Here are the sample chapters for The Battle of Dusk and Dawn. The story is still in editing phase so any errors you see, well, keep that in mind, it is not quite finished.
THE BATTLE OF DUSK AND DAWN
A Secret Doorway Tale: Book 6
By V. A. Jeffrey
Book cover design by V. A. Jeffrey
There are many kinds of goblins in the world, one of those kinds being hobgoblins. Hobgoblins are at the core of this particular story so this brief prologue will focus mostly on them.
They can be a mischievous bunch and not in a good way. They are often said to be spiteful, rude even cruel and that they love to hold grudges over the smallest absurdities. All of this is basically true. Sometimes clustered in tribes (depending on where they hail from) or in rare cases even families, they are usually thought to be solitary beings and have been the bane of human domestic existence for as long as anyone cares to remember.
Often when strange sounds and evil smells erupt in one's house after a night of hobgoblin mischief – usually in the kitchen – it is thought to be the work of the usual suspects such as mice, roaches or, Lord forbid, rats! However, it can just as easily be hobgoblins. Hobgoblins, as a general rule, enjoy being wicked and can be a terrible pain in the backside but they do not have much power beyond being a nuisance. After all, why would a self-respecting goblin of any sort do anything constructive? However, many hobgoblins all packed in together with nothing constructive to do can get up to all sorts of wickedness. . .
There were rows upon rows of antique bottles; bottles of many colors, shapes and sizes, bone china with painted gold rims, black round things that people called records, old, worn silk dolls, frilly pinafores and frocks and a thousand other things that beckoned to her. There were even ancient looking brass lamps and great, iron ceiling fixtures. This was mama's favorite antique shop and it had a tea house attached on the other side where they served tea in silk tea bags. Anne, mama and grandma Veronica were picking up a few things, replacing the wreckage found when they 'd come back from their beach trip. At least the house was no longer in disarray, however, everyone was still out of sorts over the entire matter. Except grandma Veronica. She seemed to float above it all and knew how to smooth things over with her gentle, calm demeanor and the right, soothing word at the right time.
Anne had been promised a gift from the antique shop and she busied herself looking through many treasures and eventually found a little white wooden music box with a tiny, white porcelain ballerina that danced in front of a clouded mirror. Grandma had chosen a Wedgewood White cake stand and mama had gathered some delicate vases and a new set of dinnerware.
On the way to the register Anne saw a large bowl full of shiny, colorful stones and among them were small, luminous moonstones. She picked these out of the bowl. If she would only get one thing, it would be the moonstones. In fact, she wanted her ring back. And her armor and her bag! But they were gone. Even her new toys didn't make her happy. Nothing hurt as much as losing something that was irreplaceable. The moonstones would do, for now. Anne felt a sinking discontent. An emotion that crept along the edges of her anger at the hobgoblins' violation. It was well to get new things but the destruction and loss of things that were important to her and to her family felt like a stab of broken glass in her stomach. A few weeks had passed. In fact, it was summer break already, though actual summer was still a few days away. She kept thinking of her ring that grandma Barbara had given her. The one with the citrine jewel set in it by the Summer Queen herself. It felt as if someone had stolen away her heart. She fought back tears of anger. She saw grandma glance at her and she quickly wiped her face.
After paying for their items and having them wrapped in volumes of tissue and newspaper they made their way up to the tea house. As mama ordered for them Anne and grandma sat down at a table overlooking the antique shop downstairs.
“What's wrong little one?”
“The same nothing that ruined your room?” Asked grandma. Anne heaved a sigh.
“Yeah. I guess.”
“Whatever gremlins were involved, remember that everyone reaps what they sow in the end.”
“Yeah. I know.”
“Bad things happen. Sometimes good can come of it in the end. Time will pass and it won't seem as scary as it does now. Come, here's your mama with our drinks. How about you and I go for ice cream floats and talk this over?” Anne smiled eagerly. Mama set three iced teas on the table.
“We still have no real idea where this incident came from or why.” Said mama.
“It's strange, Lilly. So strange. Makes no sense. Nothing was stolen, you say?”
“Nothing.” But this wasn't true. Anne knew that this was a direct attack on her and by extension, her family. She was sure it could happen again, especially considering what she and Jordan had gotten away with under the nose of the Fairy King and his minions. Things had been tense at home for some time. Lot's of money had been spent to replace or fix the damage. Dad was always grumbling about too much money being spent and this kept both of her parents in a less than pleasant mood. Anne felt as if her home had been poisoned. Even the little koi fish had been made to pay for her adventure to the Dark Mountain. What if they'd had a cat or a dog? She shuddered to think of what might have happened.
Later, they dropped mama off and went for ice cream and a talk.
“During times like these it's good to be around those who love you, little one.” Said grandma. Anne did feel better after tucking into a peanut butter float. She thought long and hard on what to say for she had something important that she hadn't told anyone in her family. Then she mustered up the courage to speak.
“Grandma, do you believe in goblins? Or other imaginary creatures?”
“Goblins? My goodness. What do you mean when you say goblins?”
“I mean bad creatures that like to cause trouble for people. It was goblins that did this, not raccoons.” At this, grandma was silent for a little while, eating her ice cream.
“I knew it wasn't raccoons, honey. But raccoons seemed like a rational explanation. Why goblins? Why would they do this?”
“They stole something important from a friend and I took it back from them and that made them mad. So they got revenge.” Grandma raised her brow at this and just when she thought she'd made a mistake by confiding in her, grandma spoke.
“Anne, I have seen many things, ordinary and unusual in this world. Your story does not surprise me at all. I encountered one once and boy was he an ugly son-of-a-gun! Ugly inside and out!” Grandma waved her hands in the air to gesture her disgust. “I'll tell you about him someday.”
“You actually met one?”Anne was surprised. Grandma nodded.
“Wow!” Anne breathed a sigh of great relief. At least grandma didn't think something was wrong with her. “However, revenge can turn into never ending feuding. Feuds can get bloody and they can last forever. Do you want revenge?”
“I see. Just remember, revenge can get out of control. Did they steal anything from you?” Anne nodded.
“My ring that grandma Barbara gave me and a lot of other things.”
“So, you did something to help another person and because of that you are under attack. Look at it like this, it can make you a stronger person.”
“I don't feel stronger right now.” Anne said.
“In the beginning you usually don't. It's important to remember what this is. This is not punishment, it's a form of persecution. There are bad forces in the world that do not want to see good things happen and do not want justice to prevail. They are always looking to cause pain and trouble How you react to it can either weaken you or strengthen you.” Grandma took her hand and stared meaningfully at her.
“Do not let this prevent you from helping others. Do not let the actions of monsters like this to frighten you into silence. You are never alone. You have your family and the One above for strength, always. They would like nothing more than to see you bend down in defeat. Do not!” Do not be frightened. I will not be frightened. Anne chanted silently. She didn't have her ring but she did have her ribbon that grandma Veronica had given her, tied around her iron hammer, Star. They finished their ice cream.
“I'm glad I can talk to you grandma.”
“So am I. Remember, there is strength and help in many places of the world when you are having a trial.”
“I know grandma. I know.”
After helping mama with making preserves Anne went out to the backyard to the pond. The koi fish pond had been repaired and the fish replaced. She lay on the paved stone rim, stretching out her arms and putting her hands on the warm grass. She dangled her feet in the cool water and thought of the first koi fish that once swam here. It was nice to have the new ones but the old ones could not be replaced. They hadn't deserved to be torn apart. The goblins hadn't even bothered to really eat them. They just killed them and left them on the ground. This dampened her feelings of happiness over summer break. However, there were things to be happy for.
She was happy that school was finally out and she'd have all summer to play. There was writing camp later but that wasn't real work, that was fun. Watching the thin, crystal clouds high in the sky float by and feeling the hot sun on her face this late morning she thought about her conversation with grandma Veronica. Something needed to be done. Like grandma had said, it wouldn't do to sit around and be afraid. That's probably what Stinkthief wanted and she was sure Stinkthief was behind it. The problem was, no doorway had opened up recently and she didn't know how to open one herself. Yet. She hadn't even seen the ginger cat. Zi was probably very busy as he was a fairy of summer. And he usually showed up right when she needed him. She felt a nibbling on one of her toes, then on several of them. The tickling made her sit up and gaze into the water. Dad had bought even more fish this time and they were all so pretty, their scales glistening and rippling with many colors under the water. She had not even given the previous fish names and these did not have names either. When she lifted her legs out of the water they quickly swam away from the surface. She splashed the water playfully, bringing up a light spray of cool water over her face. Something larger than a koi fish was staring up at her from the pond. She thought at first that it might have been her imagination but then it swam up and crowned at the surface under the tiny waterfall. It cooed and gurgled at her, then moved closer, diving under and flipping its bright green tail. Its head appeared just above the surface again.
It was a baby mermaid!
As soon she tried to reach out and touch the baby, it disappeared beneath the surface. Just then she heard someone call her name. It was Jordan.
“Hey, what's up?” He was hopping along on his bike by the back fence. Anne ran to the fence careful to avoid stepping into the thorny blackberry bushes.
“Actually, some weird stuff. . .” She glanced over at the koi pond.
“Stuff like what?”
“We got back from the beach last month, right after you and I went to Other Land, and when we got back our house was trashed! Did you see anything strange too?” At this Jordan's face turned white and he stood still, nearly falling off his bike.
“Yes! We heard strange noises in the house. For a couple of weeks actually. Every morning we would find something broken. At first we thought it was the dog but he never breaks anything. But Tiger would bark wildly nearly all night long in the backyard so we finally brought him inside so the neighbors would stop complaining. Well, one night we heard Tiger growling ferociously. He was so angry that he sounded like a bear or some werewolf. It was weird. It even scared my dad and he isn't scared of anything. Then we heard a lot of noise and what sounded like Tiger fighting with some animal and then Tiger yelped like he was hurt. We all ran downstairs and saw Tiger lying in the floor in a pool of blood. He had a nasty wound on his side but he also had a limb in his mouth!”
“Yup. My mom and dad had no idea what it was. They thought it was opossum or a massive mutant rat that got in the house but I'm telling you, it was a goblin arm!” Jordan lowered his voice.
“They hurt your dog?”
“Yes. He's ok now. We took him to the animal hospital that night.”
“That's horrible! I'm so glad I don't have a pet. They stole my leather bag full of objects and even my silver ring.”
“What are you going to do?”
“I'm not sure but I still have my hammer.”
“Nothing was stolen at my house. I still have my bow and arrows. What do you think we should do?”
“We can't let it scare us. That's what they want. I'm going back. But I don't have the things I need. Otherwise, you could just follow me.”
“Actually, I've got a key! Made of chicken bone from a fairy that turns into a purple dragonfly when she visits me. I just have to find a doorway now.”
“You have your own key? That's great!” Which made her feel even worse. She felt her fortunes falling while his were rising. Sadness and frustration was overwhelming her again.
“That was Mera. I met her once.”
“Yup. That's her name! We'll talk soon. I have swim lessons later. I'm definitely going back when I can find a way in!”
“If you find a doorway that opens let me know. I'm going back to get my stuff and to find Stinkthief! He's got to be behind this!”
“He almost killed my dog! Stinkthief must pay!” Said Jordan. He held his hand out and she high-fived him and he rode off. Just as Anne was feeling that everything was against her she remembered that another way in had just opened. She looked over at the koi fish pond and then walked to its edge. The fish were swimming along happily, their scales shining in the reflected sunlight. Beneath them was a faint light source emanating from deep below. Anne was delighted. The merbabe was gone but it had been there, seeming to summon her forth once again to the fairy world. And then she wondered, whose limb did Tiger bite off anyway?
She awoke from a barely remembered dream. One that led her through floating ribbons of color and gentle faces that sang strange lullabies to her. Lying in bed she gazed at the replacement bag that she'd managed to fish out of the basement. It was a rather nice bag. Smaller than her other one, slightly newer looking but it wasn't her real bag. What could she do?
The moon was high and full and its milky light bathed her bedroom. A light breeze fluttered the curtains. She yawned and turned over and tried to go back to sleep. There was a strange noise outside. At first she thought she'd imagined it. She froze, straining to listen. Not hearing anything else she closed her eyes. Then it came again.
“Aaayeee! Aaayeee!” Then there was a squeaking sound after it, like a dolphin's call. Anne sat up and went to the window. The soft wavering light she'd seen yesterday emanated from the koi pond. She only had on her night gown but it was far too hot to put on more clothes. Still, she stuffed a light sweater into her new bag along with her hammer and her two new moonstones and made her way silently down the stairs.
“Zi?” She whispered. She made her way towards the kitchen and peered out of the back door window. From there the light was even brighter. She carefully and quietly unlocked the door and pushed open the screen door.
“Zi?” She carefully closed the screen door.
“Aaayee! Aaayee!” The voice called. It certainly wasn't Zi. Maybe the merbabe came back? The water in the pond was rippling in waves. Many colors rippled in thin curtains of light; red, orange, blue, green and violet. She crept closer to the edge of the water and looked in. Among the fish were other creatures. There, right in the middle of the group was the little mermaid baby. She swam to the surface and poked her head out from the water. Then one of the other creatures swam to the surface, a mermaid. She had long purple hair, a purple tail and yellow patterns over her body. She beckoned for Anne to come into the water and the baby squealed and gurgled.
Do not worry. You will not drown if you swim with us. Come with us, Anne, and we will take you to the shores of Other Land. She heard a voice say in her mind.
“But how did you know?”
My babe was sent to seek you out and show you a way back in. She could hear the voice of the mermaid in her head. Anne closed the flap down on her bag and slipped into the water. Hands took her up gently and the merbabe squealed happily. Anne sank into the pond, finally submerged and she could see the bottom. Below the stone walls of the pond at the bottom there was a swirling vortex of color. She could see the koi fish darting about as the school of mermaids and mermen took her down with them through the vortex. They were beautiful, colorful and graceful in their movements. They held her tightly in their circle as their long, graceful tails and fins swayed in the water.
Anne felt her lungs fill with water and then – she could breath as if she had gills all along. They traveled far down and then out of the tunneling vortex where they reached an open sea. They swam over vast underwater forests of trees and seaweed, mountains and valleys. Anne caught glimpses of mighty sea dragons, a giant squid, schools of fish and seahorses, castles of whale bones and corals and burly mermen holding huge conch shells and swimming to and fro in front of the coral palaces.
They swam until finally the ground became higher as they floated to shore. The mother of the baby turned to Anne.
You may thank our Lady Mother, Lady Pearl. She heard your song-desire in your dreams to come back to this world.
They took her to the shoreline of a long, white sandy beach. It was the southern edge of the southern forests.
Our realm ends here, Anne. Perhaps one day you can visit us. So long and may fortune lift you upon its waves.
She felt many hands and the tide pushing and carrying her toward to the beach. The merbabe cooed and the merpeople said their farewells as Anne floated on the tide to the shore.
A ways off she could see the tall bloodwoods and blackwoods along the edge of the beach. It was just before dawn and the horizon was a series of color bands fading into each other, dusky rose, violet and midnight blue near the crown of the sky. The stars glittered like polished jewels, the air was warm and all was quiet except the lapping waters along the shore. The white sands sparkled faintly. She squeezed as much water as she could from her hair and gown and wiped the sand from her legs as best she could. Then she started off. To the west she could see Old Tree in the distance, standing like a fulcrum point in the very center of the universe. However, Old Tree did not tell the time and she had no time piece and no Way Wanderer. Listening and watching carefully she made her way into the woods towards Old Tree, thinking that she might find Zi or even Mera. If she didn't bump into anyone she knew she might ask Old Tree, if Old Tree was even awake. If not, she would think of something. Walking through the forest without a clear pathway was hard work and after a long while she was out of breath. Anne sat under a wide fern frond to rest, watching a few fireflies flit away when she heard the noise of many feet coming towards her hiding place. Staying as quiet as a fox pup she watched and waited, putting her hand in her bag to grab hold of Star at any moment. She was ready when they came close to her hiding place. She recognized one of them. Them being a troupe of brownies, that is. One of them had pale, blonde pigtails. It was the girl she recognized with Mortimer's troupe at the Mirrored Lake. They looked like scouts on a mission. Wondering whether or not she should come out of hiding she immediately found that this was unnecessary. One of them, the one in pigtails, sensed her presence and they went searching around the bush. The fern frond was pushed away and then there was a very surprised look.
“It's you! Anne! I know you!”
“What are you doing hiding here? What brings you out this way?”
“Goblins?” They all exclaimed.
“They attacked my home and stole some important things from me.”
“You came here because they stole a few trinkets?” Asked one of them snidely. Anne gave him a quizzical look.
“They weren't trinkets and they also wrecked the house and killed my pet fish.” She said. He made a face but said nothing.
“Gandy, are you saying that we have a right to be angry because the goblins wrecked and stole what is ours but when it happens to mortals it doesn't matter?” She asked. The other brownies just shrugged. She rolled her eyes.
“Anyway, I forgot to introduce myself. My name is Pilly and this here is Doran. Come with us, Anne. We are on our way home. Or what we call home, for now.” The others seemed curious about her. Except Gandy, who stood apart from the rest of the group.
“You see, we've been waging a war with the hobgoblins all spring. They've taken over our homes, especially Knoll Hilly. Knoll Hilly is the place where all brownies would gather during important times during a season. The place where the Grand Toadstool stands. Most of us had family who once lived there long ago and it was always the brownie homeland since The Beginning.”
“Our ancestral place allowed by the First Law. The hobgoblins pushed all brownies out. Greedy, lazy rats!”
“They won't build places of their own, they just steal from others.” Said Doran.
“They plan to steal all of the surrounding places where we live. Places like The Mirrored Lake.” Said Pilly. Anne gasped.
“You can't let them ruin the lake! Not again! Isn't that part of your home too?” They all nodded.
“Once, long ago,” Said Pilly, “giants came tromping through the land. They were traveling to the mountains. They were eating great big apples and pears – for you see, back then fruit was as big as boulders and the trees they grew from as big as Old Tree – and they spit the seeds out. Some of those seeds fell upon the earth near a large clearing in the middle of the southern forests, between the western forests and the sea. Over time the seeds became so hard and calcified that they became like rocks. We called them mounds. Brownies love rock-filled places, so many brownies came to dwell in that place. Great Old Knoll, a brownie as big and powerful as a goblin lead the first group there and called it Knoll Hilly, a place for us all to live or travel to during festivals and it was our home until the hobgoblins came.” Doran spoke up again.
“You see, our ancestral home stretches from Knoll Hilly to the edge of the southern forests and even to the Mirrored Lake. We do not rule the land the way others might rule over land but we lived there in peace with other creatures.”
“Goblins do not understand peace. They do not like it.” Said Pilly.
“Then we will give them what they like, a sound whipping until they get the point.” Snapped Gandy. The others murmured in agreement.
“Goblins are a vengeful race. What did you do to attract their notice, Anne?” Asked Pilly.
“Well, one hobgoblin in particular, who I first saw at the Dark Mountain fortress, stole some important golden objects for the Fairy King. He was planning something very bad with those objects. Jordan and I got them back. After that, they attacked my home.”
“So it was you that was the cause of the Fairy King's wrath a moon ago! You and that other meddling mortal child!” Gandy's tone was so venomous that Anne took a step back.
“Gandy! Would you rather the Fairy King be able to fulfill his plan?” Asked Doran.
“I would rather mortals stay out of fairy business! Who knows how many fairy folk died that day because of them?”
“Who knows how many more would have died if they hadn't thwarted him!” Snapped Doran. Pilly waved them both to silence.
“Day is coming and it will soon be time for us to mount another attack. Come with us, Anne. We would be glad of your help.”
“I'm glad to give it.” Pilly took her hand and she marched along with them. She found the sullen one staring hard at her out of the corner of his eye. When she tried to make eye contact with him, he scowled and turned away.