As I was so late getting Chapter Two posted, here be Chapter Three as well, of the newly released third (and final) edition of
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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 is Colona; more accurately? 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, too. 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.”
“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?”
“We let them sleep.” Master Su tried to dismiss his concerns, “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 was itching 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 in 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 soundly that night.
It had taken one week for the seven-year-old girls to awaken from their dragon tear trance. They rose up from their beds healthier and stronger than they had ever been, with a maturity not previously present, and they frightened most of the villagers.
Reverence and mystery always surrounded the dragons and, of course, their tears. Outsiders would argue that they didn’t exist, but the people of Latoona knew where they lived. They didn’t go there, not out of fear of the dragons, but out of fear of themselves.
You see, when a Trevel is touched by a dragon, he or she is transformed beyond recognition. Dragon power fuels whatever the strongest desire is within the heart; many fear their strongest desires.
When the newly woken girls walked out of the Potion Master’s house, they had not gone more than eight steps before they were suddenly swept off the ground by their parents and rushed home.
Master Su immediately began tending a new flower garden to the left of his front door, and a rock garden to the right that had sprung up under the girls’ feet.
In secrecy, the girls were tutored on the far side of the river-well hilltop. There, they worked in a sheltered cleft that could not be seen from above, and anyone approaching would be heard long before they came into view.
Tanya brought her favorite rock collection to the very first lesson, and Holly brought her potted pansies. As a double Earth and Metal Energist, Tanya began to sense various smells coming from the different rocks and soon developed the ability to smell what ores and minerals were hidden within.
Holly’s Flora Energies reached into the essence of each plant, and she was able to amplify such energy, thus appearing to grow and reproduce seeds from nothing.
Each girl manifested levels of intensity far beyond any seen in other children or even other adults. Master Su took on the responsibility of teaching them to bend their powers away from destruction and toward construction and productivity.
Master Su also secretly noted that not only were their Energy powers beyond their years, but that in fact their years, their very chronology, seemed further advanced as they no longer behaved as little girls, but instead, emanated a more “womanly” essence. Master Su was deeply concerned about what affect this might have on socializing outside the small protection of Latoona’s village.
For the first few months they were left alone, all alone. The other children were not allowed to play with them. The girls kept their amplified gifts secret, as if ashamed of them.
But when Chancellor Stonewall’s son, Tomey, arrived home for school break, he explored the jungle for painting subjects and discovered their natural laboratory, with hundreds of perfect bonsai specimens as well as shelves full of precious metals and gems drawn out of the various rocks lying around.
The girls were no longer feared, but revered as they and the Latoona Market benefited.
A teen girl stood nervously speaking 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 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 sweet, innocent confidence.
Holly, just as lovely and as confident, preferred to quietly watch, 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?”
“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,
The whole Jaack family joined together for Mitch’s thirteenth birthday to pay for his gift. Mum Jaack 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’ll 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 replied.
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.” He offered.
“Being alone with you is supposed to be a present?” Mitch screwed up his nose at his foster dad, who 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- 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 film. 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 roasted 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.”
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, either.
“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 that 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.