.

“Now, it is your turn to tell us what you are looking for in your first year of higher-level learning at the Academy.”

Tanya spoke first.

“I intend to blast the socks off every boy on campus.”

The whole village burst into laughter.

Each year that young high-school students from the village of Latoona left home to begin attending the prestigious and expensive private school, “Atlantis National Academy,” a village-wide celebration was held. Attendance at ANA was voluntary, but acceptance into the program was based on energy skills and required a higher level of achievement than the average Trevel population possessed. Thus the hall was especially full of party guests today, as the new seventh-grade students starting this year were the village darlings, Tanya and Holly Dijex.

“I also,” continued Tanya, “want to learn how to better smell metal ores so I don’t always have to touch the dirty rocks to find them.”

There was applause, and Tanya took her seat next to her parents, Salla and Hal.

Holly approached the podium slowly, still trying to think of a response.

“Tanya had her speech prepared a week ago, but I still can’t think of anything to say… I guess I plan to spend most of my time cleaning up all the broken hearts Tanya leaves behind.”

Uproarious laughter, and a few stood to cheer.

There was a distinct lack of young men in Latoona, so Tanya worked hard to draw the attentions of those who visited the market. She had many admirers from miles around. Her attraction was a lovely innocence and confidence.

Holly, just as lovely and as confident, but preferred to quietly watched amused and sarcastic.

“I’ll also grow at least one new species of plant each month, to discover what new energies I can draw from and bend with them.”

Holly sat between her parents and they hugged her. Tanya added a smart whap to the back of her sister’s head.

With the pleasantries over, the gathering filtered down to the main families, who gravitated toward each other. Chancellor Tanker, Tomey’s father, vigorously rubbed his son’s shoulder, nearly knocking him off his feet.

“So, Tomey, as a twelfth-year student, you’ll be keeping an eye on these young ladies, now, won’t you?”

“Yeah, Dad.”

“You’ve never taken any notice of us before, why start now?” Holly casually snubbed the offer as she served herself another drink of guava juice mixed with the local mineral water.

“Well, I assure you,” he tried to stand tall under his father’s heavy arm, “my socks won’t be blown off by either of you.”

“That, Tomey dear, is because you don’t wear socks.”

Tanya jabbed him in the ribs with her fingers.

“Even so, girls,” the Chancellor continued, “it is good to have a man around.”

The three students weakly nodded and the village leader left.

“If you need me at school, I’ll be in the art studios.”

“Tomey, what is the Academy really like?” Holly looked him straight in the eye.

“Your small time jungle fame won’t carry you there. Wait till we’re on the ship. Candice and I will tell you then.”

The party continued only a short time longer as everyone understood the students’ need to pack.

Finances and Farewell

Mitch was amazed by how much money could come to one person in one year. He did the math and understood how it worked, but that it should happen to him was truly, he thought,

“Excellent!”

The whole Jaack family had joined together for Mitch’s thirteenth birthday to pay for his gift. Mum Jaack had told him that the extension off his room was an extra closet. Becky said they could use it to do lessons in.

“We could put a desk in there and you’d have a nice, quiet place to study.”

“I have a quiet place to study.” Mitch threw a “yeah, right” look at her. “I have a quiet mountain place to study.”

“Uh huh,” was all Becky had as a reply.

The project only took two days to complete. Everyone helped but Mitch. There was always something else to work on or practice, until Jaack offered to take him to town, just the two of them.

“A birthday treat; you and me.”

“Being alone with you is supposed to be a present?” Mitch screwed up his nose at his foster dad, who g up the gently shoved him in the back of the head just hard enough to unbalance him.

The boy laughed and gave his foster father an affectionate shoulder punch.

They had a good time eating hot, fat, greasy chips and hamburgers “with the lot,” a term that meant that, along with the half pound of beef and cheese, there was also an entire garden of ingredients on the burger, from beetroot and fried egg to pineapple and alfalfa sprouts, as well as the basics of lettuce, cooked onion, and tomato: delicious.

The two then checked out the feed stores and hardware stores in town before they headed over to see the latest action fi lm. It was almost dark when the truck rolled into the yard.

As usual, the house was lit up and open. Everyone was inside, and Mitch smiled in anticipation of the birthday dinner. Meat pies, sausage rolls, fresh fruit salad and cream, scones, homemade jam, and éclairs filled the table. There were also skinned baked potatoes, peas, carrot sticks, and celery flowers with Mum Jaack’s famous veggie dip.

All in all, it was perfect for a first-time-a-teenager’s birthday. When the lime spider drinks (lime cordial and a carbonated soda with ice-cream) were brought out, Mitch actually gave a whoop, he was so happy.

The boy’s sharp eyes did notice the lack of wrapped gifts, but no one said anything, so he didn’t either. When there was no dessert, or cake, Mitch couldn’t help jokingly asking where it was.

Jaack scolded him,

“You think that after making this huge meal, your mother has time to bake a cake, too? Everything here was made from scratch. Are you so ungrateful? I know you’re not.”

The last statement seemed more of a threat than an affirmation and the big man continued,

“Go to your room.”

“What?” Mitch had been sent to his room before, but it was usually to study or think over a bad move. It was his birthday; this couldn’t be real.

“I think it’s time you went to your room.” Even Mum Jaack sent him.

But Mitch’s confusion turned to anticipation when the rest of the family, uncles, aunts, and cousins, all began chanting,

“Go to your room. Go to your room. Go to your room.”

Jiggling the table and spilling the drinks, Mitch clambered out of his chair and ran to his room.

The only thing that was different was the back wall. Instead of a flat brick wall, double doors shone shiny brand-new. How much could a kid get without exploding in thankfulness?

It was a computer room.

Large-screen monitors and all the basics, as well as a synthesizer keyboard, guitar, and complete surround-sound speakers stood before him. The walls were covered in egg-crate foam for sound proofing, and the sunroof had blinds to close out the sun when necessary.

“Of course, if we want to use it, you’ll be gracious enough to allow that.” Craig, the oldest son, couldn’t keep his eyes off the equipment.

“Yeah… sure…” Mitch would have said that to anything. He was so engrossed in playing with it all, he didn’t eat the cake that Mum laid next to him. She returned to retrieve the cake at 2:00 a.m. and told him to shut down.

From then on, Mitch’s mornings were spent working out and doing chores, but the afternoons were his to play.

It was Christmas holiday time, and there were no lessons for six weeks. Over and over, Mitch tested and worked on a special project. He wouldn’t tell anyone what he was doing, and after checking to make sure it was age appropriate, the Jaacks left him to it, questioning him only on his progress and achievement.

It took him three weeks to build, but he spent the next six months adding, adjusting, debugging, and tweaking it. Finally, at breakfast one morning, Mitch handed everyone a computer disk.

“When you have a chance, have a go,” was all he said.

Two months later he signed a contract with a major computer gaming company. Mitch thought he had all the money in the world when the payment came through, but then the residual checks began rolling in.

Not only were there home console versions of his game available, but there had been allowances for arcade games to pick it up also.

The boy began playing with another secret project while the contract offers piled up on the front veranda. Over and over, he walked the mountaintop with his laptop. He searched the skies and mapped the property, where every detail was entered into his plan. Paper maps were checked against computer maps, and sometimes he wasn’t sure if all his research took him to legally open access sites.

Finally, when he was fifteen and a half, he presented Mum and Dad Jaack with his gift of “thank you for all you have done.”

It was a computer program that connected satellite mapping abilities and scanned the whole Snowy Mountain region. It pinpointed cattle and horses through GPS, infrared tracking, and ear tagging.

From full mountain view to a six-foot-by-six-foot close-up view, the Jaack Corporation would be able to track its animals, family, staff, and trespassers over the entire property, from any computer, anywhere in the world.

Soon, every property manager throughout the Mountain Region wanted his or her own version of the program. Then word began to spread to the outback, and more requests for individual property mapping came pouring in. Mitch had to contract with a government computing firm to cover the vast need.

In his newest project, one month before his sixteenth birthday, Mitch began searching other sites and making plans that no one expected— but unforeseen circumstances suddenly made it vital for him to quickly follow through with them.

Family

Miss. Taylor

Goodbye Song

ANL Binay

The Caravan

Pirates

Gash Again

Chapter 4

Family

Two years before the farewell party in Latoona, Mitch enjoyed his new computer programming fortune under the financial mentorship of his already wealthy foster family. At sixteen, he learned how to balance and invest a sizeable cash flow. The Jaacks never considered using any of Mitch’s wealth for their own benefit and were excited for the boy’s success.

“You’ll have nothing to worry about when you turn eighteen.” Jaack sat on the veranda with Mitch, watching the sunset. “Not many foster kids start adulthood like you will. Remember them, and don’t forget your beginnings and blessings.”

“I never knew anyone to be so lucky. Why me?”

“Don’t question a blessing. There is always only one thing to do with it.”

“I know. You pass it on.” Mitch smiled as he repeated yet another philosophy that had been drilled into him these last seven years.

Jaack began to look awkward, so Mitch knew he was about to get personal.

“What is it?” Mitch broke through Jaack’s discomfort.

“Ah. I thought you might like to know why we never adopted you.”

Shrugging off the nagging insecurity, Mitch flatly commented,

“I figured you had enough kids.”

“Well, yeah, that’s right, but… I wanted you to never begin relying on the money we already had for your future. Although we will always be there if you need anything.”

“I don’t expect any more from you. You’ve given me enough already.”

Jaack jumped off the veranda edge and turned to look Mitch right in the eye.

“You should expect a lot more from us. We’re your family. You belong to us and we love you.” He turned his back again.

“I wanted to teach you how to take your life and make it your own, not hide in us.”

“Like your sons?”

“They’ve all made their own choices and are traveling their own journeys. That’s not for you to question. But I will say they have all achieved their own dreams without hiding anywhere.”

“Sorry. I just never saw why anyone would want to stay home, or even in one place, all his life.”

Mitch considered revealing his latest plan.

“It’s good for some, not for others. I have a feeling you will be one of the others. There’s been travel in your life already, and it’s a hard bug to get rid of.”

“I was thinking of taking a trip to see my Gamma in Brazil.”

“You’ve got it all planned out, haven’t you? Down to the last date and meal ticket, I guess?”

Mitch’s stomach lurched. How did Jaack always know what he was doing?

“Aw, kid.” Jaack wrapped his viselike arm around the boy’s head and rubbed his hair with his knuckles. “Seven years is a long time to get to know someone.” Jaack bent over in a wrestler’s challenge. “And I’ve enjoyed every minute.”

The challenge was accepted, and the two laughed through the whole match.

Unfortunately, as coincidence would have it, when a grey van pulled into the yard, both males were dusty and grass stained. Mitch also had acquired a bloody nose from banging his face accidentally on Jaack’s head.

Miss Taylor was not impressed.

Miss Taylor

“Miss Taylor?” Jaack wiped himself up and Mitch tried to stop his nose from gushing blood everywhere. “We weren’t expecting you till next week.”

“Obviously not.” She stalked past Jaack and went to Mitch’s aid.

“That looks awful, you poor thing. Don’t worry; I’ll take care of this for you.”

“Ids nodd’n, ids append before. Ids wad I ged for wrestling de big guy.” Mitch was not yet aware of the precarious situation.

“Let me take you inside and get you cleaned up.”

Even when she tried really hard, Miss Taylor’s nurturing spirit was dead cold.

Inside, the blood was all washed away and Miss Taylor began her planned interrogation, encouraged by the bloody nose.

“It has come to our attention that these arrangements may not be in the best interest of the boy.”

“What?” Mitch sputtered.

Mum Jaack calmed Mitch when she whispered,

“We expected this.”

Miss Taylor continued steadily.

“The Children’s Welfare intends, now that the boy is receiving a private income, to ensure that his money is being applied in the right places and not into your family pocket.”

“I assure you, Miss Taylor,” Jaack said as he offered her a chair, “Mitch’s money is completely his and completely accounted for, down to the penny.”

“I’m sure it is, Mr. Jaack.” She sat rigid at the big country table. “But the child is still under the protection of the Australian Children’s Welfare system, and as such, we are the ones who need to guide the child in his finances.”

“The ‘child’s’ name is Mitch, and I’m not a child.” Mitch leaned over the table but maintained his control.

“I had intended to inform you that Wattle-Gum…”

“It’s MITCH!” the forenamed enforced.

She smiled, sort of.

“Master Mitchell needs to return with me to the orphanage at the end of the week.”

Gasps and shouts arose from the usually calm family. Miss Taylor spoke loudly over their objections.

“However, after what I have seen tonight… is your nose okay, Mitch? Perhaps I should take him now.”

Mum Jaack quieted everyone.

“That won’t be necessary. We will take care of him. I am sure that after all the visits you’ve had with us before, you know he is safe here.”

Mitch, over everyone’s head, silently nodded outside to Miss Taylor. It had the desired effect.

“You’re right, Mrs. Jaack. I will see you in one week.”

She stepped outside, but instead of heading to the van, she slipped over to the barn.

The family was trying to make sense of the surprise announcement, but Mitch stood quietly.

“Go on, don’t stop talking.” He winked. “I have a ‘secret’ appointment in the barn.”

“Watch yourself, son,” Jaack warned him.

“It’s okay. I don’t intend on spending tomorrow shifting hay bales and feed sacks all day.”

In the barn, Miss Taylor tried to begin, but Mitch interrupted and took control of the conversation.

“Miss Taylor, I thank you for your concern. You and I both know that this is just some ruse to get money from me to fill your own pockets. I will reward your stupidity by making my usual donation to the orphanage, for the benefit of the kids.”

She tried to interrupt again.

“You will not find me here next week. You will not find me here tomorrow. The only thing you have achieved here is a shorter good bye to my family.” He nodded and turned away.

“You won’t get away from me.” She stood her ground

Mitch slowly walked back to her and stood very, very close.

“But, Miss Taylor, remember, I am a troubled foster child.” With one hand he closed the barn door. It quietly creaked closed.

“Perhaps I won’t let you get away from me?”

She faltered a little.

“I could have you tried as an adult if you even touch me.”

“An adult? Then I shouldn’t need the Australian Children’s Welfare assistance.”

She tripped backward. “If this is what they teach you here, I’ll have you back in the orphanage tomorrow.”

“I learned discipline and compassion here. You are the one who taught me to be troubled at your precious orphanage. Thanks for reminding me.”

Miss Taylor sneered and stalked back to her van rather quickly.

Goodbye Song

The Dijex family—Hal, Salla, Tanya, and Holly—lay in bed early the night before they left for Rio, yet none of them were able to sleep.

In the morning, they would join the caravan of travelers to Rio de Janeiro and from there, Underland to the Trevel port town of Janeiro, where the girls would register and shop in preparation for the voyage to high school at the Atlantis National Academy.

TSNS Atlantis (Trevel Strategic Naval Service) was the ship that would take them to school, and school was to be their home for the most part of the next six years. There was a lot of shopping to be done.

Sunrise pushed its way through the jungle trees and over the crater. The girls were at the bottom already with hydro lights and their old tea set.

“The teapot hasn’t been washed since the last time we had it here.”

Tanya sniffed the sunflower clay.

“I didn’t want to get any more tears in case we slept too long.”

“I suppose the well water will pull the tears off the sides?” Holly poured the heavy mineral water into the pot and Tanya swirled it around.

“They said her name was Colonah.”

Holly nodded looking into the red sky. “I can’t tell if that’s a warning sunrise or Colonah wishing us well.”

Tanya gazed upward too. “Shall we say goodbye, then?”

They chanted:

“A dragon tear for you;

A dragon tear for me,

We’ve come to say, ‘goodbye,’

With our dragon tea.

Our song will rise above

To a song from long ago,

That we may see a dragon come

Before we have to go.”

They sang again, and again.

All was quiet, but for a soft echo. Holly saw it first and hit Tanya’s arm.

A section of the crater wall sort of wiggled as if it were holding something invisible. The wiggly bit wound around the crater and circled them completely. The sunrise sky became a deep, deep red directly above, and water splashed down upon them from an unseen cloud.

When the sisters entered the house, Salla looked up from the breakfast table she was setting.

“Gracious! Did you swim in the river fully clothed?”

“Something like that.” The girls sloshed up to their rooms to dry and change their clothes.

ANL Binay

Forty-four days at sea on a cargo ship had shown Mitch the entire southern and western coasts of Australia. Now he was looking into the harbor of Hong Kong.

The night of Miss Taylor’s visit, Mitch’s already-laid plans were put into early action: switching the dates was easy.

All had gone smoothly after the not-so-social worker left. Everyone was prepared for the goodbye, sad though it was, and within an hour, everything was packed—food, clothes, and the laptop.

Mitch had already spread his money out in various bank accounts all over the world and could move it around without his location being discovered too quickly. In fact, he was already supporting his Gamma in Brazil with a steady, more-than-comfortable income. That was where he was headed.

He chose cargo ship transport because it was the least likely to be watched for his escape. That and, for a sixteen-year-old, it was also the most exciting route.

Leaving the mountain was fairly easy. A friend who owned a helicopter was recruited to “search for the missing boy” by air. He picked Mitch up from a high mountain ridge and flew him off to a distant bus station.

Oddly enough, Children’s Welfare never did find out that Mitch disappeared despite the wide search orchestrated by Miss Taylor.

The orphanage did not record the search at all. They were delighted with the generous support offered by the young Wattle-Gum and believed all was well with Master Mitchell.

The first month on board the ANL Binay was rough. Mitch was tired by the trip that took him from the Snowy Mountains to the city of Melbourne, Victoria. Then he had to find his sea legs.

Storms took him all the way to Adelaide, in South Australia, and then a horrid summer heat wave saw him to Perth on the very western tip of Australia. The weather was supposedly nice from there, but waves were still new to the mountain boy. He ate very little.

Sailing up across the north coast of Australia and on through to Hong Kong was hot and rainy, but now Mitch spent most of his time at the prow of the great ship, watching the dolphins play in the surf before the boat and breathing gallons of fresh salt air.

The spirit that had once been crushed and contained, then renewed and disciplined, was now set free. The wild boy spirit that had threatened Miss Taylor was intoxicating and as the sailors on board encouraged open expression, the discipline learned at the Jaack’s was laid aside. The basic understanding of morals still ruled, but there is little a sixteen-year-old can do to maintain “good manners” when there was so much fun to be had.

Hong Kong was spectacular! Mitch discovered the power of money, and most importantly, the power of anonymity. The men of the Binay were pleased to show Mitch where all the fun was, though he stayed away from the more desperate passions they delved into. As long as the boy paid, though, everyone was a friend.

On the second day in port, they took on a passenger, another gentleman of youth and wealth, called Hui. He also carried a laptop, and from their ship’s cabin, the two teens hacked into all the ship logs in the harbor just to find out what they were carrying, diverting the occasional package to themselves.

Mitch still rehearsed his martial arts exercises and surprised his shipmates with his determination to not drink too much alcohol or smoke anything. Mitch told them,

“In a world where no one knows you, your physical abilities are all you have. I won’t trade any strength or focus for artificial thrills.”

After two weeks, he said goodbye to Hui and changed ships to leave Hong Kong on the Ville de Blanc, headed for open sea.

As they crossed the Pacific, one of the sailors who loved marlin fishing showed Mitch how to respect the ocean creatures, using them only for necessary food, and how to get a live one on board without losing an arm. The fish supplied good meals for three days. Thus, it was a quiet cruise until they were a day off the Panama coast and Mitch had the need to exercise his computer networking skills.

The Caravan

Generally, students from Latoona made their own way from Upland Latoona (located in the Amazon Jungle) to Underland Atlantis (located beneath eastern Indonesia). But a surprise package arrived at Chancellor Stonewall’s, from an anonymous donor, which included free hotel reservations in Rio de Janeiro, for all the students and their families. Everyone was more than excited about using their saved money to shop in the bigger city.

The vehicles slithered out of the village in a full-color parade. Waterworks exploded everywhere, leaving brilliant trails of red, green, and orange shimmering and dripping in the air.

The Dijex family van was the first in line and followed the motor skis carefully as they wove their way through the trees that bowed out of the way. The family, all smiles and laughter, were not taking their first trip to Janeiro, but this was definitely the biggest farewell they’d had.

“Look back, girls,” said Hal. “You won’t see that village for a long time.”

A number of small, soft objects were tossed at him.

“Hush, Dad. I’m not thinking about that yet.” Tanya watched the glorious jungle plants wave to and fro, moving around the cars, then magically returning to their previous planting spots unharmed.

“It really is something to be able to bend so much foliage at once.” Tanya swayed with the rhythm. “How long does it take to become a jungle guide?”

“Ask your sister,” said Salla. “How long would it take you to be able to bend that much plant energy at once, Holly?”

Holly watched the guides on their bikes ahead of them. The riders steered the single-seat jungle skis, or motorbikes, with their feet and waved their arms carefully in time to the organic rhythm and wind.

Each tree, bush, and flower—and even the dead plants—wavered, slid, or walked out of the way so that the caravan procession could drive by unhindered.

“I guess it would only take a couple of months’ simple focus to build the mental memories in order to do that much on demand.”

Tanya stared at her sister.

“So you can do that now?”

“Uhh…” Holly suddenly realized that once again, her simple gifts, as she saw them, were not that simple.

Pirates

An old coast guard ship approached the Ville de Blanc and fired a warning flare over the prow. The captain of the cargo ship, noting the lack of radio salutation, avoided it.

Mitch joined the captain at the helm as the pirates made efforts to board. Some gunshots were fired, and armed men clambered onto the Blanc.

Mitch studied the aerials on the pirate ship and began working with the communications systems. The captain watched him.

“I hope you can attack them with a keyboard.”

“Okay,” affirmed Mitch.

“You can?”

“Don’t interrupt.”

The crew was silent as his fingers tap-tapped on. Hitting the “enter” key smartly, Mitch turned to his shipmates and said, “In a couple of seconds, that ship will receive an order from a British submarine demanding they stand down because they are committing an act of war.”

“Committing an act of war? Where’d you get that one, kid?”

“I’ve been reading spy novels. There now, see?”

Stepping up to the window, they saw another flare fly, and the pirates already on board dropped what they were stealing: a couple of boxes from one specific crate they had targeted. One of them tried to carry a box back over, but it weighed down his jump and he landed in the water.

The phony coast guard ship sailed hastily away, leaving the man behind in the waves.

The captain laughed a little and spoke into the microphone.

“Man overboard.” Turning to walk down onto the deck, he continued, “Let’s see what they wanted so badly.”

Dinner that evening was silent. No one looked at anyone, and Mitch noticed how agitated the crew was. The captain spoke in casual tones.

“I wonder if the people receiving that crate know exactly how many diamonds to expect?”

No one said a word. He munched on his sausage and continued,

“I think I should take them all into safe storage, now that everyone knows they are there. That way, if any of the diamonds fell out and were found by any of us, we can return them all without any complicated questions once we reach dock.”

“I reckon you’re right, Captain,” said Mitch with a sigh. “I bet those diamond smugglers know exactly how many pieces are in the shipment.

I’ll keep an eye out, in case any were dropped.”

“That’s it, son,” confirmed the Captain. “We don’t want any trouble.”

Random diamonds were returned throughout the rest of the day, so all was well received when they reached the port at the Panama Canal.

Mitch spent much of his time with the Captain, learning about sailing. By the time they reached the Everglades in Florida, he was given a certificate of achievement for passing a couple levels of seamanship.

The goodbyes were brief, and Mitch left the Blanc feeling lonely. He stayed in a hotel overnight, then rented a car (with a forged license) and drove across the peninsula to Miami.

There he took some down time and rested on solid ground for a week. He found Miami Beach quite a trip. When he finally boarded his new home on the cargo ship, the Mical, Mitch had been hit on by someone of every type of population in the world. He was quite flattered.

Gash Again

“I’m very excited, your Highness.” Gash rushed around his lab in the Blue Castle, dabbling in various pots and beakers. “The properties of their tears are amazing, but their blood is what will earn the most money.”

“I think I would prefer ‘My Lord’ to ‘Your Highness.’” Prince Hadigan watched the birds and small jungle creatures jitter about in the garden under the river. To them, the blue water above was their sky and the hydro lights in the Skyling were their sun.

It truly was a marvel to see the castle cut into the rock in elaborate balconies, windows, and arches. The bright Skyling imitated the sun perfectly as it followed the course of daylight above, cutting through the river water ceiling, flaring across the open courtyard, and edging every carving in a blue shimmer.

“Pardon, Sire?”

“I think ‘Highness’ sounds… soft.”

“But, about the blood, My Lord?”

“Now, that, I like.” Prince Hadigan smiled and turned his attention to the scientist. “What is this disgusting goop you’re playing in?”

“Blood, Sire.”

The prince glared at him.

“I-I mean, My Lord.”

The prince smiled and nodded.

“As I was saying,” continued a confident and passionate Gash, “it’s the dragon blood, or you can think of it as red cash.”

The prince sniffed it. “Pungent, but sweet. How did you get it?”

“They will respect you quite obligingly if you respect them.”

Hadigan turned and stared, surprised.

“I am learning to speak their language, slowly. It’s quite difficult, yet simple. I know that sounds off, but… I managed to tell them I was a chemist looking for substances with healing properties. As soon as I said that, this little orange one, like an oversized dog, cut her arm with her claw and dripped out a beaker for me.”

“I’d like to meet your dragons.”

“Ah, well, I haven’t seen any since. But I did manage to pull out the DNA and I’m working on duplicating it. Synthetic dragon blood, not nearly as potent, but enough to make you as wealthy as you want.” Gash finished all puffed up and proud of his plan.

“That’s all I need to hear.” The prince casually studied the carvings on the ceiling. “What do you know of the Dijex sisters from Latoona?”

“I’ve seen them. They are what inspired me to extensively study dragon elements. Pretty little girls, scary in their own ability to truly use their power, but they’ll be off to school soon, I guess.”

“What do these girls like?” the prince inquired.

“One of them loves boys. The other, well she is the special one. I think you should keep an eye on her.”

“And her name would be?”

“Holly. Caught my eye in a freaky way; she is, after all, only twelve.”

“Thank you, Gash. I won’t be in touch for a while. Just keep my traders supplied and we’ll be fine.”

As he left, the prince ran his fingers along the walls. “I think I’m ready for a quiet institutional life.”

**GET YOUR  COPY OF The Chronicles of Tevel: Dragon Tears TO FINISH THIS STORY OF WONDER AND SOON TO COME TERROR**

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