I was very nervous as we
reached the front door and Melnor carefully opened it. The guards
jumped to attention and stared into the candlelit anteroom, looking
right through us. Melnor tugged at my sleeve and somehow we slipped
past them as they peered right through us.
The crocodiles were not
so easily fooled as we crossed the bridge over the moat. They smiled
and waved and finished the tap dance they hadn't been able to perform
when the Duke was watching. I wanted to clap for joy as they disappeared
under a bridge, but Melnor, thankfully placed his hands on mine, and
without a word told me we had to hurry.
We scaled the outer wall
and leaped right over the guards that were standing watch. They didn't
even blink. Melnor broke out into a trot and I obediently followed.
Several hundred yards away, hidden in the brush, two horses waited
patiently for us. Then we sailed like the wind, roaring into the night.
We didn't slow down at
all until we turned a bend in the road and I saw within the woods,
a flicker of light. We left the road and headed through the brush
and the brambles, and the lights grew thicker and brighter. We stopped
in a clearing where a hundred sat in a circle with torches in their
hands, listening carefully as their leader stood on a stump in the
middle, filling their hearts with courage and purpose. "We must rescue
our Queen and defend the kingdom against the Beast. Together we shall
bring her Highness victory. Righteousness shall prevail!"
The crowd cheered. The
air was filled with electricity and excitement. My own heart was pounding
as the leader's voice drifted quietly in the night. Instantly I recognized
that wondrous voice.
Then they sensed us watching
in the night. The assemblage suddenly grew quiet and my pounding heart
was deafening in my ears. They turned towards us as we approached,
and they all jumped to their feet, and their hands wavered on their
swords. But I suddenly realized, the way they stared at the trees
around us, that they couldn't see us at all.
I watched Melnor pull
back his hood as he dismounted, and the fear and fire dimmed in their
eyes and welcoming warmth washed over them.
The circle opened up and
their leader laughed a greeting, "Welcome, Melnor."
My heart was pounding
so hard they all heard it and stared at the invisible space where
I stood. I pulled back my own hood, and unable to control my joy I
leaped from my horse and ran into the light with my arms outstretched
towards their leader, laughing, "Maya...Maya..."
Immediately a hundred
swords were drawn, and the circle closed. They raised their swords
to stop me, but I would let nothing keep me from Maya. Nothing! Those
that tried to stop me were tossed aside like leaves in the wind, and
I stood before Maya.
"Captain Rogetto, my lord,"
she gasped, and bowed low before me, refusing to look at my face.
"Maya, look at me," I
gasped, reaching down to touch her cheek, unable to ignore the silence
of the hundred others who bowed down around me. "It's me, Ward...What's
going on, Maya?" I sighed as her eyes stared up at me with fear and
uncertainty, and her body trembled at my touch.
She opened her mouth to
speak, but she never got the chance. An icy blue light fell down upon
us all, and before the moment was frozen in time, I saw a tear fall
down Maya's cheek. "Oh father," she moaned as she turned and looked
over her shoulder. "Leave them be."
My body was frozen in
space. My heart had stopped. My brain was no longer functioning. But
part of me was able to see that everyone, except for Maya, stood frozen
in the blue light that hovered over the clearing. She stood up on
the tree stump and yelled at the light, "Why, father!" she demanded.
I watched as the Wizard
appeared, fading into view. "Go home, daughter!" he commanded.
"But they wanted the courage
to face the Beast. I gave it to them. They could have..."
"Could have what? Given
up their lives for nothing? They cannot stop the Beast. You and I
could not stop the Beast. I'm not certain that even Captain Rogetto
could. But Ward can. Now, go home. I'll take care of this."
Maya looked at me quizzically.
Slowly the spell that had kept her from seeing who I was began to
fade. Her eyes filled with tears and she began to run to me. "Ward,"
But the Wizard waved his
hand. "Go home, daughter!" he roared, and she faded into blue. He
walked closer to me, and watched me watching him.
"Well, Ward, how nice
it is to see you again," he said slowly, cautiously. "Come now, surely
you are not bound by time, the simplest of spells?"
I could not answer.
"Cast it off, Ward!" he
commanded, and like a clap of thunder his words shook my body and
I started laughing. "Hi,
Wizard," I giggled, although I wasn't really sure what I found so
"That a boy," he laughed
"Where's all your flowery
language," I sighed as he put his arm around me and we sat down, staring
at the expressionless circle of inanimate bodies that surrounded us.
"Oh, that was just to
help you Understand there in that timeless, spaceless place we lived
once upon a time. A tool to sharpen your wits and prepare you for
"Hmm," I mused. "And Maya
is your daughter?"
"In a sense," he conceded,
but he would say no more.
"Now, Ward, we must concentrate
on the situation here at hand. He lay back on the ground and stared
up into the starry sky. I did the same and marveled once again at
the beauty of forever, while I listened to the silence.
"How can I help you to
stop the Beast?" I blurted suddenly. "I remember that you tried to
teach me, in that other place where I had been with Maya. That place
of dreams and possibilities. Now that I remember you and then, I understand
why I seem to have a Power. But I surely am not trained enough to
be able to save the Kingdom."
The Wizard laughed, uncontrollably.
I sat up and stared at him. "Oh, Ward, Ward. You still don't know,
"I did not teach you anything,"
the Wizard whispered. "You taught me Power. You Ward, you are the
I stared at him. He held
my gaze for a moment, but then he had to look away. I opened my mouth
to protest, but I didn't know what to say. I lay back in the grass
and stared up at the twinkling sky and tried to feel what it felt
to be Power.