Tag Archive: J.R.R. Tolkien

Apr 16

In the Company of Angels: Episode 10.2 – The Chase (cont.)



In the Company of Angels, Episode 10.2 – The Chase (cont.)

“There may possibly be a way we can narrow down which is the more likely of the paintings,” said the Professor. “Some of these might never appeal to a raven, although I’m not sure I’m any judge. At least let’s gather them all together in one place so that we can see how many we have to choose from.”

The suggestion struck them all as sensible, so they carefully looked through the attic. Every painting that was visible and that might easily have allowed the raven to escape through it was brought to the spot where the Orbaratus painting was propped against the wall. When they were done, they had seven total paintings collected.

“Did you store all of these here yourself?” asked Sam.

“Yes, but it has been over quite a few years,” said the Professor. “I’ve lived here since the 1920s, and although I very much enjoy paintings, I do like to shuffle them around once in a while so that I can see them anew.

“This one, for instance, is of a little town in the Cotswolds that I enjoy visiting on occasion. I don’t recall who the artist was; I believe I purchased it at the town market one weekend.

“This next one is a reproduction of a Matisse still life. You may not have seen it before; it was one of his earlier paintings.”

“I don’t think he’d fly there,” said Jill, “I can’t imagine he’d be attracted to a vase with sunflowers in it.”

“You’re probably right, my dear,” said the Professor, “but this next one might be of interest….”

The Professor indicated a small but very colorful painting of what appeared to be a rather friendly-looking dragon coiled around the trunk of a tree. The dragon was reddish gold in color, and the treetrunk around which it had wrapped itself was a deep blue: almost black. The tree had beautiful silver leaves and yellow fruit hanging from it. Beyond the dragon’s tree there were other trees of varying hues. The ground was copper-coloured.

“What a strange painting!” said Jill.

“Yes it is. It was done by one of my students: quite a talented painter. He was trying to depict a scene I had written into one of my stories.”

“Oh! I didn’t know you were a writer as well as a Professor!” said Jill.

“Yes, I am, but only in my spare time. What do you both think about this next one over here?”

And so they looked through each of the seven paintings, ultimately narrowing them down to four that were the most likely to have attracted the bird. But each of these was a portal into an entire world! There were three that were set in the open countrysides of England and Ireland, plus the painting of the world with the dragon. They were at a loss, at that point, as to how to proceed.

It was just as they were each puzzling over the four that Jill heard, very faintly, the sound of a flute. But it wasn’t a flute exactly, and it took her a few moments to realize that she had heard it before.

“Do you both hear that?” she asked.

“Hear what?” asked Sam.

“Something like a flute. It’s very faint.”

They all listened.

“I can hear nothing, my dear,” said the Professor, “but my hearing is likely not as keen as yours.”

“I don’t hear anything either,” said Sam. “But where do you think it’s coming from?”

“Let me see,” said Jill. She listened intently and began to walk away from the paintings. The sound diminished. She returned to the paintings and it became louder once more.

“It’s definitely coming from one of these,” she said, pointing to the paintings.

“Which one?” asked the Professor.

Jill held her head close to each painting in turn, finishing with the one of the dragon. “This one,” she said, “it’s definitely coming from there.”

First the Professor, then Sam bent down next to the painting and listened.

“I got nothin’,” said Sam. “But, if you’re sure it’s coming from this one, I’ll be happy to go through and see whether there’s any sign of the raven on the other side.”

Jill listened once more. “It’s definitely coming from there,” she said.

“Alright then. The sound could mean nothing, or it could mean everything. But we’ve got nothing better to go with at this point.

“This is a pretty small painting; I should just be able to squeeze through; but that might end up being a good thing. If I’m able to find the raven, I may be able to scare it into returning. Professor, do you have that blanket still in your office?”

“Yes…Ah! You want us to wait here, and if the bird comes through, toss the blanket over it?”

“Exactly. That may not be necessary, because this may not be the right painting. But….” Sam looked hard at Jill, “Mr. Luke told me to trust you, so that’s what I’m going to do.”

The Professor retrieved the blanket, being careful not to leave the hatchway open for longer than a moment, and then they all clustered around the dragon painting. Because it was so small, Sam had to get on the floor and wriggle through.

“OK, here goes. Keep your crystal touching your skin; that may allow you to see the raven coming if I’m able to scare him back in this direction. Oh, wait, before I go, let’s turn these other paintings against the wall. That way if you aren’t able to catch him with the blanket, he won’t have any other worlds to fly off into.”

They turned the other paintings around, and Sam got down on his stomach and wriggled through the glowing frame. They could still see him briefly whilst they looked through the frame from the attic, but then he was gone.

“By Jove!” said the Professor. “I would so love to try that!”

         . . .

When Sam tumbled out of the portal, he landed on a soft, spongy surface. He stood up, brushed the attic dust off of himself, and turned to make sure of the frame’s location. He saw it suspended in space at about the same height as his own eyes above ground level. But as he looked at it, he started to feel slightly disoriented.

“That’s not right,” he said aloud, “I don’t ever get frame fatigue!” Then he realized that it wasn’t the framerunning itself that was troubling him. The ground itself appeared to be gently rising and falling, as if he was standing upon some huge raft that was being lifted on great ocean swells. He looked around him. Just past the portal he could see what looked like a distant golden sea. The sky was golden as well.

Sam turned back to look again at the dragon. “I forgot to ask the Professor if you were friendly or not,” he said aloud. “I’m hoping that if you’re not, he would have thought to mention it.”

Sam looked up at the branches of the tree around which the dragon was wrapped.  It wasn’t very large, and the other trees around him weren’t either. That was good, he thought, because it likely meant that the raven, if it had come this way, wouldn’t be able to perch so far up that he couldn’t reach it.

Sam looked more closely at the fruit hanging from the tree, and it occurred to him that he might be able to pick some of these and throw them at the raven if he found him; that was just as well, since there didn’t appear to be any stones on the ground that he could use for such a thing. Instead, there was some sort of coppery-looking weedy stuff that almost looked woven together. He couldn’t see anything like sand, or soil, or rocks anywhere.

He put his hands on his hips. “Didja happen to see a big black bird flying through here recently?” he asked the dragon. After all, he thought, he couldn’t be sure whether the creature could speak or not. If it was Middle-earth or some other Iconic Realm he was familiar with, he’d know, but this world was new to him.

The dragon seemed uninterested in his words at first, but then it uncoiled itself and started waddling away from him on the forest floor, moving ever deeper into the woods. The creature was only about the size of a largish dog, so it was soon lost to sight.

Sam shrugged and followed. He occasionally had to grab hold of one of the tree trunks as he walked, since the land would occasionally rise up and then fall back down again. He could tell that these were almost certainly ocean swells, because at times, when he looked back, he thought the distant sea appeared to be down a fairly steep slope, but at other times he lost sight of it completely. He assumed that meant that the land had dropped below sea level, as crazy as that might seem..

“Weirdest thing I’ve ever heard of,” he muttered, looking back. When he turned back around to continue following the dragon, he nearly tripped over the creature, which had ceased its waddling.

The dragon had come to rest at the base of one of the many fruit trees and was slowly winding itself up the indigo-coloured tree trunk. Sam peered into the branches and saw something black.

It was the raven.

The raven was eyeing the dragon nervously. Sam walked past the tree and then reached up and picked several of the yellow gourd-like fruits that dangled from an adjacent tree. The smaller ones he stuffed into his pants pocket, but the larger ones he held in readiness. He turned then and watched the raven. The dragon had now gripped the tree tightly and was, serpent-like, gliding ever closer to the bird’s perch.

The raven flapped its wings nervously. Sam thought he could still saw the crystal in its talons. He took aim with one of the gourds and threw it. It landed with a splat on the branch next to the raven, and that was just enough to startle it into taking flight. Sam saw the crystal it was holding in its talons drop to the ground, and he started shouting loudly and waving his arms as he stooped to retrieve it.

The raven circled the tree once, but didn’t dare get near Sam, and as soon as Sam had the crystal stuffed into his pocket, he began throwing more of the yellow fruit at the bird, trying to frighten it back toward the portal.

His plan worked.

The raven, unnerved by the dragon and then by Sam’s unforgivably rude behavior, decided it had had enough of this place. It circled the tree one last time, and then wheeled back toward the edge of the forest. Sam followed after it as fast as he was able, only occasionally losing his balance as the ground continued to dip and heave beneath him. Soon both he and the raven had returned to the dragon’s tree, and Sam saw his quarry tuck in its wings and glide right into the dark portal.

“Gotcha now!” he cried triumphantly. He then ran headlong after the bird and dove through the frame and into the darkness of the Professor’s attic.

         [ To read Episode 11.1, click here…. ]


Feb 26

In the Company of Angels: Episode 7.1 – The Attic


In the Company of Angels, Episode 7.1 – The Attic


Once Jill had waved to Polydora through the portal, the Ferrumari’s head disappeared back into the painting. The painting itself, still glowing brightly, depicted the very plaza that she, Sam, and Polly had been standing upon just a moment before. The scene looked nearly identical to the current state of the plaza, and seen now housed within a plain bronze frame, the painting appeared frighteningly apocalyptic — much more so than the one in Mr. Luke’s Gallery that had first brought them to Polly’s home world.

 But Jill had little time to think about Orbaratus now. She turned around her and surveyed the space within which she and Sam were standing. It was a bit stuffy, and she loosened her cloak and pushed it back from around her shoulders. Then she noticed the smells: of old wood, of dust, and of something else, something quite sweet.

 “Are those flowers?” she wondered. But just at that moment, very clearly in her head, she heard the word “Roses!” She turned and looked at Sam. He smiled at her and said, in a whisper, “I think I smell roses blooming! They must be outside. It must be summertime here!”

 It was a disconcerting moment for Jill, because, for the first time ever, other than with Polydora, she realized that she had caught a whiff, if you will, of someone else’s thoughts. She didn’t know if she was going to like what struck her as eavesdropping on other people; she wondered then if being an empath would prove to be something she could turn on or off, like the volume control of a radio, or whether it would just be a new form of background noise that she would have to get accustomed to. She didn’t know what the answer would be, but thought perhaps she should ask Polly, or Mr. Luke, once they returned to Orbaratus. For now though, she had other business to attend to.

 Sam gestured around them, and Jill could see that he was pointing out the many other paintings that were stacked haphazardly about within the crawlspace. These were scattered along with old pieces of furniture, lamps, wooden chests, and even the headboard and footboard of a bed frame in one corner. All of these  were covered with varying layers of dust, but the paintings were stacked vertically so that, for many of them, you could still see the images clearly within their frames. These images were all glowing with that otherworldly light that Jill had come to recognize. She unclenched her hand and turned her ring around, and only then did the lights fade.

 “I don’t see any sign of the raven,” she whispered.

 “No, me neither,” said Sam, “but let’s look around and see if maybe it’s built a nest in one of the nooks and crannies of this place.”

 “That’s going to be hard in all of this murk,” said Jill.

 The crawl space was high enough to stand near one wall, but the beams of the roof, with wood slats nailed across them, tapered down from the top of the wall to the floor. In the very farthest corner of the angle made by the roof beams and the floor, there were cracks of light that came from the eaves, and these provided the only illumination with which to see in the cramped space. There were shadowy corners into which the raven could easily have flown and they would never have been the wiser.

 But Sam grinned broadly and pulled a small flashlight out of his pocket. “Never worry! I was a Boy Scout once,” he whispered, “‘Be prepared’ shouldn’t just be their motto. We should adopt it for The Framerunners as well!  Ever since I was able to find an LED flashlight that would run for days on one set of batteries, I’ve never been without one. You’d be amazed at how many dark places you find yourself in when you’re jumping from world to world!”

 He switched on the flashlight and they were able to clearly see the crawlspace in all its musty, dust-filled glory. But Jill noticed that the dust on the floor was largely undisturbed; apparently the attic wasn’t very often used. That would be good for them, as it meant they would be less likely to be discovered.

 They worked their way from the Orbaratus painting to one end of the long crawl space. There they found first one, then a second small doorway that they guessed must open onto rooms of the house at that end. Then they doubled back, passed their painting again, and continued to the other end of the attic. There they found an additional door. The crawl space appeared, then, to run the whole length of the house.

 “I wonder if this is something like a row-house, with openings into different people’s homes?” whispered Jill.

 “I don’t know,” said Sam, “and I hope we don’t have to find out. But can you see over there in the far corner? There’s a lot of light coming in near the floor: a bright spot. I’m betting there’s a hole there, and maybe that’s where the raven has gotten to.”

 “But what if the raven just flew into a different painting? There have to be at least a half dozen we’ve seen that it could have gotten into. That is, if it’s still carrying one of the crystals.”

 “Well, we don’t even know if it has a crystal, but I see what you’re saying, and that would be mighty bad news if you’re right,” said Sam. “On the other hand, there’s one thing we haven’t tried yet. Remember Mr. Luke said to let you have a go at finding the bird; that maybe you could sense where it was even if we couldn’t discover it outright. Want to give that a try?”

 Jill nodded. “I’m new at this, but here goes….” She shut her eyes and did her best to sense what was around her. She knew Sam was there, but what about past him, past the confines of the crawlspace? She listened and tried to see if she could feel the presence of anyone other than Sam.

 At first she could detect nothing at all. But then she began to have the growing sense that there was a person nearby. She imagined it must be a woman; she wasn’t sure why. But this woman, whoever she might be, appeared in her mind to be busy with something. Jill listened. She “heard” snippets that might have been coming from the woman’s head.

 “All this dust…must get the tea on soon…wherever did I put the dustbin?…Professor will be having company later…” Jill experienced these as fleeting images more than as words, but they struck her as the sort of things someone would be muttering to herself while bustling around inside of a house.

 “I think there must be a housekeeper, or someone like that, nearby. Maybe in the room on the other side of this door,” she whispered to Sam.

 “OK. Anything else?” he asked.

 Jill concentrated once more. There was another presence, she thought, but not as busy as this first person. Someone concentrating his attention inwardly. “So it’s a ‘he’ rather than a ‘she’,” Jill thought. But he was not close at hand. Rather, he seemed to be down toward the other end of the house.

 But just then Jill’s attention was taken away from listening, for she detected, or thought she detected, something like  rapid movement, and the feeling of being watched. She opened her eyes and gazed in the direction she had felt the movement come from.

 “Sam, look over toward that bright spot you mentioned.”

 Sam turned and they both watched the patch of light in the corner. After a moment, they saw movement, and something that made the light blink out, and then back on again. Sam turned his flashlight toward the patch of light, and it glinted off of the beady eyes of the raven, which had apparently just flown back into the crawlspace.

 “There he is!” Sam exclaimed, forgetting to whisper. The raven froze in the light for a moment, but then turned around and dove back through the hole in the eaves.

 “Oh, blast it all!” said Sam, and stamped his foot.

 “Shush!!!” whispered Jill, but it was too late. She could hear footsteps just outside the door beside them, and then, a moment later, the handle turned and light streamed in from the room beyond. A middle-aged woman, slightly plump, was standing in the open doorway peering intently in at them.

 “Oh!” she said. “You two gave me such a start! The Professor didn’t say anything about any children in the house. But where have you stowed your things? And what on earth are you doing in this musty old attic?!”

 “Well, we, uh…” said Jill.

 “Americans no less!” said the woman. “Well, come along out of there, dearies. I’ll need to be setting up places for you both to sleep, I suppose. The Professor is so busy with his own work; keeps me on my toes, he does, never letting on who is coming for supper or…. But, that’s not your problem, dearies. Come on out and I’ll check with the Professor to find where I should put you, though I expect it will be in the children’s room, I shouldn’t wonder. Do you know how long you’ll be staying with us?”

 Sam and Jill had no option but to accompany the bustling woman from without the attic space and into the adjoining room. It was a large room, brightly lit. They followed the housekeeper (for so she appeared to be) into a hallway just outside, and then into another room past the head of the staircase that led to the ground floor below.

 The woman knocked on the door. “Professor, I’m here with the two children. Shall I set them up in the children’s room, as usual?”

 Sam and Jill heard nothing for a moment, but then the door to the room opened and a tall, middle-aged man with a receding hairline opened the door. Past him, they could both see that the room beyond must be a sort of a study and library.

 “Mrs. Mills, do be so kind as to explain yourself. There are no children in the house to my knowledge. That all ended months ago.”

 “Well then, how do you account for these ‘uns?” asked Mrs. Mills.

The Professor looked past Mrs. Mills at Jill and Sam, and was clearly startled. “My goodness! I’ve never seen them before in my life!

              [ To read Episode 7.2, click here…. ]

Jan 08

In the Company of Angels: Episode 3.2 – The Gallery (cont.)



In the Company of Angels, Episode 3.2 – The Gallery (cont.)

“I mean, are the crystals radioactive or something?!” Jill started looking at the fronts and backs of her hands, as if expecting her skin to start peeling off at any moment.

“Oh, no, no! Have no worries on that score!” said Mr. Luke. “It’s just that it might have caused…well…mischief might be the best term to use. Happily, you returned it without any mishap.”

“Well,” said Sam, “that’s not entirely true, Mr. Luke. I haven’t had time to fill you in on everything that happened.”

“Oh? Well then, tell me now.”

 “In front of Jill?”

 “Did Jill see anything we need be concerned about?”

 “Not really. But others did.”

 “Well, that’s unfortunate; I’ll need to know the details of course….”

“There’s not that much to tell other than that Jill’s cousin fell into a painting and I had to retrieve him.”

“He what?!!”

“Like I said. But, I got him back out again safely, and it happened so fast that it didn’t cause that much of a stir. Jill, do you think Kate and Rusty took everything well? I mean, do you think what happened scared them very badly?”

“I think Kate is OK,” said Jill. “I thought Rusty was going to pitch a fit, but you seemed to have calmed him down. How did you do that, by the way? Rusty doesn’t get along with anyone, but after you left he talked about you like you had become his best friend in the world.”

Sam grinned. “I just told him the truth; that is, enough to satisfy him. But he promised to keep it all a secret. Don’t worry, Mr. Luke, Rusty’s pretty young. He’ll be OK. But, there’s one other thing you should know about last night; we had a visit from the spooks.”

Mr. Luke’s brow furrowed. “Well, I suppose that was to be expected once the sapphire was out of your possession. But you retrieved the crystal before they were able to get to it?”

“Yep. But, I was just in time,” said Sam.

“‘Spooks’?” asked Jill, “What are they?”

“All in good time, my dear, and nothing for you to worry about at present,” said Mr. Luke. “But, first things first. You don’t fully know what the sapphires do yet, do you?”

 “Not really, Mr. Luke, although I’ve got my suspicions.”

 “Alright then, it’s time we educated you.” Mr. Luke stood up and took a few steps toward the nearest easel. “Samuel, lend her your sapphire.”

 Sam handed the pendant to Jill.

 “Jill, please make sure your hand is touching the crystal.”

 Jill grasped the sapphire and once again felt that slight electrical tingling that she had experienced the day before.

 “Now, look at this painting. Do you notice anything different?”

 “Yes, it’s like what happened yesterday. It looks…somehow…brighter, almost like it’s not a painting anymore. It looks more like a window than a painting: a window into another room.”

 “More truthfully, it is a window into another world. That’s the gist of it, really,” said Mr. Luke. “What you think you’re seeing is exactly correct; when you are touching one of the sapphires, this painting – or any painting – becomes a portal into another world or into another time.”

 “Another world? But what world?”

 “Whatever world the artist was trying to depict when the painting or sketch was created.”

 “But, those places aren’t real…are they…?”

 “Well, some of them certainly are real: you know, as when a painting depicts Paris, or Mount Everest, or one of the Polynesian islands. But many others are of what we think of as imaginary places: like Narnia, or Middle-earth, or Tatooine, or Gallifrey.”

 “But you said these were portals. Do you mean you can actually go there?”

 “Yes, you can. Or, at least, we can. With the help of the sapphires.”

 Jill stepped toward the painting and stared at it. It was of a ship on a stormy sea, sailing away toward an enormous mountain peak in the distance. A light glimmered on the summit of that peak, as if a star had come to rest upon its crest. And even as Jill approached the painting, she felt a gentle breeze caress her brow and could smell the tang of salt sea air.

 “Go ahead, reach out your hand and touch it,” said Mr. Luke.

 Jill stretched her arm out and watched as her fingers passed into the space of the picture, just as they had done the day before. But, just as then, she was so startled that she pulled her hand back. Her heart was beating furiously.

 “I know…it’s a little spooky at first.” It was Sam, who had stepped beside her. “But I’ve been framerunning through so many different worlds, I’ve gotten quite used to it by now. The big shock is putting your head in and looking around. That will really freak you out!”

 “I think there will be plenty of time for that later,” said Mr. Luke. “Jill, are you alright? I know this takes some getting used to. Let’s sit back down for a moment. You look a bit shaken, which is understandable. There’s still much to explain.”

 They sat back down by the tea things and everyone was silent. Then Jill felt like she was about to burst; she had so many questions to ask!

 “OK, alright, so you can jump into a painting….” Jill said.

 “We call it framerunning,” said Mr. Luke.

 “OK, you can do this…this framerunning thing. But, why is it such a secret? I mean, I know I’d love to visit Narnia, or Erebor, or Mole’s house in The Wind in the Willows, so why hasn’t everyone heard about this? It seems like if people knew, they would all want to! And there’d be so much that they could experience and learn from visiting other worlds. So, why not let them?”

 “Well, there are quite a few reasons. But, let me explain about the crystals first: the sapphires. There aren’t that many of them, you see; not the kind that allow you to framerun. There are plenty of plain sapphires out there, but only a few, from a very specific place, that allow you to experience what you just did with that painting. Those were discovered thousands of years ago, by members of an Order. And members of that Order have been the keepers of those sapphires and of their secrets ever since they were first discovered.

 “Because, there are dangers associated with framerunning; very significant dangers, and too many to detail all at once right now! But consider, just for a moment, that if what I am telling you is true, and if you can travel into another world – Middle-earth, for instance – then the inhabitants of that other world might also be able to travel here.”

 “So?” said Jill.

 “So…” said Sam, “Think for just a minute what might happen if, say, the dragon, Smaug, was able to get from Erebor into New York city. Don’t say anything, just think about it for a minute.”

 “Smaug in New York…” Jill repeated to herself. She considered. She could see, in her mind’s eye, an enormous dragon strafing the streets of Times Square with fire, torching entire buildings filled with office workers, teachers, and children, crushing buses and taxis with its tail. Then she thought of ships burning and exploding in New York Harbour, of the Statue of Liberty melting and buckling in the heat of the dragon’s blast, of enormous plumes of smoke and ash rising from New York and encircling the globe, as Smaug the Magnificent destroyed and devoured all in his path.

 “You see truly, little one,” said a sweet metallic voice. Jill was startled from her thoughts and looked around. Standing a few feet behind her chair was a figure that at first she thought must be a modern stainless steel sculpture. But it hadn’t been there before, of that Jill was certain. The sculpture was in the shape of a tall, graceful woman; a woman with wings!

 “Jill, meet Polydora,” said Mr. Luke.

. . .

        [ To read Episode 4.1, click here…. ]