The Scrolls of Udanadar
Have you ever questioned the purpose of your existence? Felt insignificant in the great scheme of the universe? In The Scrolls of Udanadar, a young adult fantasy novel for the whole family, young Bartholomew Fix finds out what can happen when the universe decides to answer those questions. Infected with the spirit of adventure by the bite of the Wandering Bug, he is compelled to seek out an agent of the universe who transports him to another planet in need of his off-world energy and awakens in the home of a great urKa'uun.
There is no magic, only Ka'uun- the energy of creation- provided by the planet's spirit; the urKa'uun are its users. Bartholomew learns quickly how to use it and sets out on an important mission with the urKa'uun's other ward, Yuari, a skilled girl born of the wild-wise Duvar, to bring back the Scrolls of Udanadar, for the Thousand-Year King is dying too soon and the scrolls may contain the answers. Failure would bring all-out war between the Realm and the Urilok, an ancient and fierce enemy.
But a simple mission is never so simple and soon the two find themselves traveling the realm on an exciting quest where they discover danger, a budding romance and humor in the most unlikely places. Once a naïve, self-absorbed boy, Bartholomew grows into a brave hero by learning what it is to sacrifice in order to achieve a higher goal.
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The seeking soul, the unquenchable yearning and wandering soul, is a restless soul. It is a beacon calling out for rescue, a ship with no port. For those with this malady, there is a cure, a place to wander away to for adventure and satisfy the hunger. It lay at the end of a misty dark road, at the end of Apple Orchard Way. But if one were to approach closer, it could be seen that all was not dark, that little flecks of light danced a firefly ballet, lighting the mystical gloom—a beacon for wandering souls. Such is a place of the whispering sort, the subject of townsfolk behind veiled, covered mouths, furtive glances, and quick darting eyes. But the wandering type, they know where to go—to the porch, to the hearth, to be taken in by one who is known as Thomas O’Thomas McQuinn.
Now Thomas O’Thomas, as he liked to be called, was an Irishy fellow on the short side of tall. He had a fiery-red beard from his chest to his chin, sparkly green eyes, and a fierce, friendly grin. The townsfolk never knew when they came through the town—the wandering ones, walking as though they knew where to go. And they did, in a mystical way, a calling like no other for their adventurous hearts. Quietly they went without stopping a bit, not for a meal at Mrs. Tuttleby’s, known five counties wide for the tastiest of fare anyone could eat; not even at Killebrew’s, a quaint coffee shop right on the corner, an unavoidable stop where could be had a gooey-type pastry and a freshly brewed Coffeenator .
Thomas O’Thomas knew, sitting there sometimes on his porch or sometimes by the fire, rocking patiently. He knew—something in the wind told him, maybe a bug. At those times, he would have a big pot of steaming stew, bubbling lustily on the stove, and a fresh loaf of homey bread—warm to the touch, the hearty, stew-mopping kind.
As it happened one night, when the lights were all down, with the sun tucked away in its nightly repose, and the moon for some reason wished not to be shown, the wandering bug flitted into O’Thomas’s very own town. It was a cozy town, not far from the big city but far enough for those who commuted daily to get a breath of fresh air, suiting O’Thomas just fine.
The bug moved through the night with purpose and direction; it knew where to go, what to do, and whom to see. A soul calling out for adventure was the irresistible scent—going from one to another, always searching for the next hungry heart, fulfilling its eternal purpose.
The wandering bug darted over the roof of Mr. Mulberry’s grocery store and across the town square where it startled the Lattimer’s cat as it was about to pluck one of the town’s prized koi from the central fountain; a gaudy thing that nobody liked but were too polite to say about it what they really felt. Next, the bug sped down Thistle Creek Way until it came to the Great Oak of Dandybrook, which was said to have saved the town once.
Nobody knew for sure what that story entailed, but it had something to do with acorns, or so thought the town librarian, Mr. Binder. Nobody even knew why it was called the Great Oak of Dandybrook, since Dandybrook was not even the town’s name.
From there, the bug turned down Cottonwood Lane and headed for the open bedroom window on the second story of the third house on the right from the end, the blue one with the broken porch light.
In through the window, the bug silently slipped, passing neatly between the thin metal wires of the screen and dipped down to the boy sleeping fitfully on the bed by the door, his covers in a confused mess by his feet. He dreamed of wondrous things and exciting places, yet they were only his dreams. The wandering bug landed softly on a spot just behind the boy’s left ear and, ever so gently, bit him. As simple as that, the boy was on a path that would forever change his life. Its job done, the little bug, the peculiar bug, the bug of extraordinary purpose, flitted out the window on a course for its next adventurous soul.
A Man and His Porch
Enormous armies clashed on the field below, two seething masses of bodies pressing relentlessly against each other, their polished armor and steel weapons flaring brilliantly as streaks of lightning arced through the air. Dueling wizards ripped the azure bolts from a churning, shrouded sky to hurl upon their enemies—raining death.
He flew above it all, a heroic figure astride a great beast of a golden dragon, his golden helm gleaming with unearthly light. Gigantic dragon wings that could topple castle walls beat majestically. Its powerful jaws could crush their towers. Rider and beast scanned the scene, gliding, banking, and searching for their archenemy—the Dark Lord.
His Grand Army of the Light was losing this crucial battle; he needed to end it quickly. There was one thing he knew would draw the Dark Lord from his concealment.
At an unspoken signal, the fearsome gold rolled into a powerful dive, slightly tucking its wings and plummeting at an incredible speed. Air whistled past the rider’s helm as he tucked low to his mount, its heat warm to his cheek, and suffused with the exhilaration of free fall. Terror struck the front ranks of the enemy horde as its huge maw opened wide, drawing a deep breath.
Lightning bolts raked its scaly sides to no effect, cast in a desperate attempt to thwart the strafing run. The hero laughed as he deflected, with magic bracers, those bolts that found him, mocking the wizards who thought they could so easily defeat him.
An inferno spewed forth from the behemoth, burning through the enemy ranks, causing chaos as the helpless soldiers tried to flee. Wings snapped out fully, lifting the dragon from its run and sending it streaking back into the sky. There, black against the dark clouds waited the Dark Lord and his equally great black dragon, holding the advantage.
The black plunged toward them, roaring its hatred—declaring in its way that this war would end then and there, declaring that darkness would reign supreme. Raising his massive war hammer above his head with a heavily muscled arm, Bartholomew’s war cry rang out, piercing the din of battle and reaching the halls of the gods. The war hammer glowed silver sensing the evil nearby and sought its destruction.
The gap between beasts vanished quickly as they hurtled toward each other. The Dark Lord raised his wicked scimitar above a great, horned helm that emanated despair and gave an answering cry. The fearless dragons collided in a fury of talons and teeth. Clutched together, they fell, rending and tearing—Breep breep breep!
“Wha—? Oh maaan!” The piercing alarm jolted him awake; he had forgotten to change it for the weekend. It had been his best dream ever. His heart still pounded, and sweat lay on his brow.
He tried for a while to go back to sleep and recapture the dream, but the energetic sun snuck past his blinds into his room and plucked at his eyes until he had no choice but to wake up. He sat up and swung his feet to the floor, absentmindedly slipping on his fuzzy, green alien-headed house slippers, excitement still coursing in his blood. Something was different, but he could not quite put his finger on it; the colors seemed brighter, the air fresher, and odors were more, well . . . odorous—especially breakfast.
Bartholomew sprang to his feet and raced down the stairs. Saturday morning breakfast awaited him at the kitchen table: piles of delicious nut-infused waffles, savory sausages, and a steaming heap of scrambled eggs—all to be washed down with freshly squeezed orange juice. Everything appeared to be so spectacularly delicious that he could not wait to dig in.
“Morning, sweetie, how did you sleep?” his mother asked, her amber eyes looking up from her newspaper to regard him. “You seem energetic this morning.” She was seated at the opposite end of the
table set in the breakfast nook and framed by a bay window looking out into the backyard. She was a pretty woman that age seemed reluctant to touch. Her hair, a lustrous black, was cut to shoulder length and tucked neatly behind her ears. “Of course, it’s waffle day!” the boy declared. “I slept great. Can I eat?” Not waiting for a response, he began loading his plate.
“Of course, it won’t eat itself, and the others will be down soon, so you might as well get a jump on them,” she replied.
In the Fix household, “sleeping in” on the weekend meant an hour later than normal school time. If you stayed up late the night before, that was your choice and your problem. Only the sick were given mercy.
The kitchen, spacious and well furnished, bordered the nook. There was an island stove in the center, and shiny pots and pans hung from a rack above. Two batter-covered waffle makers, their job done, rested on the surface, accompanied by a large batter-besmirched glass mixing bowl. Granite counters, cherry cabinets, and stainless steel appliances completed the look.
It reflected the house as a whole—comfortable, well provided, and the needs of those living within taken care of.
Smiling around a cup of hot coffee cradled in both hands, having set aside the paper, she watched him pile his food on his plate. “Don’t I even get a good morning kiss first?”
“Where’s Dad?” Bartholomew asked, scooting over to give his mother a kiss.
“He got called in to work today. There was a big car wreck on the highway, and doctors were needed.”
“Oh,” he said, looking crestfallen, “is he going to be long?”
She smiled wanly, “I’m afraid so, honey. He said it was pretty bad.”
“Oh . . . we were supposed to go to the batting cages today, just like last weekend and the one before that.” He paused, staring at his food for a moment and then shrugged. “It doesn’t matter. I’ve got better things to do anyway.” He sulkily stuffed a chunk of waffle into his mouth.
“I know it’s hard to understand, sweetie, but his job is important and demanding, and it puts food on the table.” She felt bad looking over and seeing his sad face. “We have to make sacrifices sometimes.”
“Yeah, well, some get sacrificed more than others. It’s no problem, no big deal anyway.”
She sighed heavily, not sure anything she said would help change his limited worldview. “Do you want to go with me on some errands?”
He gave her a halfhearted smile. “No, that’s okay, Mom. I’ll figure something out.”
“Maybe Zachary or Elena will do something with you.”
“Maybe,” he shrugged, knowing that his brother was not about to do anything with him. He was four years older and more interested in hanging out with his college friends. Also, it was definitely not cool for his sister to be seen hanging with her younger brother, not that he would want to anyway; she was more into the mall, trying on clothes and doing girly things. His eldest brother, who he liked the best, had already moved out and married and was living in another town.
“I’ll just go over to Mike’s and see what’s up. Maybe he’ll want to juggle knives or play dodge car on the highway or something,” he finished glumly.
“Sound’s nice. Have fun, and don’t be too late. It’s still early though, so why don’t you do your chores first?” She reached over and tousled his black, curly hair, not worrying about messing it up as it had yet to be introduced to a comb that morning.
He finished his breakfast, which had suddenly lost its Saturday deliciousness and scurried out of the kitchen toward his room. As he was reaching the top of the stairs, his brother came stumbling out of his cave, scraggly-headed and groggy, his hair just as curly and dark.
“Morning, Zachary,” he greeted him.
“Morning, dirt clod,” Zachary croaked while rubbing his sleepy eyes. He was a couple of inches shorter than Bartholomew, but stockier, and had played fullback on his high school football team.
“Whatever, Zack,” he shot back, not in the mood for games. His brother hated being called that because he thought it sounded stupid. “You wanna go do something today?”
“With you?” he asked, trying to focus a bleary eye on him.
“Yes, with me.”
“Nah, I’m going over to Carlos’s to study for a big test and do grown-up things.”
“I could come, I wouldn’t be a problem.”
“And do what?”
“He’s got video games, doesn’t he? I could do that while you study.”
“Yeah, ain’t happening. He thinks you’re a dweeb anyway.”
“Whatever.” Fix turned toward the bathroom. But before he could reach his destination, Elena jetted past him, leaving behind a vapor trail of fruity lip-balm as she shut and locked the door quickly. “Hey!” he called. “I was heading there first!”
“Too bad! Go away, creep!” Although he loved his sister, he found her to be a self-absorbed little pain in the neck, literally, as she stood only five foot three. In contrast to the otherwise black-haired family, she had dyed hers blonde in order to stand out more.
I am so outta here, he thought, heading for his room where he quickly changed and went outside after visiting the downstairs half bath and rushing through his chores.
Bartholomew never made it to his friend’s house, not that he really intended on going there anyway. Instead, he took the first steps along the path to an incredible journey, not that he knew it at the time, of course.
The universe was in observance at that moment which has so inadequately been labeled as time. It was focused, however briefly, on a single point, on a single life among countless gazillions in the universe, wandering aimlessly on a lone planet tucked away in a cozy little solar system.
The target of its attention moped down the street, feeling somehow there had to be something special about that day, having awakened so excited and alive. He could not shake the sense that something was different. But as he walked through suburbia, he looked at all the perfectly spaced houses, with their perfect little lawns, sharing sameness that defied any sense of creativity or wonder. The two-story houses looked alike, and the single-storied ones looked alike, the only difference might be the color.
Blah! he said to himself. Blah, blah, blah! He began to think that this day being any different was all in his imagination. He kicked a rock, sending it bouncing down the road.
Pausing at the end of his street under the Great Oak, he leaned sullenly against the rough bark of its trunk and picked up a handful of large acorns, tossing them idly while he reflected on how unimportant his life was, how mundane and boring. To have something happen, some meaningful adventure come his way where he could be the hero and save the day, would make it all worthwhile; anything to rise above the faceless masses. If only the morning’s dream could be real.
I’m just another drop in the ocean, he thought sulkily. Meaningless in the grand scheme of things.
Unbeknownst to him, many things had become set in motion, which Bartholomew might have noticed had he been a little more aware and a little less absorbed in his misery, for the force that was the universe did not like such insults or take blame for random acts of useless creation.
The great oak groaned, a deep, long one grown of ages, as its leaves chattered a thousand voices of indignation. A petulant wind blew, carrying with it a dust sprite that briefly spat at him before moving on, but he did not notice; he did not hear it talking to him. Neither did he notice the Lattimer’s dog pause in the search for its long buried and forgotten bone, to stare at him, cautiously sniffing the air.
Such things lasted a moment and were gone—unseen clues to the world. No, there was a purpose, maybe not readily apparent, but it was there to be discovered. It was a matter of choice to find it or not, but then, sometimes people needed a little push in the right direction.
“Ow!” he cried out suddenly, reaching for the back of his neck to pull whatever it was off. He held between his fingers a large, wriggling black ant. “Et tu, Antus?” he queried, briefly looking at it and then letting it drop to the ground.
It was a victim of circumstance really, not actually having done anything. It just happened to be in the place where the wandering bug had bitten, and at a time when the bite chose to spur Bartholomew into action.
Stuffing his hands, along with the remaining acorns, into his pockets, he began to wander off in no particular direction; at least none of which he was aware. But it just so happened, he wandered down Thistle Creek Way and into the town center where the gaudy fountain sprayed water enthusiastically in every direction, not because it was designed to do so, but because the nozzles had crusted over with deposits, preventing the water from flowing freely.
It also just so happened that he passed by Mulberry’s grocery store, where the fruits and vegetables were proudly displayed as agricultural wonders from Mr. Mulberry’s own farm. The tomatoes were plump, ripe, and luscious; the apples sinfully red; and the cabbages, well, they were cabbages, and Bartholomew did not care much for them. There were plenty of other scrumptious things, but he was too preoccupied with wandering to notice.
As it was still the period between early and late morning on a sleepy Saturday, there was not much activity in a town of small stature. Most of the shops that ringed the town hub had not yet opened, except ones dealing with food. Those few people that were out and about cast secretive, side-long glances at him as if there was something odd about his presence.
Next he came to Killebrew’s, where in spite of everything, he had to stop. Ducking inside to the jingle of a bell exposed him to the grand aroma of fresh coffee. He breathed in deep to satisfy his nostrils then stepped up to the counter, purchasing for himself The Double Doubler, a truly huge cup of Coffeenator that was said to have kept Johnny Bottoms awake for three days after he drank two in a row on a dare.
With a smile on his face and cup in hand, Bartholomew then proceeded along the street coming upon Mrs. Tuttleby’s, and had he not just eaten, he might have been tempted to make a detour there also. As it was, he kept moving on to the dire squawking of the Lattimer’s parrot, perched on the brown and white striped awning over the entrance.
“Repent! Squaaawk! Repent!” it warned. “The end is near! Squaaawk!” But Fix took no notice.
Before long, he was out past the east end of town, heading down the country road, someplace he had only ever had a few occasions to be. As the last pristine house of Mr. and Mrs. Everwhite—with its perfectly laid-out garden falling victim to the Lattimer’s rooting pig—slowly slipped behind him out of view, he began to notice his surroundings.
Bartholomew stopped in his tracks, confused at how he had gotten there. Looking in his hands, he did not even remember getting the coffee. A few moments of reflection allowed him to figure out where he was, but oddly, he did not care to turn back. Seeing as how this was somewhat unexplored territory to him, he determined to treat it as a little adventure and see where his feet would take him. After all, it wasn’t his fault that he didn’t get to go to the batting cages. Everything seemed different, almost unreal, deserving of a closer look.
To say unreal would not be quite right, because it was definitely real, but there was a certain quality that made Fix’s dormant senses pick up an otherness, which made it not quite real. The cheerful, chirrupy singing of the birds was so crystal-clear and rich as to be virtually everywhere; the breeze smelling so sweet and fresh, caressing his face with gentle, cool fingers, was invigorating; and the plump, colorful peaches hanging from the trees, which coincidentally grew along Apple Orchard Way,
enticed his eyes and his taste buds. Just to sit a carefree day in their shade, snacking on the succulent fruit would be a moment of heaven.
However, he did not stop. He felt the urge to keep moving until the shadows began to lengthen, and the great sun headed for its bed to be tucked in by the horizon.
Subconsciously, he noted how quickly the day had gone. It seemed that just a short time ago it had only been approaching noon, and yet dusk had come and was packing its bags to go. Yet something inside Fix did not let him ponder too long on such petty, insignificant details.
Finally, as the dimmer switch of day was turned down to its final point, Bartholomew approached the quaint, old house hidden in the shade of oak trees, while a dance of fireflies played out in front of it. A chill trickled in on rivulets of air, unnoticed, until one suddenly wondered if a coat might be a good idea. And yet sitting on the cheerily lit porch, rocking to and fro in his chair, seemingly without a care in the world, was a short man whose long pipe stretched down to his belly before deciding to curve back up again to end in a wide bowl. Its stark whiteness stood out brilliantly against the man’s fiery beard as he happily puffed away.
Bartholomew paused, not sure what to do, but he somehow knew that this was the place where he was supposed to be. The light flowed out from the porch, and where it stopped, he stood just beyond watching the peculiar fellow, who was wearing a green cardigan sweater over a white shirt and tan khakis. Stories had been told of the place at the end of Apple Orchard Way, but no one he knew had ever been there, and surely someone would have been down that way, for it was not such an out-of-the-way journey. Nobody believed it anyway; it was just a story. So he stood and wondered, wondered if this was that fabled place.
“Come, my boy!” The man called out, his voice rich and hearty with a friendly, welcoming tone. “Don’t be shy.” He had not even looked at Bartholomew while addressing him.
Fix approached and cautiously mounted the few creaky steps up the porch, almost as if he expected them to give way and send him down some devious trap. “Come, come, and let me ’ave a look at you. I’ve been expectin’ you fer quite some time.” Fix moved into the light. “Ah now, a fine young boy! Quite ready for an adventure, I’d venture to say. How ’bout you?”
“Well, sir—” Bartholomew began.
“Well said!” The little man interjected, hopping to his feet, beaming a fierce, friendly grin as he vigorously shook the boy’s hand. “I’m Thomas O’Thomas McQuinn at your service, and mighty pleased to meet you.”
“Yes, well, so you are! I know all about you, my young Mr. Bartholomew Fix.”
“H—how do you know all about me? Are you a stalker or something?” he asked, a little spooked by that statement.
“Akh, no, laddie, the universe told me. It has got somethin’ right special planned fer you, as you managed to ruffle its feathers a bit. You made it a little upset, see, so it’s got a point to be makin’. Please, you must be ravenously hungry, as most adventurers are, so come inside and ’ave a bite before we talk.” O’Thomas grabbed him by the elbow and led him inside.
Bartholomew was too stunned to say much at this point, as everything was moving so fast and so unexpectedly. He was not sure that he liked the idea that the universe knew exactly who he was, but he did become suddenly aware of the hunger burning inside of him.
“I—I really shouldn’t be going into strangers’ homes,” Fix said, trying to manage a protest.
“Quite right! That is a good safety tip, but I’m no stranger, though I may act strangely at times. No, you’ve known me fer as long as you can remember. You’ll know it if you stew on it awhile. Speaking of stew, I’ve got a load of it, and ya wouldn’t want it to go to waste now, would ya?”
Ravenous he was, and his stomach let him know it, so he let himself be guided by the peculiar fellow to a plain, wooden table set by a roaring fire, which had suspended over it a huge, black, cast-iron
pot. Aromas virtually pranced on the thick air to run willy-nilly at Fix’s nose and up his nostrils. He could barely wait to sit down and eat whatever was in there; it could be mud for all he cared.
O’Thomas ladled him out some thick, hearty stew into an oversized, wooden bowl and served it to the boy with a chunk of warm bread. “That’s right, boy, eat up. There’s more where that came from. We’ll talk after. Would you like me to warm that up fer ya?”
O’Thomas gestured with the dripping ladle at the cup still in Fix’s hand. “That there.”
Bartholomew looked down, still surprised he had it. “Uh, no, I’m good.”
“All righty then, enjoy.” He moved to nearby chair to sit back with pipe in mouth and watch Bartholomew eat.
Bartholomew was oblivious to everything around him as he devoured his meal, going back for more as his cheery host studied him, puffing all the while on his pipe and sending an occasional smoke ring to the rafters.
“This stew is delicious,” he commented at one point.
“Aye, it’s got special ingredients and has been simmering for quite some time, so they blend just right,” O’Thomas replied with a note of whimsy.
Fix paused eating. “Yeah, that’s the secret to a good stew. My mom will start hers in the morning and slow-cook it all day, so the meat is nice and tender. How long do you cook yours?”
The little man pulled the pipe from his mouth and spoke reflectively. “Oh, I’d say this here stew has been simmering nigh on fifteen years now.”
“Fifteen years?” Fix laughed. “There’s nothing that cooks that long! Fifteen years ago would be about when I was born!”
“Aye, quite a coincidence, wouldn’t ya say?”
“No, because it’s impossible,” he responded, thinking O’Thomas was just having fun with him.
“Hmmm, so’s you say. You’d be surprised at what is and is not possible.” He popped his pipe back into his mouth and gave the boy a wink.
After he was done, Fix was invited to a cozy sitting room where blazed a much smaller fire. The wood floor was covered with a thick, Persian carpet faded by years of use. Over the fireplace hung a painting of a four-masted sailing vessel of a unique design that Fix did not recognize. It sailed stormy seas over fluorescent waves.
On the other walls were many other paintings depicting various nature scenes, some with oddly colored skies or strange trees. There were no electric lamps in the room, just big candles that did not seem to have been used at all, though they were lit. One richly dark table sat off-center between two chairs, unadorned yet still exuding craftsmanship.
Curiously, being of a significant height advantage over O’Thomas, Fix noticed as he glanced down during their change in settings that the pipe bowl had no tobacco in it, yet it smoked. Again strangeness washed over Bartholomew, but frankly, he just did not know what to do about it for the time being.
He was shown to a very comfortable, overstuffed chair facing the fire, and shortly thereafter, a tray bearing hot cocoa and a pastry found its way to his lap. O’Thomas took up a seat in a companion chair that also faced the fire, but angled it so that they could see each other.
“Now, as I have said,” the little man began, “I am Thomas O’Thomas McQuinn, but you may call me O’Thomas, Thomas, Tom, Thomas O’Thomas, or even O, if you prefer. But you may never address me as Mr. McQuinn. Got it, my boy?”
“Or that,” he grinned.
“Yes, O’Thomas,” Fix corrected himself, unable to contain his own grin, feeling a bit of excitement.
“Good, now that that is settled, on to business,” O’Thomas said, rubbing his palms together. “Now we must determine what type of adventurer you are.”
“I have a question,” Fix interrupted before he could begin.
“Aye, and what might that be?” O’Thomas inquired, taking a puff from his pipe and sending a ring into the air.
“Who are you?”
“Well, now, that’s such a big question, and you’re such a small lad. You haven’t much world about you, so I don’t know if you’d really understand.”
“Are you a leprechaun?”
With a twinkle in his eye, he leaned forward and looked intently at the boy. “Do you think I’m a leprechaun? Do you know what one looks like?”
“And if I be one, are ya wantin’ to seize me and take me pot o’gold?” he asked emphatically with raised, quizzical eyebrows, laying on a thicker Irish accent.
“No no, not at all!” Bartholomew protested. “Your gold is yours, I don’t want it. It’s just that, well, I mean, you have a pipe with no tobacco, and you knew I was coming. And you look a little Irish-like. How is that?”
“Ah, now you see, this here is a politically correct pipe. It doesn’t use any tobacco, so there is no second-hand smoke and the like. Very rare indeed it is, but you probably wouldn’t be understandin’ that, as you’re so young and all, and things are so impossible. It was brought back to me by someone who went on a very special adventure. As for the other, I just have a knack for certain things, and I’m a good listener, so when the universe talks, I hear. I suppose that and an accent make me a leprechaun, does it?”
“Well . . . I don’t know. Do you have a family?”
“Indeed I do, and the funny thing is, we all do the same line of business. It’s been fated to us, I’m assuming. I cover the Americas, my brother Seamus O’Seamus McQuinn is in Africa. My other brother Paddy O’Paddy and Patrick O’Patrick both cover Asia, seeing as how it is so big with so many people. And then there is Quinn O’Quinn McQuinn who remained in Ireland and has Europe. Anyway, there are more of us, but let’s get on to business.”
“What a strange bunch of names for a family.”
O’Thomas laughed, “I’m just tuggin’ on your left shoe there, boy-o. It’s just me. I’m the only one, and I guarantee that I’m no leprechaun. If I let you think that, then the leprechaun union would be knocking at my door wanting to give me a serious talking to. Quite a bunch o’shin kickers they are.”
“You have an accent. How long have you been here?”
“As long as I can remember. The accent’s only for show. What good is seeking someone out for an adventure if they speak just like you? It kind of takes the mystery out of it. In China, I speak with a Hungarian accent and look Mongolian, it confuses the heck out of them. Takes a lot o’makeup though.” He did not say anything else for a while as he closed his eyes, leaning back in his chair, and stroking his fiery beard.
“Now, what type of adventurer are you?” He questioned out loud to himself. “Shh-shh, don’t tell me!” He cut off Fix before he could answer, not that he had an answer for him. “A pirate adventure? No no . . . hmmm.” Several minutes went by while he absentmindedly tapped the chair, scrutinizing the boy, first raising one eyebrow and then the other. He took a deep puff off his pipe and came to a decision. “No, I believe, after due reflection, that a quest is for you—the grandest and noblest of adventures.”
“A quest? For what?” Bartholomew asked excitedly.
“Ah now, that’s the thing about quests . . . I can’t tell you. A Quest must be discovered by the one who quests, or the other way around in most cases.”
“But a quest? Doesn’t that take a long time?”
“A hard quest can take several years.”
A little worried, he asked, “What about my parents?”
“Laddie, don’t you worry about none o’that. It will all work out. They’ll hardly know you’ve been gone.”
Bartholomew did not quite know how to take that, so he let it go, feeling he could trust what the strange, little man had to say, as odd and unbelievable as it was. “Will there be danger?” He asked a little hesitantly.
“Of course there’ll be. What good is an adventure without danger? That’d be like ice cream without the cream. Perhaps even a little romance,” he added, winking slyly.
Fix smiled in spite of his misgivings. “So where is the place I’ll be going?”
“That is something for the morning. It’s gettin’ late, and you might want to be gettin’ off to bed, seeing as you’re so tired.” Fix was about to protest that he was not sleepy when he suddenly felt exhausted. “You’ll want the first door on the left down the hallway,” O’Thomas said wistfully as he stared into the fire, puffing his pipe.
Fix vaguely remembered wondering at his own reaction to things, about how he had taken everything in stride and not really questioning about what was going on. Perhaps he did not believe what his eyes and ears were telling him. And O’Thomas was right. He did begin to feel like he had known him forever. But he was so tired that he could barely find the energy to make it to bed. Finally, crawling onto the mattress with the last strength he possessed and pulling the covers up, his head hit the pillow like a lead weight. He fell asleep deeply; he did not dream.
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