Purple Mountain’s Majesty . . .

Purple Mountain’s Majesty
By Sheldon Doyle
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Copyrighted 2008 by Sheldon Doyle


My name is Mishayla Paige and a year ago I was just a regular 11 year old girl living in St. Lucy’s Orphanage. My sister Milly lived there too. Even though she was older, we practically looked like twins: short brown hair, gray eyes, large round mouths, and the same splash of freckles beneath our eyes and to either side of our noses.
But that’s as far as the similarities go. Our personalities are much different. Milly is quite the tomboy and very outgoing, she is never afraid of anything. I’m not like that. I like to think about things.
Anyway, I was living at St. Lucy’s, enjoying a sort of boring but normal life, when the most extraordinary thing happened. It was an adventure I couldn’t have imagined, but it is because of that adventure that I learned who I am.

* * * * *

It started the day Mother called me observant and careful. While that is exactly how I perceive myself, you have to understand that Mother Superior was not doling out compliments, but encouraging me to trust myself more.
Geography has never been my strongest subject. When our class goes to the park to test our skills I find Father Skinner’s exercises in map reading confusing, and setting out on my own intimidating. Instead I like to watch the others and see what paths they are taking and then make my decisions.
Unfortunately I get lost a lot when I do that, which is only part of the reason Mother Superior gets upset with me. The other is that I don’t use my cellphone to call for help when I do. Once I realize I’m hopelessly turned around I use this nifty ability called dead-reckoning to find my way home. While that might sound really cool, it’s nothing more than following my instincts.
So when I say that Teaneck, New Jersey, sits quietly between the banks of the Hackensack and Hudson Rivers, it’s because I’ve stood on their banks, lost, and wondering which way to go. Unfortunately, I have since learned (in geography class no less!) that Teaneck actually lies between Overpeck Creek and the Hackensack. And with the Atlantic Ocean only two miles away and so many tributaries in between, I wouldn’t be surprised if that were wrong too. But it’s close enough for my purposes. At least you’ll know where to come find me should you decide to visit. Oh, yeah. The address is 1415 S. Sagamore Road.
Not that you would. Visit me that is. There’s not much here to justify such a trip and it saddens me to say that. We don’t have an Empire State Building like New York City, or a Boston Harbor, or an historic bell like Philadelphia to draw tourists every summer.
Teaneck’s only claim to fame (other than that George Washington used it for his Continental Army during the Revolutionary War) is that Ricky Nelson once lived here. He’s a famous rock and roll singer and the residents here must have really liked him back then. That bit of trivia is well documented with signs at both ends of town.
Outside the cafeteria window, Fall is fast approaching and if you like the change of season, then Teaneck is the place to come. The willows and maples are beginning to turn soft shades of yellows and reds and it won’t be long until all of them are bursting with colors.
I think that’s when Teaneck looks the prettiest. It reminds me of what a forest should smell like in the Fall. Of course, I never have been in a real forest in my life. Teaneck doesn’t have one, just a bunch of parks with an ocean nearby.
It’s too bad my house doesn’t take advantage of all those colors either. You would think someone interested in getting rid of us (the proper phrase is adoption) would make our home as welcoming as possible and our uniforms more appealing than blue jeans and sweatshirts with St. Lucy‘s Orphanage stenciled across the chest. But they don’t. Through Spring and Summer, right past Fall and into Winter, our clothes are dull gray, the same ugly color as one of those Navy ships in dry-dock down at the piers.
But I shouldn’t complain. There are plenty of orphans out there who have it worse. At least here at St. Lucy’s I have a roof over my head and plenty of food to eat.

A Stirring
Chapter One

September 23, 1582

The jungle was silent as a graveyard. The only sounds echoing through the hot, muggy stillness were the grunts and groans of men cutting a path through the undergrowth.
They were down to six now. Behind them lay a path of writhing bodies. The less fortunate were left where they fell. Those still alive crawled beneath the shade of voluminous banana trees while still others, exhausted and spent, curled fetal-like, ready to accept their fate.
Captain Nathan Dampier ignored them. If they were alive when he returned, then maybe, just maybe, he’d take them back to the ship with him.
For those six still with him, survival depended on their resilience to his persistence. If need be, he’d push them till they all collapsed. If they didn’t find food and water soon, exhaustion would be the least of their worries.
Adding to his irritation, the blue fog had returned, scooting inland across the bay like a rippling tide. Blast the infernal bad luck! Whoever heard of a blue fog, much less one that be creepin’ through the treetops like a thief ‘bout to steal the light of day? Blue fog me foot! This place be cursed! The sooner we be off this miserable mudhole the happier I be.
He prodded them on, quickening their pace with harsh threats. “Aye there me laddies. Be quick about yourself. I want to be off this god-forsaken island before the sun disappears completely. Move it I say or I’ll strap the lot of you when we get back aboard! Somebody sing me a blasted song! Something happy, I say!”
They grumbled, picking up the pace, but no one dared complain or confront their tall, lanky Captain. He was ruthless and cunning, vile and ill tempered, and purposely let his hair and beard grow long and unruly, claiming it added a touch of lunacy to his swashbuckling persona.
Yet of all these hideous qualities, it was his madness that terrified them most. He lived on a slippery slope of insanity and his moods were hard to read. He was liable to do anything at anytime. Crossing him was always a mistake. That’s why they called him The Butcher Pirate; punishment was swift and sure.
With inspired efforts, they took up a constant ‘Yo-Yum, Yo-Wee’ chant that matched their swings as they hacked through whatever stood in their way. In what seemed like hours but was only minutes, the lead sailor’s rumbling kettledrum voice suddenly stopped. Behind him the chant from the others quickly fell silent.
Pushing through the startled men, Captain Nathan Dampier snarled, “Arrrgh! Why ye be stopping? Scared of a little hard work, are ye? Get out of me way! Move, I say.”
When he arrived at the front, the sailor with the kettledrum voice, huffing badly, pointed ahead and said, “Praise be, Captain. Looks like we did it!”
Before them lay a small clearing. Across the way, perhaps a hundred paces or more, ran a fast moving creek. Beyond was more jungle, thick with viperous vines.
“Aye, looks be,” said Dampier smacking his lips thirstily. “Me tongue thickens just thinkin bout’ water.”
They hurried across the opening and threw themselves into the creek, quenching their thirst for the first time in days. When Dampier finished, he sat back on his heels and studied the surroundings. While his men splashed about, he remained wary of what lay unseen. “Drink till yer full, then fill the caskets. I want so we can be gone from this cursed place. It nags me it does.” He shook his fist at the nearest sailor to emphasize his displeasure. “Nags me I say!”
An uneasiness churned Dampier’s stomach as he set off in search of food. This island oasis did not feel right. It had tingled his nerves the day he set foot on it. And now, as he moved alongside the creek bank and the fog swirled in even closer, he sensed a trap.
It wouldn’t be the first time the King’s Navy had tried to capture him. They had failed in Baroda, Barbuda, and Fiji (and a hundred other islands he couldn’t remember) but not once had they even come close. Until maybe now.
Aye, we be saved all right, he thought crossing over to the other side of the creek. But I still feels a trap. Curse this island and curse this miserable blue fog! I can’t sees a thing!
Deep in the jungle an animal roared. In the clearing someone yelled. A shot rang out.
Startled, Dampier spun around, surprised no one had followed him. The loss of human companionship suddenly unnerved him, moreso when there came the maddening sounds of chaos, of armor clinking and men running and shouting.
“Ahoy ye varmints!” he hollered into the thickening fog. “Hold on there, I say. Stands your ground ya lily livered scallywags!”

Chapter Two

Dampier raced blindly through the fog, drawing his cutlass as the air vibrated with another guttural roar. Blast this place. I never should have stopped!
The ground quaked under a steady thumping. Something very large was coming. Tremors vibrated up his legs as Dampier stumbled into the clearing. Another musket fired. A white cloud of gunsmoke billowed from the barrel, mushrooming through the fog.
Gaining his balance he shouted over the turmoil, “Hold ye fire ya morons! What ye be shootin at?”
None of the ghostly shadows answered as they formed into a tight circle. From their ranks bristled muskets and cutlasses held in readiness, but not one of them looked willing to fight the bellowing creature rumbling through the jungle toward them.
“Ahyeeee! Look yonder! It comes through the jungle with the fog!” Heads snapped in the direction the sailor pointed as another horrific howl reverberated through the air, swirling the fog.
For a moment Dampier could see, but he refused to believe his eyes. Massive trees as big as his ship were being uprooted and tossed aside like matchsticks. In their wake a wide path was opening. Yet try as he might, Dampier could not see what was making this happen. Even after squinting to sharpen his vision, the trees still fell as though pushed aside by unseen hands. Only when the path broke into the clearing did he begin to suspect the impossible.
What madness be this? It’s invisible. What creature heaves trees aside like twigs?
There was a swish. Another roar. Then a shuddering in the ground as something heavy landed in the middle of the clearing. Quietly Dampier backed away and crouched behind a thicket. This be witchcraft. The devil’s work. And I’ll have no part of it.
His men dropped their guns, dropped their cutlasses; dropped anything that slowed them down as they broke ranks and scattered.
Captain Nathan Dampier squeezed his eyes shut and waited, wanting only silence before he eased out from behind the bushes. All he wanted was a glimpse at what had scattered his men. Then he’d be off to the ship never to return.
When he thought it was safe, he opened his eyes and cautiously stepped out. He froze, the smell of his own urine strong in the air.
The dragon sniffed. In an instant its massive head snapped around in his direction.

Chapter Three

Dampier bolted into the underbrush, running for his life. “Arghhhhh! Be gone ye dragon! Leave me be! Somebody help me!”
The dragon crossed the clearing and quickly burrowed into the bushes after him, tossing aside whatever collected on its snout like a rooting pig searching for truffles. Near the base of a wide tree, it caught up to the fleeing pirate and pinned him against the trunk.
Unable to move Captain Nathan Dampier could only grimace as the foul smelling beast nudged his body and sniffed his tunic. He couldn’t imagine what it would feel like being crunched by all those glistening white teeth. It was one thing to go down with his ship as all good Captains did, but to go down the gullet of a hungry dragon seemed tragic at best.
When it suddenly snorted and grumbled noisily, curling back its lips to display all those sharp pointy teeth again, he was sure he was about to find out. But the dragon surprised him.
“We’ve been looking for you, Pirate!”
A long claw snagged his tunic and carried him gingerly back to the clearing. Terrified that the dragon was only toying with him and had every intention of eating him, Dampier curled into a ball and jabbered unchecked, his mind sliding further into insanity. But once again, the dragon fooled him. It sat back on its haunches and plucked at his tunic until one sharp claw caught an edge and rolled him over.
“Look at me, Pirate.”
Dampier nervously unfolded until he was staring up into intense red eyes. Rooted beneath hooded shrouds and protected by two long spikes sprouting from its scaly head, they glared at him menacingly as two curls of smoke escaped its flaring nostrils.
The needle sharp teeth continued to play hide and seek behind twisting lips as the dragon spoke. “Take heart, Pirate. My Master plans to spare your miserable life. He offers you a deal.”
Dampier shook off his stupor but not his insanity. He had fallen far in the last few moments and any hopes of climbing back to sanity were remote if not impossible.
He sat up, no longer babbling. Once more his mind shifted, but it was not Dampier who stopped it from slipping into a deeper madness. It was the dreadful Butcher Pirate.
An offer?
The Butcher Pirate had never bargained with a dragon before, but all things considered, it could be worse. He could be dragon fodder or that swaggering numbskull Dampier again, or worse, that babbling fool who was afraid of his own shadow. At least now as The Butcher Pirate he could command some respect. And if he didn’t get it, he’d run them thru.
“Spare me ye say? And he offers me a deal too? What kinda deal?” The Butcher Pirate scratched his scraggly beard, indifferent to his situation as he waited for a response. When the dragon didn‘t answer, he eyed it warily and said, “What say you, dragon?”
“Either you accept his offer or you don’t. Whether you live or die matters little to me.” Its jaws snapped shut with a resounding crunch leaving little doubt what would happen if he chose wrong.
But The Butcher Pirate wasn’t fazed. He knew how intimidation worked and had every intention of accepting the offer. All that was left was the matter of his fees. “Of course ye know, we pirates don’t work for free. There’s a certain amount of booty we require for our services. What say ye Master to that, dragon?”
The dragon tilted its head, studying him with its gleaming red eyes, “Yes, you’re a scoundrel just as my Master warned. I can see it in you. Nasty little fellow you are. Greedy too.”
The Butcher Pirate nodded appreciatively. “I am what I am.”
The disgusted dragon snorted at the admission and a wisp of smoke spiraled out its nostrils. “You will be endowed with magic, power beyond your wildest imaginations. Whatever wealth you accumulate is yours to keep as long as you accept his offer. Speak now so my Master will know!”
The Butcher Pirate smiled, exposing his yellowed and crooked teeth. Power? Magic? Wealth? He offered his hand and the dragon shook it. “I accept ye offer, dragon. Now, what be this task yer talkin bout?”
The dragon stood and peeled back a layer of scales to reveal a blood red ruby. It plucked out the stone and crushed it, then blew the residue into The Butcher Pirate’s face. “There. Tis done. The deal is struck.”
The Butcher Pirate gasped, inhaling the cloud of powder. “Why ye blowing that in me face?” He coughed and wiped it clean with the back of an arm as the dragon began to fade. “Soon the powder will dissolve and all will be revealed. Use the magic wisely. The Master does not take foolishness well. Find the human children of the Elves. Bring all you find here. My Master will do the rest.”
“Aye, dragon. Sounds easy enough. Is this all there beez to this bargain? Tis there nothing more I need do? When does me start? Where does me find these lassies ya seek?”
“The magic will lead you to them. But remember this well, Pirate. There is one he covets most, a girl who possesses magic stronger than you. Seek her at your peril, but seek her you must. You will know her by the magic that protects her. Beware the white-haired witch. Beware her cloak.”
And with that the dragon faded away completely.

Chapter Four

September 23, 1997

Mother Earth woke with a start and stared wide-eyed into the darkness. As the remnants of the dream faded away she pulled the blanket up to her chin and did not move until all that remained were her thoughts of what it meant.
From the corner of her bedroom a faint light stirred and grew brighter. It then drifted across the floor until it hovered above her bed, illuminating the frillwork of her nightgown, “Something is wrong, Mother. There has been another stirring. The other runes are worried.”
She nervously threw back the covers, slipped into a pair of soft slippers she kept by her bedside, and grabbed her overcoat from the coat rack. Then she hurried to door and peeked out the window. “I feel it too, rune. The children are in danger.”
The night air was crisp, unusual for this time of year. A frost had settled across the lawn, upon the beveled glass in the window, on anything unprotected from the cold. She felt a deep chill, though she doubted it came from the weather. The cold she felt was sinister, as though evil had laid its icy hand upon her. “Do you sense anything nearby?”
“No, Mother. I only felt the stirring. Is there trouble coming? Shall I warn the others?”
Mother Earth tightened her cloak around her shoulders and pressed her head to the glass until she could see better. “You’re sure there’s nothing out there? I sense something, a minion perhaps?”
“No, mother. Only a few fairies playing tag with some wood nymphs. Shall I summon them?”
“No, let them be. I will not raise concern. They’ll know soon enough.”
“As you wish, Mother,” it answered and disappeared into the folds of her cloak.
Gliding into the kitchen, she absently waved her hand and light appeared. Unmoved by the warm ambience bathing the room, she settled into a chair by the table and let her thoughts wander back to the dream.
It had been so real. Could it actually be happening?
She conjured a hot cup of tea and some elfin biscuits but couldn’t bring herself to eat, not when the children were in danger.
She waved away the breakfast and continued to consider what to do until at last she reasoned out a course of action. It would be daunting and filled with challenges, but a necessary use of magic nonetheless.
To Storm, her husband and the Elfin King of Glen Ardor, she sent word of the stirring. To Silver Wind, their son, a warning that he should prepare the army and ready the kingdom for an eventual attack. When was questionable, though she thought it would come soon.
To the Pixies of Hallow Woods she offered hope and a chance at redemption. All their sacrifices had not been in vain. The waiting was over. Their Princess was returning.
Her last message was sent to The Triplets. She bade them prepare and be ready when she returned. There was much to do. The world was in jeopardy and she feared another great war should the balance of magic fall from their favor.
Tying off the lingering strands of her magical stream of information, she sighed, satisfied her efforts were sufficient. For now the Elfin World was safe and Garthanon’s rising would not go unnoticed.
Yet there still remained the safety of the children. She had worried this day would come, that all their efforts to hide them would someday unravel. Now that it had started, it was a race to save them.
To ensure her success she needed help. A trusted friend and ally, someone who understood the need to save the children.
Mrs. Hagersfield appeared, dressed in an apron and covered with flour, looking more than a little perturbed at being so rudely interrupted, “What is it, sister? Can’t this wait until I’m finished?”
“I’m afraid not, my dear. There is trouble abroad and our children are in danger. And you know what that means?”
“Oh, dear! Already?” She nervously wrung her hands and counted back the years. It seemed so long ago they had vanquished the evil sorcerer and imprisoned him atop Blue Mountain. To hear that he might have escaped gave her a fright.
She paced the floor and absently waved her hand, causing the apron to be replaced by a shimmering gown of soft silks. At her feet there appeared a small suitcase made of fine leather. She hefted it and smiled, satisfied the weight was just right should she have to carry it. “I suppose this means we have to go back there? They are still there aren’t they? Safely tucked away?”
Mother nodded, “At least for the time being. As far as I can tell, Garthanon is still weak, but he’ll soon have the strength to go after The Little Ones. If he finds them and wrestles their magic away, the balance will shift in his favor.”
“That’s terrible news indeed! Does the Princess know?”
“No, but her powers grow stronger. Soon they will draw the attention of the minion and he will seek her out. That’s why we must return. We must get them out of there while we still can. Are you ready?”
Mrs. Hagersfield picked up a suitcase that had appeared at her side. “As ready as I‘ll ever be, I guess. I just don’t like that orphanage. It’s such a dismal place.”
Mother Earth patted her sister’s hand as she joined her arm in arm. “I know, but that’s why we put her there. It’s innocuous and no one cares.”
She raised her hand and traced a curious sign in the air. A shimmering globe of light appeared and she spoke to it as though it were a child. “I leave thee in charge, little one. Shield our home from prying eyes until I return.” The rune’s light grew more intense then suddenly winked out completely.
Satisfied that her plan was beginning to unfold, Mother grabbed the air and gave it a twist. In the blink of an eye they were gone.


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