Tag Archive: raven

Jul 23

The Abbot and the Raven



“The Abbot and the Raven

Graphite, 8.0″x10.0″ wide.

Signed and numbered prints – AVAILABLE

To purchase this original sketch, please contact Jef by clicking here.

To purchase a print of this item, please click here.

Jun 11

In the Company of Angels: Episode 14.2 – Smoke and Mirrors (cont.)




In the Company of Angels, Episode 14.2 – Smoke and Mirrors (cont.)


“He’s the only one who can do that sort of thing, you know,” Luke said, turning to Jill. Brother Azarias had just stepped through the Renderer’s sketch of The Gallery.

“Do what sort of thing, Mr. Luke?” asked Jill.

“Just framerun a sketch of mine like it was his own. Even Sam can’t do that. I wonder sometimes just who and what Azarias — er, Brother Azarias — really is. It doesn’t seem like he follows the same rules as the rest of us mere mortals. And Charles and Brother Aran have both been very dodgy when it comes to answering questions about him — you know, where he came from, how long he has been with the Order, etc. Whenever such issues are brought up, they can both be quite irritating on the subject: they’ll just change the subject.

“But, that is neither here nor there. Azarias  told us to get back to our portal, so that is precisely what we shall do.” Luke walked over toward the edge of the Plaza and looked into the seething darkness of the chasm below them once more. Then he walked back to the monolith, stepped over to the unmarked side opposite the sketch he had made for Azarias, and began sketching anew.

“What do you think, Jill?” he asked after about a half hour. “Were the buildings this tall when we were down there?”

Jill had again watched him sketch with wonder. It was a gift she could not imagine having. “Yes, I think so,” she said, somewhat uncertainly.

“And was this how things looked to you when we first came through the painting?”

“Yes, I believe so.”

“Then, we should have all that we need here,” said Luke. “I know I can framerun this sketch, but I may need to help you with it. The key is for us to keep in constant contact, and to go slowly. Are you willing to try it?”

“Sure!” said Jill, although she didn’t feel nearly as confident as she tried to sound.

“Then grasp your crystal,” said Mr. Luke. Jill did so.

“Oh, wait, Mr. Luke! We can’t leave the raven behind!” Jill said, pointing to the basket near where she had been sleeping.

“Right you are! I’ll get the fellow! Now, I’m going to hold onto your hand as we go through the sketch. This may be more disorienting than you’re used to, but I promise you we’ll arrive safe and sound. Ready?”

“Ready!” said Jill.

Stepping through the sketch was much more gut-wrenching than had been the trip from the Gallery or either of her trips to Oxford and back, but Jill clenched her eyes shut, and before she knew it, she found herself once more aware of being at the foot of the buildings and the cliffs —  the ones  that she had first glimpsed in the painting of Orbaratus in the Gallery.

“The Gallery!” Jill thought, even as she realized that she was confused and disoriented by the jump through the sketch. “Oh, how I wish we were back there again, with Sam, and Mr. Luke, and…and Polly…” She knew the wish was futile, and that she was not thinking clearly.

But when at last she began to more fully recollect where she was, she realized that the wind was not as brisk down here at the base of the buildings. And it was darker. Light trickled down from far, far above them, and pale cyan and purple hues flitted up and down the buildings as high clouds passed overhead. It then dawned upon Jill that she was chewing on something. It was a piece of bittersweet chocolate. She looked up. Sam was there, smiling at her.

“I think you may be even worse than Mr. Luke!” he said, grinning. “Although, truth to tell, I’ve sometimes felt nearly as bad when I’ve had to framerun a Renderer’s sketch. No one should have to do that unless under extreme duress!”

Jill smiled. Sam sometimes trotted out thousand-dollar phrases that he had heard and liked and decided to make his own, and ‘extreme duress’ was clearly a new one that he had adopted recently.

“I think Mr. Luke would say the same thing about mazerunning with you, Sam. My impression is that it makes him feel even worse than I do now,” she said. “Although, frankly, I feel as if I’ve been on the roller-coaster of all roller-coasters, at the same time that I had a bad case of the  stomach flu!”

“Well, someday I’ll take you into the Maze, and then you can tell me if that’s better or worse.”

“No time soon, OK?”

Sam smiled. “Yeah, OK. But, even if it makes you feel bad, mazerunning ‘has its privileges’ as the saying goes. Why, it can sometimes allow one to do things that are little short of miraculous, if I do say so myself,” he said, with a gleam in his eyes. He blew on his fingernails and pretended to polish them against his lapel.

Miraculous?! What on earth have you done that would qualify as miraculous?!” asked Jill.

“Well, first, I must point out that we happen not to be on earth, but, for that, I’ll forgive you. Now, with regard to the question of miracles, see for yourself!” With that, Sam swept his arm out past them both and bowed deeply.

In the direction he was indicating, Jill saw two figures; both of whom looked familiar. The first she soon recognized as Mr. Luke. But he was bending over the second person, who appeared to be on the ground sleeping. Jill was still a bit disoriented, so it took her some time to realize that the person on the ground didn’t look quite right. Whoever it was, he or she appeared to be made entirely out of metal, almost like a robot or a statue….

Jill gasped. “It…it can’t be! Can it, Sam?!”

Sam smiled broadly. “Well, yes it can, and it is! It is Polydora herself, brought back from the very land of the…er…the living dead!”

Jill was dumbfounded. “But…but…she went into the passageway! She was locked in the caves with the Masters! How could she…?”

“It was Azarias,” Sam said, “not me, really. We went into the Maze together. He seemed to know things about the caves that I certainly didn’t, and although he wasn’t sure, he hoped that we would be able to find a way into the caverns and a way out again for both us and for Polly. He was pretty sure there were mirrored panels in the chamber somewhere, and once we started looking, we were able to find them!

“Polly was bound by the guarding stones, just as the Masters themselves were, and she was unconscious, and Azarias’ staff kept the Masters from harming her. We were able to pull her back with us into the Maze and bring her down here to the base of the cliffs. We also made sure not to leave the staff behind; without that, Polly never would have been able to drive the Masters back!

“She’s still pretty dopey, but Azarias seemed to think she’d be alright once we got her beyond the influence of the guarding stones.”

Jill, despite her weakness, managed to pull herself to her feet and, with Sam’s help, walked over to Poldyora’s side.

“Hello, little one,” said a familiar voice in Jill’s head. “Did you miss me?”


     [ To read Episode 15.1, click here…. ]


May 07

In the Company of Angels: Episode 12.1 – The Crucible



In the Company of Angels, Episode 12.1 – The Crucible


As Polydora stood before the first of the Masters, in the midst of the seething cyclone of the Amenta, she saw a flash of lightning and heard thunder crack nearby. The first of the Masters had advanced a step toward her, and she knew of no weapons with which she might defend herself. But she felt a sudden change in the air that whipped around her, and sensed, rather than saw, that there were beings surrounding her other than just the Amenta. She shut her eyes for a moment and reached out to discover what new horror might be joining with the demonic hosts already present.

But all she sensed was light. These beings, whoever they might be, cast a pale, very faint glow, like the glimmer of lightning bugs in the gloaming, and they were gathering around her. She listened past the roaring of the wind and the evil spirit howlings, and she heard music. She recognized the singing: these were the voices of her own people, the chorus of the Ferrumari that she had last heard when she and Jill were standing side by side in The Gallery back on earth.

Her people had come, at least in spirit. Those who had lived on this planet thousands of years before her had returned here, now, to bring her hope and courage.

Then, too, Polydora heard a shout from the open plaza behind her. She turned and saw, through the swirling whirlwind of the Amenta, two human figures sprinting toward her. The first of these, the tallest of the two, seemed to glow silver in the twilight, and he held before him a staff upon which was set a blue star that flashed and flared. Lightning struck the staff, and the blue fire then became so bright that she could not bear to look upon it, and the Amenta near it shrieked and fled. Then Polly recognized Azarias, but in a form she had never known before; the fury of his approach and the expression on his face were those of an avenging angel, and he was not to be withstood.

Thus came Azarias and Luke to Polydora’s side, and with their arrival, all three turned their gaze once more upon the first of the Masters, who had remained just a few paces outside of the gateway. Behind him they now discerned new shapes mustering, with horns and wings and claws grappling as they strove to exit from the cramped passageway. But they could go no further, for the first of the Masters — who was clearly their leader — stood his ground before this trio of beings that dared to withstand his liberation.

Yet, they were all at a stalemate. Azarias lifted high his staff, and the blue crystal atop it blazed forth. The Master flinched, but he did not retreat, and the Amenta redoubled their howling. Although they could not come near Azarias and his staff, the Amenta yet clustered around the gateway and the three standing before it, attempting to seal it off from the rest of the plaza. And Polydora soon sensed why.

For, past the sound and the fury of the demonic forces surrounding them, she felt another presence: two, in fact. But the one that most brought her joy was the certainty that Jill had returned and that she was making her way forward to the gateway. Sam she also felt, and she could even detect the slight stirrings in her consciousness that spoke of the raven in his arms. But Jill’s coming was, like Azarias’, one of light and of hope to the last of the Ferrumari.

Polly did not turn to watch the approach of Jill, nor of Sam. Rather, she called out to the singing throng of her own people and asked for their protection for her friends. And they answered her, in waves of emotion, assuring her that they would beat back the Amenta and allow the two safe passage to the gateway.

But now the leader of the Masters spoke out once more in a single word of command, and the howling of the Amenta diminished to a low moan. In this lull in the storm’s fury, Azarias spoke.

“You have no place in this world, Osor, nor in any other!” His voice was like thunder. The language he uttered was of the Masters themselves, and only Polydora and this creature whom Azarias had named Osor understood his words.“Return to the place prepared for you in the twilight of your people, for you shall not to wield your will here nor upon any other world!”

Osor retorted: “I know you, shaman! You have no authority over me nor mine. This planet belongs to the Imperaferrum, not to some toddling mage from an infant world. Begone, lest you, too, be destroyed, like all of those who have yet stood against me!”

“All of those, Osor? Did I not thrust you down into your pit after you destroyed your own world? Did not the Ferrumari throng upon this very plaza to cast you and yours into perpetual shackles? You have no place here, broken soul. Go back into the darkness and make reparations for your sins!”

At this exchange Polydora was dumbstruck. She gazed in wonder at Azarias. How could the leader of the Masters know Azarias?! But there was no time for questions. Osor spread his leathern wings, swept them down so as to lift his body a few feet above the plaza, and then he crashed down upon the paving stones, his iron-like cloven feet striking the earth like twin anvils. Where he landed, fissures formed and spread. Flames leapt up from the cracks, and these soon surrounded Polly, Luke, and Azarias.

By now, Sam, Jill, and the captive raven had pressed their way forward through the wall of Amenta howlers, and they caught their breath as they came up behind the others. Jill had come first, led, as she felt, by invisible hands. And despite the threatening swirl of blackness that was the host of the Amenta, none of them interfered with Jill or Sam; in fact, they parted before them as if driven back by unseen assailants.

“We’re right behind you!” yelled Sam through the roar and the crackling of the flames that had just sprouted up and encircled the others, “and we have the Guarding Stones!”

Azarias turned and saw Sam through the flames. Then Polydora heard Azarias’ voice in her head telling her, “They have retrieved both of the stolen stones. We must now find a way to drive the Masters back toward the mountain. Only with the door fastened behind them and the stones once more secured will they be subdued.”

“Begone, Mage, if you would live!” roared Osor. Azarias and all of the others turned and looked at the hideous creature once more. “You are of no concern to us…yet. But we have much to say to our slave, this pathetic Ferrumari who dares to stand before us!

“This creature belongs to us. She is the last of her cursed race, for so our messengers tell us. But we are ever merciful to our servants. We shall end her life here and now. And when she is gone, Orbaratus will be rid of our failed experiment. We shall rebuild our armies anew on this world, and then we shall conquer yours, Shaman, as well as many others! Great will be the wailing of your women and children when the Imperaferrum claim them, as we will claim the lives of all of you here if you remain!”

“Sam, give one of the two Guarding Stones to Luke, and the other to Polydora,” said Azarias. The flames had now died back and the five of them, plus the raven, were gathered together in a knot, around which the Amenta swirled in an ever-tightening circle.

Sam shoved his hand into his pocket to retrieve the two gems. He couldn’t quite reach them, so he turned his pocket inside out, spilling the sapphires onto the ground along with one of the pieces of fruit that he had plucked when chasing the raven. The gems bounced on the ground and came to rest beside him, with one of them nearly tipping into a crack that had formed in the stones of the plaza. Both of the blue gems were now glowing with an electric light, just like the crystal atop Azarias’ staff. Sam grabbed them and handed one to Luke and one to the Ferrumari. Then they all turned back toward the leader of the Masters, holding the gems aloft.

The creature paused, and seemed to be struggling to move. His mouth opened and closed like that of a fish gasping for oxygen out of water. His forked tongue flicked out of his mouth. Then the flames that had erupted around him were suddenly quenched, and the moaning of the Amenta ceased completely, leaving only the roar of the wind and distant peals of thunder.

Osor struggled, and then he roared! The sound of his voice appeared to loosen, for a moment, whatever it was that was beginning to bind him. The other Masters came up from behind him, but they, too, were struggling against some  unseen force.

“The Guarding Stones have slowed them, but the Masters’ strength is growing fast,” shouted Azarias to the others. “If we had the third stone in hand, we might be able to drive them back, but it is still embedded in the framework of the gateway.”

“Brother Azarias,” shouted Jill, “we brought back the raven that stole the other stones in the first place. Would it help if we could get the bird to steal the last of the gems?”

“Not if he’d just try to take it back to Oxford!” Sam yelled back.

Azarias looked down at the basket and then at Polydora. “The guarding stones bind and hold,” he shouted for them all to hear. “We dare not risk the removal of the third, even if is not situated exactly where we might wish it to be. The stone atop my staff repels, it does not bind. With it we might drive the Masters forward, but we can never drain them of the energy that has already built up within them. For that, the Three must remain, and they must be set amidst the gateway to hold the Masters in place once the door is closed once more.

“But how can we drive them back?” Azarias asked aloud, as if consulting his own memories, “For even now the combined strength of the Three plus my staff seems insufficient….”

They all looked once more upon the misshapen creatures before them. These remained subdued, but it seemed clear that this was only a temporary stalemate. Even now, the leader of the Masters shook his head and roared again. The Amenta returned his roar by resuming their howls and shrieks. They began diving around and between the five who yet held the Masters in check.

It was then that Jill, desperate to find something, anything, that she might be able to do, happened to glance down at the surface of the plaza….


       [ To read Episode 12.2, click here…. ]



Apr 30

In the Company of Angels: Episode 11.2 – The Broken Gate (cont.)



In the Company of Angels, Episode 11.2 – The Broken Gate (cont.)

“I guess I don’t understand. Whatever would drive the Amenta to destroy a world…any world?!” Luke asked Azarias. They were passing through the flat in London , and Luke was once again downing a mouthful of chocolate. Azarias glanced at the letters on the table, noting that none had been taken other than Luke’s.

Azarias was, Luke noted with some envy, apparently untroubled by the act of framerunning. But it then occurred to Luke that he had never been entirely sure into which of the three primary categories of the Order the older man fell. He knew that he had some Empathic capabilities, and was also capable of Rendering images; perhaps he had Navigator skills as well. “Some people have all the luck,” he thought to himself as he downed another mouthful of chocolate. “I just know I’m going to weigh 300 pounds by the time I’m his age,” he thought ruefully.

From Father Hildebrandt’s “squirrel’s nest” of a storage room, Azarias had retrieved a staff that appeared to be wrought entirely of matte silver. Atop the rather plain shaft was a large blue crystal. Azarias had said that they’d need it, but he had not elaborated further, fearing to waste too much time on their return to Orbaratus.

“I’m sorry, what was your question?” asked Azarias.

“My question is: what is the point? That is, of the Amenta getting an entire planet to destroy itself?”

“Ah! That might better be asked of Father Hildebrandt than myself; it is more in his line, you might say.”

“Why is that?”

“Well, because it has to do with the nature of evil: of what it seeks and of how it grows.”

“That’s pretty heady stuff…”

“Yes indeed! But, since we need to find your portal — where is it, by the way? — let me answer you succinctly. What are the Amenta after, you ask? Souls. That’s all. It’s really that simple.”


“Souls. I’ll explain more when we have a better opportunity, but where is this portal? I am unable to discern it, even though I am holding one of the sapphires.”

Luke looked around the room; he still had his ring on, and was only confused for a moment. The grey light from Orbaratus was almost identical to that coming through one of the living room windows, and the portal was in front of one of these, making it difficult to pick out from the background.

“There it is,” he said, pointing.

“Ah! Well then, shall we?”

Luke looked through the portal before he stepped through, and he was glad that he did so. “There’s something wrong,” he said. “The horizon is wrong.”

They looked through the glowing frame and saw the plaza on Orbaratus; but it was as if a giant had tilted it upon its side.

“Either the world through the portal is undergoing some tremendous upheaval,” said Azarias, “or your base image sketch has broken away from its moorings and fallen upon its side.”

“I’m guessing the latter,” said Luke, “although I drew it upon a huge block of stone and it would have taken quite a blow to fell it. We suffered an earthquake just before I made the sketch; I wonder if there has been another since I left?”

“We shall soon see,” said Azarias. And with that he stepped through the portal, found gravity to be pulling him sideways, and thus half-rolled and half-crawled out onto the plaza. Luke followed right behind him.

What they saw when they regained their bearings shocked them both. The plaza was swarming with black shadows, and a roaring and howling filled their ears. As they stood, they perceived the gateway at the other end of the plaza, and it appeared to be the nexus of all of the turmoil and confusion. Yet, within that heart of  darkness, they could yet perceive a single bright figure, standing alone: it was Polydora.

“Come,” said Azarias, “there is not a moment to lose.”

    o o o

The raven had been put into a wicker basket with plenty of openings that would allow the bird to breathe, and even to intermittently eye its captors reproachfully. It croaked and clicked at them, and at least once, Jill could swear, it said something that sounded like Latin, although she couldn’t identify the words used.

Sam had initially entangle himself in the selfsame blanket that Jill and the Professor had prepared for the bird when he dived through the portal. There were several moments of sheer panic and confusion when both he and the raven had come careening through the canvas at nearly the same time.

Somehow, they had managed to isolate the bird from the boy, and the former was held tightly until a suitable repository for it could be found. The Professor had discovered an old basket that a friend had brought him back from Ethiopia a few years before. It was a pretty thing, and something he rather hated to part with, but he had no qualms in offering it up for the bird’s safekeeping.

The three of them, with raven in tow, had returned to the attic once the bird was safely tucked into his temporary home. The painting of Orbaratus has been turned around and uncovered. Jill knew that time was pressing, and that they’d likely broken every Framerunner rule in taking the Professor into their confidence, but she somehow sensed that it would be alright in the end.

“Professor, I wanted to ask you, where did you get this painting? I mean, the one we used to come here?”

“It was given to me by a friend at Oxford. Painted by a dystopian writer: one named Acasi Simaov, if memory serves. I don’t believe his works ever caught on, but my friend liked the painting and he bought it at an estate sale. He thought I’d like it since I had been working on books on space travel to other worlds. It’s a strange painting, and I never got around to framing it or hanging it, which is why it is still here in the attic.”

“Well, Sir, if you ever decide you don’t want it, I know of a group of people who would be interested in keeping it safe for you,” said Sam. “I don’t know who is in charge there these days, but let me write them a note and jot down an address for you.”

The Professor brought him an envelope, some paper and a pencil, and Sam wrote a quick explanation to the Abbot Primate of the Benedictine order, outlining in general terms that the painting was of Orbaratus and might need safekeeping. Then he added the address of the Monastery de Sant’Anselmo to the outside of the envelope.

“There, Sir,” he said to the Professor. “If you ever decide to part with it, just pop your own note in with mine and send the painting with the envelope to that address. It’s entirely up to you, of course, and without access to a crystal, it’s unlikely that the painting could cause any further mischief. But, ya never know….”

Then there came the awkward moment of having to say their goodbyes.

“I wish we had more time for me to ask more questions,” said the Professor, “but I also know that to do so might cause even more harm than may already have been done. I shall have to either hope to see you again some day, or to spend some time speculating, for my own benefit, what framerunning might be like. In any event, it has certainly been a very interesting and thought-provoking afternoon!”

With that, Jill and Sam bid the Professor the best of luck with all of his works, clenched tightly hold of their crystals, and disappeared into the painting of Orbaratus. The Professor rubbed his eyes once he was sure that they were gone, and gone for good. He then left the painting as it sat for the remainder of the day and all of the next. Thereafter, he boxed it up and shipped it to Rome, where it came, in due time, to be in the hands of Father Hildebrandt.

        o o o

When Jill and Sam arrived back upon the Plaza of the Masters with the raven and basket in tow, they were astonished at the change. The howling and roaring that had greeted Luke and Azarias was, if anything, louder still, and thunder, wind, and lightning had blown up from the south. They, too, could see that all of the movement and noise centered near the gateway at the other end of the plaza, and they knew that’s where they would be needed. They could not make out precisely what was happening, but they saw two figures heading toward the maelstrom before them.

“I think that’s Mr. Luke!” yelled Sam as he picked up the basket, “and I’m betting that’s Azarias with him!”

They narrowed their eyes against the gusting wind, and Jill was forced to put her hands over her ears to try to block out the howling. She was feeling even more queasy than usual, and although Sam had immediately started toward the gateway, when he looked back at her and saw how pale she was, he returned and fed her some chocolate.

“You gonna be OK?” he yelled in her ear.

“I think so. But that noise; it’s driving me crazy!” said Jill.

“Just Howlers, but more than I’ve ever heard at once. And you usually don’t see them, ever, in the daylight. They’re the things that look like flying sheets of black tissue paper, and they’re thick as smoke over by the gateway. We need to get over there, because we have the two crystals that the raven stole. Let me know when you feel well enough to walk….”

“We shouldn’t wait,” Jill yelled back at him. “I’ll be alright. Let’s just go!”

They turned back toward the gateway and followed Mr. Luke and Azarias into the heart of the storm.


       [ To read Episode 12.1, click here…. ]


Apr 28

The Golden Dragon



“The Golden Dragon

Digital, 8″x8″ wide.

Signed and numbered prints – AVAILABLE

To purchase a print of this item, please click here.



Apr 28

The Cottage



“The Cottage

Mixed digital, 10″x8.0″ wide.

Signed and numbered prints – AVAILABLE

To purchase a print of this item, please click here.


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…. ]


Apr 09

In the Company of Angels: Episode 10.1 – The Chase



In the Company of Angels, Episode 10.1 – The Chase


“You cannot stuff a raven into a soup pot!” said Jill, whispering as loudly as she dared.

“Well, then what would you suggest?! I don’t see any bird cages handy!” Sam whispered back, fiercely.

They were still sitting in the Professor’s study, and the raven, for the time being at any rate, remained perched on the floor of the hallway not ten feet from where Sam was seated.

The Professor, too, was racking his brain for any item that might be useful for caging a wild bird, but he, too, was drawing a blank. He whispered,“I would suggest that we determine how to capture the poor thing before we divert ourselves too much with housing options. But while we’re brainstorming, how on earth did the creature come by another crystal?”

The raven, almost as if listening, seemed to tighten its grasp on the second blue gem. It had apparently returned to its hoard atop the wardrobe, discovered the first sapphire gone, and had flown out of the open door to see what might have become of it. The creature couldn’t land easily on the bannisters while holding onto the second crystal, so it had ended up on the floor. From there it had half flapped and half hopped over to the doorway into the study to see what could be seen.

Sam glanced at the Professor. “Do you have a towel or a blanket that we could throw over it?”

“Oh, yes, that might work!” whispered the Professor. He slowly stood up and tiptoed toward the second door in the study; it lead to a bedroom just beyond his office. But the raven was having none of this; it hopped away from the door, all the while keeping a close eye upon everyone in the room.

“I don’t know if it’s going to stay long enough for me to retrieve the blanket,” said the Professor.

“Yeah, but it’s still worth a try. Just move slowly,” said Sam.

Ultimately the effort proved futile. As soon as the Professor returned from the bedroom with blanket in hand, the raven flapped its way back up to the top of the wardrobe. They knew there was no room there to throw the blanket, so they stood in the doorway considering how best to proceed.

“One thing’s for certain,” said Sam, returning to his normal speaking voice. “We have to get the painting of Orbaratus out of the crawlspace, or at least covered up so that the raven can’t fly back into it again.”

“Oh, gee, Sam!” said Jill. “We should have thought of that to begin with! Professor, can we get back into the other crawlspace — the one Mrs. Mills found us in — without passing by the wardrobe? I’m afraid walking past it might spook the raven and drive him back out of the house again.”

“Yes, there’s another way in,” replied the Professor. He pointed to a small hatch in the wall. “That connects with the larger attic space. The section of attic that houses the wardrobe is entirely separate.”

Sam stepped toward the hatchway and opened it. He recognized this door as one of the two they had first discovered when they were exploring the attic. “I’ll go and turn the painting around toward the wall. That will at least stop the bird from using it to escape back to Orbaratus.” He disappeared into the hatchway.

“Professor, do we know how the raven reached the wardrobe? That is, where the hole in the eaves is located that he might have used?” asked Jill.

“No, I don’t believe so. We would have to go outside the house and look for it. I’m assuming we can’t get to it from inside without frightening the bird away, and if we do that, it may or may not return to the other attic.”

“I wonder if there’s any way I could lure it out of the attic?”

“Do you mean telepathically, or by some other means?”

“Oh, I hadn’t really thought of that! But trying to communicate with it telepathically is certainly worth a try! We’re open to anything at this point, I think.” Jill took a couple of steps into the hallway toward the wardrobe. She shut her eyes and tried to “find” the raven. It took her a few moments, but she thought she sensed the bird, still atop the wardrobe. “But what should I do next?” she wondered. She had only just started exploring the use of her abilities with people; how in the world would she know how to “chat” with a bird?

As it happens, she didn’t get an opportunity. Just a few moments after she was sure that she felt the presence of the raven, she realized that it was on the move. She didn’t need her empathic senses to tell her: a loud squawk followed by the flapping of wings heralded the bird’s abdication of its roost. She tried to sense whether it was still in the house, but could detect nothing.

“Well, I guess we either go outside and see if we can find where it’s ended up, or wait here and see if it returns,” she said.

The Professor was just about to respond when they heard a loud yell and a crash come from the office hatchway. They hurried into the office and Jill stooped down and entered the attic.

“Sam? What happened?” she called out. She could see nothing in the gloom.

“Over here,” said Sam. “The bird came back. It flew past me and startled me. I knocked over something as I tried to see where it was headed, but I lost it in the dark.”

“Quick, Miss Jonsson,” said the Professor from just behind her,”let me in and let’s shut the hatchway door.” Jill stepped further into the attic and the Professor ducked and came in as well.

“Sam, can you hear me?” asked the Professor.

“Yes, Sir.”

“Sam, do you know where the bird came from?”

“Yeah, there’s a hole over here at this end of the attic. Jill and I saw him come in that way before Mrs. Mills found us.”

“Can you stop it up with something? Anything will do: a box, a blanket, whatever you can find.”

“Yes! Good thinking! Let me see….” Jill and the Professor heard a rustling, then a scraping sound from the far end of the attic. By now their eyes had become accustomed to the gloom, and they shut the hatchway tightly behind them.

“Sam, is his escape route closed off?” asked Jill.

“Yeah. I don’t think he can get back out that way at least. Doesn’t mean he hasn’t some other hole in another part of the attic, though. This is a pretty large place to hide!”

Jill moved toward Sam and the Professor followed her. She passed by the spot where the painting of Orbaratus had been and saw that Sam had turned it around and propped it against the wall. He had shoved a small box up against the back of the canvas to make sure no opening remained for the bird to fit through.

“Professor, did you bring your flashlight?” Sam asked as they all collected at the farthest end of the attic.

“My electric torch? No, I left it in my office.”

“OK, we’ll just have to use mine.” Sam took his flashlight out of his pocket and switched it on.

“Oh my! That is an extraordinarily bright torch!” said the Professor. “I’ve never seen anything like it!”

Sam was about to explain about the LEDs, but Jill nudged him and he remained silent.

“Let’s stick together and go through the attic slowly. If anyone sees anything move, holler,” said Sam.

They stepped through the entire length of the attic twice and never saw the bird, nor any other movement other than the stirring of dust.

“There appears to be no sign of it,” said the Professor, “so either it has a second nest and is in it trying to remain quiet, or it has found another way out of the attic.”

“I think it’s the latter,” said Sam, “but probably not in the way you’re thinking. Jill do you have your ring on?”

“Yes, but I’m not touching the crystal.”

“Better do that now and take a look around us.”

Jill turned her ring back around and clenched her hand shut. The gloom of the attic was suddenly punctuated with a half dozen glowing images. These were the paintings they had first noticed when they arrived in the attic.

“Oh my!” she said.

“Why? What are you two looking at?” asked the Professor.

Sam reached out and grasped the Professor’s wrist. “Take a look at the paintings,” he said.

“Why, they’re glowing!” said the Professor. “Is that how they always look if you have one of the crystals on?”

“Yes, Sir, they do,” said Sam. “We don’t have time to explain everything right now. But we do have one enormous problem to solve.”

“And what is that that?”

“We need to figure out which of these half-dozen worlds the raven flew into! And even if we knew that, how on earth would we ever be able to capture him there?!”

They all stared at the various images and Jill felt her heart sink.

         [ To read Episode 10.2, click here…. ]



Mar 19

In the Company of Angels: Episode 8.2 – The Wardrobe (cont.)



In the Company of Angels, Episode 8.2 – The Wardrobe (cont.)

“Perfect!” said Sam. “Just close me inside, won’t you, and I’ll see what I can find.”

“You should never close yourself into a wardrobe, young man. It’s possible that the lock might catch and you’d be trapped. And in this particular instance, I’m fairly certain I don’t have the key to unlock it. It’s quite an old wardrobe, as you can see.”

“I’ll not be trapped, Professor, even if the lock does catch; trust me,” said Sam, grinning broadly. He stepped inside and pulled the doors closed.

Several minutes passed. The Professor seemed nervous, and he couldn’t help but pace back and forth while he and Jill waited. But after several minutes, he was unable to control himself; he gently pulled opened one of the wardrobe doors and peered inside.

The wardrobe was completely empty.

“Don’t worry, Sir,” said Jill. “I know it’s startling the first time you see that happen, and it only happened to me for the first time yesterday; yesterday in my world, that is. But I think we’d do best to close the door and wait for him. He’ll be back soon, I promise.”

The Professor seemed dumbstruck, but he shut the wardrobe door once more and resumed his pacing. They didn’t have much longer to wait.

With a bang, Sam announced his return. The wardrobe door was flung open and the exuberant young fellow came tumbling out.

“Found it!” he said, beaming, “or, that is, I have a pretty good idea of where it must be.”

“Where?!” asked Jill and the Professor at the same instant.

“Very close to where we are standing now, but I’ll need your help to locate it precisely. Here’s what I found: I believe the raven collected a woman’s compact or some other small round mirror, and stowed it in his nest along with a lot of other items. I could see some marbles, some tinsel, and a few colourful bits of cloth and string. Those plus a sapphire.”

“You were able to actually see the sapphire?” asked Jill.

“Yep! Plain as day! Well, not exactly plain as day. The light was pretty dim.”

“But could you see where the nest was located?” asked the Professor.

“No, not really, but that’s where I can use your help. I could hear you both talking when I put my ear up to the Maze portal, so I know the nest has to be somewhere very close to us: definitely in this part of the house.”

“OK, then how can we help find it?” asked Jill.

“Here’s the plan,” said Sam, “and it’s pretty ingenious, if I do say so myself….”

Jill rolled her eyes.

“No, really! You’re gonna love this! See, I’m going to go back into the Maze, find the mirror again, and reach through with my fingers. I’ll try to make enough noise with them so that you can track down where it’s coming from.”

“How are you going to do that?” asked Jill.

“By tapping, or rustling around, or scratching, or whatever else I can do to make a disturbance. See, I can only get a couple of fingers through the mirror, else I could probably snag the sapphire and we’d be done.”

“Actually, Sam, we wouldn’t really be done, would we? We don’t know how the raven is getting in and out of the paintings. It may have more than one crystal.”

“Yeah, that’s true, though I’m still betting its using that crystal to do its framerunning. But, first things first. Let’s find the nest….”

Sam stepped back into the wardrobe. “Give me a few seconds, then start listening. I may not be able to make much noise, but see if you can locate where it’s coming from, whatever you hear.” He pulled the wardrobe door shut and they waited. After about a half minute had passed, they both heard a rustling sound, and then a tapping, as of a fingernail against wood. The sound seemed very close: just above them, in fact.

“I do believe it’s coming from the top of the wardrobe itself!” said the Professor.

“Are you tall enough to see what’s up there, Sir?” asked Jill.

“Not clearly. Let me get an electric torch and a stepstool. I shan’t be a moment….”

Jill thought Sam must have heard them, because the tapping ceased. After a minute, the Professor returned and set up the stepstool to one side of the wardrobe. He was then able, with the aid of his flashlight, to see the entire top of the wardrobe clearly.

“Ah!” he declared, “There it is in the far corner! Well done, Sam; that is, if you can still hear me. We’ve found it! You can come back out of the wardrobe now if you wish.”

Sam opened the wardrobe door again. The Professor looked down at him and asked “should I retrieve the sapphire? There does only appear to be a single one in the nest.”

Sam furrowed his brow and looked at Jill. “I guess getting hold of the crystal comes first; after all, that’s why we came. But then we still have figure out what to do with the raven. Does that all sound right to you?”

“I thought you were the boss around here,” said Jill.

Sam turned bright red. “No, no one’s trying to be the boss; we’re a team — aren’t we?”

It was now Jill’s turn to turn bright red. She had, unbidden, just felt a wave of emotion coming from Sam that she had never experienced before. It was nervousness, embarrassment, excitement, and — this was the strangest part — happiness. It was happiness at the thought, she realized, that the two of them were working together, and that they were doing something important.

“Well…of course we are,” she answered. “I’m sorry, I was just being, well, I don’t quite know the term.”

“I don’t think it precisely qualified, Miss Jonsson, but here we’d likely call it ‘being beastly’,” said the Professor as he looked down at them both. “But, shall I retrieve the gem or not?”

“Yes, let’s,” answered Jill. “It’s like Sam says; that’s mainly what we came for.”

The professor reached over to the back part of the wardrobe. Then he stepped down and opened his palm. There was the large, round-cut sapphire. It was identical to the two others they had seen on Orbaratus.

Sam reached out and took the stone into his hand. His brow furrowed again. “Professor, do you have any paintings in your study?”

“Certainly,” said the Professor. “Why do you ask?”

“This doesn’t feel quite right to me,” said Sam. “That is, I don’t get the same sensation from touching it that I do with one of the crystals we’re familiar with. I need to see a painting to make sure.”

They all returned to the Professors’ study. On one of the walls was a landscape of an Italian village. Sam walked over to it, holding the crystal, and touched its surface. Then he put the round gem into his pocket, grasped his own pendant, and, to the Professors great delight, reached his hand into the painting.

“Extraordinary!” exclaimed the Professor.

“Actually, it isn’t,” said Sam. “That’s the way they’re supposed to work, but this one doesn’t. It makes no sense.”

“But Sam,” said Jill, “we know that’s the same as the others on Orbaratus, don’t we?”

“Well, I believe it is. It’s round, like they were, and about the right size. But if this is the one that was stolen, it leaves us with even more questions than we started with!”

“Forgive me,” said the Professor, “but if you could explain the predicament more clearly, I might be able to help you with it. That’s often the case with intractable problems.”

Sam looked doubtful, but Jill piped up. “You’re right, Sir! My father used to tell me that sometimes, when he had a particularly difficult puzzle to work out, the best thing he could do was to try to explain it to somebody else. Even if he doubted they fully understood what he was saying, just talking about the problem often helped him to see the solution!”

She turned to Sam. “See, sometimes we get caught up in our own heads and we can’t see the forest for the trees. So, let’s try this. Let me explain everything to the Professor. You listen and correct me if I get anything wrong. That way we all get to step through the situation we’re in, and perhaps we can figure out what’s best to be done, together.”

“But I still think the less the Professor knows, the less likely we are to change something in this time that we’d regret.”

“But aren’t we long past that? The Professor already knows a lot. And wouldn’t it be best to decide what we should do and return to Orbaratus as soon as possible?”

She felt more than saw Sam agree with her, so she proceeded to explain to the Professor, more fully than they had before, where they had come from and why. She then explained that, although they now had the sapphire — or whatever this gem was — that they had come for, they had an additional problem in that the raven seemed able to framerun, somehow, and not by using this crystal. So, they needed to make sure that the raven couldn’t return to Orbaratus and steal the sapphire back again once they returned it.

The Professor listened intently and followed Jill’s account with great enthusiasm. “That is a fascinating tale!” he exclaimed when she was done. “You really ought to write it down someday, you know….

“But, you’re correct: if the raven stole the gem in the first place, it must still have some means of returning to this place, Orbaratus. And if that is true, we must find out how it does so and remove that means. That, or we’ll perhaps have to find a way to keep it from causing such harm going forward. I could cage the poor thing, but I hate the thought of it; ravens are very bright, and it would suffer inordinately. I could also cover all of my paintings so that it could not continue traveling between worlds, but it might find some other paintings in someone else’s attic that it would use as portals, and then heaven only knows what additional mischief it might cause.”

The Professor stopped to consider the matter again, and reached for his pipe. He packed it, lit it, took a few puffs, and then turned back to look thoughtfully at Sam and Jill.

“I believe, unless either of you has since thought of a better plan, that the best thing to be done would be to take the raven back with you. Perhaps the other members of your team might find a kinder way to prevent future problems than I am able to suggest at present. Remembering, of course, that time seems to be of the essence here….

“…and even aside from that,” he said, with a wink, “Mrs. Mills would be delighted if the bird was removed from the attic permanently, although I would never consent to having it harmed in any way in order for that to be achieved.”

“Oh, don’t worry, Sir,” said Sam, “we’d certainly never hurt it. But I think you’re right: we do need to make sure it can’t continue stealing things from other worlds.”

“So, then, what’s our plan?” asked Jill.

“To capture the raven,” said Sam.

“Good,” said the Professor, “but, then, how do you propose we manage that?”

“I honestly don’t know, Sir,” said Sam.

“Neither do I,” said Jill, “but I get the feeling we’d better figure out how, and fast.”

“Why is that?” asked Sam.

“Because,” said Jill, pointing into the hallway outside the Professor’s study, “There’s the raven now, and it sure looks to me like it’s got another one of the crystals in its talons.”

         [ To read Episode 9.1, click here…. ]




Mar 12

In the Company of Angels: Episode 8.1 – The Wardrobe



In the Company of Angels, Episode 8.1 – The Wardrobe


“It’s 1946?!!!” Jill blurted out.

“Yes, my dear. Why, whatever year did you think it was?”

Jill sensed, involuntarily, a wave of panic coming from Sam. She turned to him and thought, as ‘loudly’ as she could “Sam, what’s wrong? I know it’s crazy to have gone back in time, but why is it so bad that we’re here?”

Sam was too troubled with the news of their being in 1946 to realize, at first, that Jill had not spoken to him aloud. “Because,” he said back to her, “if we change anything while we’re here, and I mean anything, we could be toast! That’s what ‘time-tethering’ is all about! That’s why we try as hard as we can never to framerun a time-tethered world.”

“But we can’t change that much while we’re here, can we?” Jill thought back to him.

Sam suddenly realized that Jill hadn’t moved her lips. But the shock was only momentary; realizing what was happening, he thought back to her, as loudly as he could, “We don’t have to change much. Any change could make all kinds of things could go terribly wrong! Don’t you see?

“A person wanting to talk to the Professor this afternoon might not be able to, because we’re here with him in his study. Then, that person might leave early, and someone that they were supposed to casually notice on the street isn’t there when they should have been. But, if that someone they were supposed to notice was the very person that they were going to marry someday, then none of that might happen…and it would all be because we were here with the Professor when we weren’t supposed to be!

“Or think of it this way: a bird maybe doesn’t come to a bird-feeder when it should, because we’re here in the window, and it’s scared off; so, a child looking for it might go outside to play instead of staying inside watching for it, and that child might accidentally be hurt, or even killed. Anything could change, you see, and we might go back home to find that the world we have always known no longer exists; even our own families and everyone we know might be gone forever!”

The thoughts flooded into Jill’s mind much faster than they would have if Sam had spoken them aloud, and with them she was able to feel his rising panic.

All this time the Professor had been silent, but he had been observing them both closely. He began to stroke his chin. “I know you both appear a bit preoccupied, but I believe I am beginning to understand….

“Let me speak for a moment, Master Deckard, and then you can tell me if I’m on the right trail. You and Miss Jonnson here are both, as incredible as it may seem to me, from some future time, perhaps years or even decades hence — I don’t actually want or need to know the specifics. But while you are here, you fear changing anything, lest the world you know be put into peril; the chain of events leading to your future might be altered, or broken completely. Is that what you mean by ‘time-tethering’, Master Deckard?”

Sam looked at the Professor with wonder and admiration. He had not expected, even from a Professor, such a quick grasp of their predicament. “Well, yes Sir, that pretty much sums it up,” he said.

“Well, then, say no more! It would seem, then, that the safest course of action would be to hurry you both on whatever business brought you here in the first place. I am not unfamiliar with problems associated with time-travel, although space travel has been, most recently, my greater literary concern. That said, we should get you both back where you belong with as much alacrity and as little fuss as possible! So, tell me exactly what we need to do.”

Sam looked at Jill and then back at the Professor. Jill sensed Sam’s emotions calming as he thought through the mission that had brought them there in the first place and began to consider what needed to be done.

“First, Sir, we have to find the ravenr. Or, at least, we need to find its nest. With luck, it will either be carrying the sapphire it stole, or it will have stowed it away someplace handy and we can retrieve it. Do you happen to know where it spends its time when it is not inside your attic?”

“I’ve never considered,” said the Professor. “We certainly have ravens on the grounds, and that quite often, but I’ve never noticed anything that might distinguish this particular raven from any other. When I’ve paid them any real attention, it has been because they’ve come to the birdbath with some morsel, or because Bruce has been barking at them.”

“Bruce, Sir?” asked Jill.

“Yes, our dog. He and our two cats often wander the grounds getting into mischief. They — the cats I mean — hardly ever catch anything other than mice. Bruce, although he is getting far too old to chase anything, is yet quite fond of barking at the least provocation, ravens included.”

“Have you ever noticed a place where ravens tend to congregate?” asked Sam.

“No, not really.”

“Then we’re back where we started. We’ll just have to to wait for him to come back to the attic and try to trap him,” said Jill.

“Well…” said Sam, “…perhaps not. Professor, didn’t you say that raven’s collect shiny things?”

“Yes, they’re very attentive birds and are always intrigued by and curious about unusual items that they notice, shiny things included. And, particularly when they’re young, they apparently  will collect a cache of such odds and ins into their nests. ”

“Whatever are you thinking about, Sam?” asked Jill.

“Well, don’t you see? If this raven has collected into its nest, along with the crystal, bits of mirrors or anything else reflective….”

“Ah!” said Jill.

“I’m afraid you’ve lost me,” said the Professor. “Why should that be significant?”

“It wouldn’t seem to be, I’ll admit,” said Sam, “but, have you ever looked into a mirror and wondered if there was something on the other side? You know, another world just beyond the surface of the reflection?”

The Professor peered at Sam intensely. “Are you suggesting, young man, that there is? Another world I mean?”

“Well, not exactly a world, but another space; an intermediate zone from which one can step from one place to another.”

“I’ve not considered the possibility of anything along those lines since I was a child: anything seems likely when we’re young. But am I correct in assuming that, if such an ‘intermediate space’ exists behind every mirror, that you can travel into that space?”

“In a way, Sir. It’s not something everyone can do, or at least not easily, but I can, with the help of one of the crystals.” Sam held out his sapphire again for the Professor to see.

“Good heavens! Worlds within worlds! But how, pray tell, do you intend to use this capability to find your raven?”

“Well, if I’m right, and if the raven has gathered shiny things that reflect what’s around them, I may be able to locate his nest by finding and ‘seeing’ out of the Maze — that’s what we call the intermediate space — through some of those things.”

“Sounds like a long shot to me,” said Jill.

“Sure it is! But, do you have a better suggestion?” asked Sam.

Jill thought for a moment. “No, I don’t. I guess it’s worth a try….”

“Alright then!” said Sam. “Professor, do you happen to have a mirror handy? One large enough for me to fit through?”

“I can’t believe I’m saying this, but yes, there’s one in the old wardrobe. We keep it in the attic space at the top of the stairs. It has mirrors inside its doors.”

“Great!” said Sam. “That should work.”

Just then, Mrs. Mills knocked on the door to the Professor’s study. Jill stood up and opened it, and the housekeeper brought the tea things in and set them down on the table by the door.

“Will you be wantin’ anythin’ else, Professor?” Mrs. Mills asked, once she had laid out the tea kettle, the cups, scones, jam, sardines, and butter, and all was tidy and in order.

“No, Mrs. Mills, I believe that should be all. But, I did want to ask you whether you knew anything else about that raven that you’ve been seeing in the attic? Other than what you’ve already told me, that is?”

“You mean other than that it keeps comin’ back inside? It’s an odd bird, Sir, a very odd bird! Doesn’t leave any mess, but there’s no keeping it out of that attic. I think maybe it comes for the paintings.”

“Whatever do you mean?”

“You know all of the framed pictures you keep yonder in the attic,” Mrs. Mills gestured out the door, “I don’t know why, but it seems plain to me that the bird likes ‘em. Every time I catch it in there, it’s either staring into one of ‘em or perchin’ nearby. I was thinkin’ now, if we covered them up, the villain might stop sneakin’ in and botherin’ us.”

“Thank you, Mrs. Mills. I’ll consider that. It certainly might be worth a try.”

The door shut behind the housekeeper. Sam sat thinking for a moment. “You know, Sir, Mrs. Mills may be right. We came here though one of the paintings in your attic; the raven might well be doing something along the same lines….”

“You came here how?!” asked the Professor.

“Through one of your paintings, Sir. That’s how we travel; it’s how we got here in the first place.”

The Professor shook his head and rubbed his eyes. “First it’s mirrors, then it’s paintings. Worlds within worlds, indeed!” he said, as if to himself. Then he stood up. “Alright, clearly this is no time for tea, although I’ll be happy to take a cup if you would care to….”

Jill and Sam looked at each other, then both stood up.

“No, Sir,” said Jill, “if you’re willing to let the tea go cold, we are too. Where’s the wardrobe?”

The Professor led them out onto the landing and opened a door at the top of the staircase. Within the small attic space behind the door — a different part of the attic than the one they had been in before — was a wardrobe. It was large, heavy, and old fashioned, made from some wood that Jill could not identify; and it had curious carvings on the front. They opened its doors; it was empty. But, just as the Professor had said, there were mirrors mounted on the insides of the doors.

“Perfect!” said Sam.

         [ To read Episode 8.2, click here…. ]



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