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Previous Thoughts Those who I call friends History Wanna know about me?
keep the dream alive

The Greatest Adventure

Part One

Where My Heart Died


Chapter Four



Back then, my life was a lot different.

“I… hate… math.”

Jay sighed as he passed a hand through his sand-colored hair and turned his head to stare out the window. Almost in spite of the continuous weeks of rain it was an absolutely beautiful day with only a few clouds to offer token resistance against the radiant sunlight. A chill breeze swept through the campus, making its students cling to their jackets a little tighter as it reminded them it was, indeed, still winter. A Southern Californian winter to be sure, without snow, hail, or the proper temperature for either, but a winter nonetheless.

Jay sighed again, tilting his chair back to stretch his arms over his head lazily. Naturally, the best and worst part about winter was winter break: good because it meant two weeks of blissful, blessed and homework-free vacation time, but bad because the two weeks is normally wasted simply recuperating from the stress of the finals just before.

“It’s too early for me to be suffering from post-finals stress,” Jay muttered, throwing an arm over his eyes.

A soft knock on the door whipped his head around so fast, he almost tipped his chair over. There was a second knock followed by a muffled giggle. Jay grinned as he lowered his chair and rose to his feet, eager for a distraction from his studies.

When he opened the door, a tall brunette with mischievous honey-toned eyes smirked back at him. “Why do I have the feeling that your rush to the door had little to do with a sudden need to see me?”

Jay laughed and gestured for the young woman to enter. “Aw, come on, Robin, of course I was… am excited to see you,” he corrected, turning to smile at her. “Why else would I-“

His voice was stilled by a knowing glance and a meaningful tap of manicured fingernails on his abandoned textbook. Robin quirked an eyebrow at his silence, accepting it as an acknowledgement of surrender. “Now what was that again? Excited to see me? Or excited to see something other than-“ she glanced down at the page under her finger, “-limits and summations?”

Jay grinned sheepishly. “Would you be mad if I said both?”

The young woman laughed. “I thought as much.”

Robin lingered at his desk while Jay moved around her and flopped onto his bed, breathing out a heavy and relaxed sigh. His eyes wandered absently around his dorm room at the various items decorating its walls: a high school diploma, basketball tickets and movie stubs hung by push pins, an assortment of music and movie posters and a liberal scattering of photographs. His blue eyes and sparkling smile shone out through at least half of them, but unique faces were the subjects of them all. Robin herself was seen in many of them, more often than not with him. Jay’s smile grew bigger when his gaze lingered on a shot of him kneeling before Robin, a delightedly surprised expression tinting her cheeks a lovely rouge. That particular picture hung off the corner of his mirror, strategically placed where he could look upon it and remember the future he had to look forward to.

Back then, my life was a lot different.

“Hey, what’re these?”

Jay shook himself from his memory to turn to his fiancé. “Hm? What’re what?”

“These,” Robin repeated, reaching for a framed picture on his desk. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen these before. You look so young.”

Jay leaned forward enough to peek over her shoulder. “Oh yeah,” he replied, falling back into his pillows again. “My mom came up last weekend with a box of stuff she found in the attic. Mostly just work from elementary and junior high school, some old soccer medals and a bunch of pictures. You know Mom- she’s a trigger-happy camera nut.”

Robin chuckled. “Don’t I know it.” She put down the picture to pick up another, face breaking out in another smile. “You’re so young in these pictures! You hardly look older than 8 or 9.”

“For your information, I was 11,” Jay replied in mock indignation. “The men in the Hawk family have a history of baby-faced preadolescence.”

Robin rolled her eyes. “Sure they do.” But she was far too fascinated by the sight of a five foot tall Jay to pay him much notice. Her eyes wandered over the various scenes of his youth, absently wondering if- way down the line- her own first son would inherit those adorable bright blue eyes and deep dimples.

Her drifting gaze finally rested on the last photo on the end of his desk. It was immortalized in a popsicle-stick frame adorned with stickers and glitter. Robin exchanged it with the one in her hand for a better look. “Jay, I thought you said both your parents were only children.”

From his comfortable position on his bed where he had nearly dozed off, Jay opened one eye to fix a patient look on his fiancé. “Yeah, they are. So?”

Robin didn’t look up. “So you don’t have any aunts or uncles, right? Or cousins?”

Jay sighed and passed her bizarre curiosity off as unimportant. He adjusted the pillows behind his head as he replied, “Hmm, single child parents… no relatives… yeah, that sounds about right.” He folded his arms behind his head and reclined back, eyes closing, jaw dropping into a huge, face-splitting yawn.

Not even a second later, something small, light but distinctly hard bopped him on the nose and he sat up with a glare and an indignant “Ow.” Robin, with a supremely smug smirk, settled herself back into his desk chair. “Don’t try to be a smart ass,” she admonished gently. “I’m just curious about you, that’s all. You hardly ever talk about your childhood.”

With Robin teasing so earnestly, it was hard to maintain a good grip on any real irritation at her. But Jay had little trouble portraying the angry, vengeful boyfriend as he wielded the picture frame in one hand menacingly. “Let’s see how much you like it when I-“

“Who’re those people in the picture?” she interrupted, smiling innocently.

Jay paused mid-throw, blinking at the abrupt subject change. By all accounts, he really should have carried on with the attack- it’s what she deserved after all- but a combination of sleepiness, her gentle smile and genuine curiosity all pitched in against him and he gave up without a fight. Settling back against the bed, he threw her a suspicious glance before actually giving his attention to the photo. When his expression turned from a mock scowl to a delightedly surprised smile, Robin knew she was forgiven.

“Wow, I haven’t seen this picture in ages,” he said with a chuckle, rubbing his thumb across the glossy and slightly glittery surface.

Back then, my life was a lot different.

The picture was dated seven years ago, making the grinning, mud-splotched Jay standing in the middle of the group about twelve years old. His arm was slung around the shoulders of an equally filthy girl, a couple of years his junior and sporting an impressive tooth gap directly in the middle of her bright smile. Behind him, his parents were standing next to a short, laughing blonde woman holding a baby and a stern-looking man with gentle eyes. A dark-haired toddler clung to his father’s pant leg, staring out at the camera bashfully.

Robin watched silently as Jay’s smile softened the longer he stared. Her patience was rewarded when he suddenly spoke up. “They were the Blacks, old family friends of ours. Our parents were friends for years. I swear, while I was growing up, I think I spent more time at Sheri and Ron’s house than I did with at my own. My parents used to joke that I was originally adopted from the Blacks. Tyler wasn’t much more than a baby last time I saw him, but Bryan… he used to follow me everywhere. And I was such a ham back then- I loved the idea of being a big brother and having a little kid idolize everything I did or said.” He chuckled to himself. “I tried getting Ved to be more like him, but that little turd would just sit down and cry instead of following me. I wouldn’t talk to my parents for days after my Mom said she wouldn’t trade him in for a new little brother.”

Robin smiled at the thought of a juvenile Jay throwing a fit because he couldn’t have his own young lackey to boss around.

Being somewhat distracted by the mental image, it took her a few moments to realize that Jay hadn’t continued. When she looked at him, his eyes were still on that picture, his attention far off and no longer on her. She marveled at the small smile that had slowly crept on his face, most likely without him even realizing it. She was used to his infectious laughter and charming grins, but this slight, almost shy turn of his lips was something completely new to her.

With the slightest twinge of guilt, she nudged his foot with hers and his head snapped up, startled. When he looked questioningly at her, she smiled and tilted her head back down at the picture. “What about the girl? Was she kind of like your sister or something?”

Jay stared at her for a moment before letting his gaze drop back to the picture in his hands and chuckled. “Riley? A sister? Hardly. She’d have to be a girl for that.” He shook his head with his ever familiar grin in place before leaning over to return the picture to its rightful place next to his bed. He paused a moment, thinking of the irony of this picture being the closest one to him as he slept. In all honesty, he hadn’t given a second glance to any of the items his Mom had scattered all around the room. Ironic, too, that the person to bring forth this pictures- and with it all its long-forgotten memories- was his own fiancé. Someone who, although absolutely wonderful, wasn’t like the kind of woman he always thought he would marry.

He’s staring off into space again, Robin mused as she watched him continue to stare at the picture even after he had returned it to his desk. His expression was unreadable but his eyes were unfocused and distant- a distinct characteristic of a wandering mind. She kicked him lightly against his shin and laughed when he turned a confused look on her. “As a fellow girl, I think it’s my duty to defend this Riley when she’s not here to do it herself.”

Jay looked confused for only a moment- adorably so, she thought- but his expression cleared and relaxed into a smile not long after. He settled back on the bed and leaned his back against the wall, watching Robin watch him. “No, I didn’t mean it as an insult. Even her parents said that they didn’t have a daughter- only three sons. Riley would roll in the dirt, jump in the mud, and catch more bullfrogs in one afternoon than any boy I ever knew. We used to get in and out of trouble just about on an hourly basis.” His chuckle was boyish and wicked as he recalled the many scrapes they managed to get themselves out of- and the many they didn’t. Robin chuckled along with him, secretly vowing to worm these stories out of his parents. They sounded interesting.

As his laughter faded he sighed, his voice strangely soft. “No, Riley was no sister. She was my best friend.”

Back then, my life was a lot different.

“Was?” Robin asked before she could stop herself. She realized afterwards that she was probably stepping into dangerous territory. She’d already learned that Jay wasn’t one to share much of his past and she wasn’t blind to his behavior around that picture.

But, then again, he was being far more open than she ever would have imagined. That and a bit of old-fashioned curiosity had her throwing her conscience out the window as Jay looked at her and shrugged.

“Yeah, well, childhood friends and all that,” he replied as way of explanation. “You know how that goes: she moved with her family and I stayed here. We tried to keep in touch, but it didn’t last long. Every once in a while, I’ll hear something or other about her from my folks, but really, I haven’t talked to her in years.”

He looks far more sad about it then he’s likely to admit, Robin thought. She covered her pity with a bright smile. “Well, if your parents still keep in touch with her parents, maybe you should invite her to the wedding.”

“Maybe.” Jay neither looked nor sounded all too enthused about the idea.

But Robin wasn’t going to take no for an answer. “Well, if you won’t, then I will,” she announced as she rose to her feet, stretching. “I’m sure she’ll have some darling stories to tell that I’d love to hear.”

Melancholy moment passed as Jay flashed her a smug smirk. “Too bad you can’t do any ‘girl talking’ unless I tell you where to find her. Which I’m not gonna do,” he added, lifting his chin defiantly.

Robin made a show of snapping her fingers dejectedly. “Darn it, that’s right,” she replied. But, with a shrug and a spin toward the door, she added, “Guess I’ll just have to bug your parents at dinner tonight.”

Jay’s expression of arrogance flashed into panic as he leapt off the bad and raced forward to block the door. “Oh, no you don’t. You’ve already conned Mom to the dark side. I don’t need you trying to pull Riley in, too.”

Robin’s smile was dripping with sugary venom. “Why, Jay dear. You make it sound like I’m raising an army up against you or something. No need to be so dramatic.”

Jay pouted. “But you are raising an army. And your minions just so happen to have a tendency to talk about me in diapers and bathtubs.”

Robin rolled her eyes. “Your mother and her friends are hardly my minions,” she pointed out. But he looked so cute frowning down at her with a hint of undisguised fear in his eyes that she decided she wouldn’t push the subject further. Tonight, anyway. Shaking her head, she leaned up on her tiptoes to kiss his cheek. “Alright, we’ll call it a draw for now. But don’t count on me forgetting anytime soon. I still have every intention of inviting her to the wedding.”

Jay was softened by the kiss but his frown still stubbornly remained. “Sure, and I’m sure those intentions have absolutely nothing to do with embarrassing me, right?”

“Of course not,” she replied, sincerely serious and indignant. “You two were close friends. I think it’d do you a lot of good to see her again.”

Jay blinked, surprised at the turn the previously playful conversation had taken. He decided against commenting further and instead turned to open the door for her. “I’ll see you tonight, then, alright?”

He did nothing but smile and nod as she walked through the doorway and down the hall, calling out something about math homework along the way. But as he shut the door and rested his forehead against it, shutting his eyes, he was dismayed to find his mind was just as tumbled as it was before Robin dropped by. Just minus the numbers.

Back then, my life was a lot different.

“Well that… was unexpected,” he said to himself, reviewing over the last ten minutes of her visit. In retrospect, even though he didn’t mean to be so openly panicked about Robin’s offer, he supposed it was a good thing that she misinterpreted the cause for the fear. It wasn’t that he had any worries that Riley’d say anything embarrassing. It wasn’t that at all.

He was far more worried about how he’d embarrass himself at his own wedding from seeing Riley again.

“Come on, Jay, that’s enough,” he scolded himself, shaking his head. “Time to get back to math.”

As joyous as that sounds, he added with a grimace as he settled himself back at his desk. A sigh and a slow rotating of his neck, and he was prepared to pick up his pencil-

-and put it right back down again.

“I think it’s about time I move on to History,” he announced to no one in particular as he got to his feet to retrieve his backpack. Sometime during the last half-hour, the sun had maneuvered its way from around the clouds that had begun to gather in forces for yet another storm. Trying to dig through his bag was proving rather difficult to do with the way the sun was streaming into his eyes.

He temporarily abandoned his books in favor of moving to the window and tugging the drapes across the screen. When he got about halfway, he paused, squinting in the sunlight. He could have sworn he saw something that looked like a small black dot moving through the sky. But when he blinked, it was gone.

Probably a mosquito, he thought, dragging the drapes all the way across leaving only a sliver of light slicing across his desk. Now that it was darker, he reached for the lamp that sat next to his computer. He tried to keep his eyes locked on the lamp as his fingers fumbled around the switch and away from the picture frame illuminated by the little light left.

Suddenly, the ground began to shake and the picture frame toppled over. Figuring it to be what felt like an exceptionally strong earthquake (as was not uncommon in California), he practiced and knew the proper safety procedures to take. But, in contrast to that, he reached for the drapes again. For whatever reason, his mind decided to replay in super slow mode that small dot he had seen just moments before that he had disregarded as an insect. Even though, now that he gave it more than a tenth of a percent of brain power to think about it, its movement wasn’t erratic like a bug. It just went straight…

…straight down.

Back then, my life was a lot different.


End of chapter four

Tags: , ,
Mindset: anxious anxious
Musical Interlude: Pink: Happy End

Keep the dream alive

Chapter Three

Tell Me A Story


Tell me lies and I’ll come running.

The Black Rose’s weary smile changed to a knowing grin. He nodded and set the water jug back onto the table. “There are no negotiations, General. Negotiations would mean that you had a hand in the matter of your outcome and since you don’t, not really anyhow, I would rather use the term ‘deal or no deal’.”

“Then why bother to call it a negotiation in the first place?” Jay stared in confusion.

“I didn’t. My guard did. He seems to have a bit of soft spot for your group.” There was a pause and then in a softer voice. “I think it’s the children.” Here, Jay saw a moment where something akin to regret washed over the Black Rose’s face. The moment passed quickly and he was once again passive and arrogant. Jay wondered if it was just the moonlight for there was no trace of gentleness left behind. “It does not matter. It is better that the children think you have some sort of control here. They can be such fickle things, children are. So hard to maintain. And although you have no jurisdiction here in my castle, I do respect your authority as a general, even if you have left the title behind you. But, the subject of the matter is,” he moved away from the window and walked purposefully to the large table at the far end of the room. He picked up a thin piece of parchment, most likely a map of some kind. “You either will take the choice I give you or you won’t.”

Jay began to feel a deep seeded hatred for the taunting figure. In one moment, he could seem sincere and obliging. Then, like a serpent under a flower, he would become vindictive and conniving. How could one man have such contradicting traits? He followed him over to the table, his angry footsteps thundering as he went. But though his body language screamed his justified outrage, his voice remained low and calm. “Fine. What are your options?”

“Option,” the Black Rose corrected, his eyes still focused on the map. “I only have one for you.”

“What is it?” He asked, trying to keep his voice as calm as he could. If Jay had been the type to easily give in to his anger, he certainly would have just shoved his fist into that man’s face but he wasn’t. He doubted it would have helped the situation. Still, he was incredibly sure that it would have helped in easing his anger. It did not make matters better that the Black Rose was clearly enjoying his power over him.

“My castle has come up in several attacks, recently very damaging to my walls.” The Black Rose swept out one arm absently, most likely in the direction of said walls. “Your people could help in rebuilding and repairing my castle while you stay and hide out here.”

Jay rose an eyebrow. “What makes you think I, or they, would agree to help you?”

“You and I both know that Ram will hunt you all down until he has every single one of you back in control. I can offer you protection from him.” He grinned so cheekily. “Or would you rather take your chances out in the disease ridden cities? Not to mention the wilderness that’s running amuck now.”

“So, it’s a trade.”

“I prefer deal.”

“Alright, a deal. We work for you, help you fix up the castle and in return, you’ll keep us protected?”

“And warm and fed and most importantly, clean.” The Black Rose grimaced. “You all will routinely, as in every day, be cleaned.”

Jay turned away from the table, his arms crossing while his right hand came to rub his chin thoughtfully. Granted, they were being offered something extremely important in today’s world: sure protection. And not just that but also the promise of food and water, a place to sleep.

A home, if just a temporary one.

He knew that he could not take care of them all. They had started off as a small group but with each city they passed, more kids ran to join them. Taking care of forty kids was no easy task. He had been lucky enough to make some friends on his visit to America but even then, like Black had said, they were so hard to maintain. Each one had separate needs, wants, fears and unfortunately, nightmares. Though, now that they had a castle for a home and the Black Rose as their protector, some of that pressure was slowly diminishing.

Diminishing. Not disappearing.

“Do I have your word that they’ll be kept safe?”

Tell me lies and I’ll come running.

“You have my word that the children will be kept safe.”

Jay felt a shudder of relief flow through him. Perhaps they could rebuild their strength while they stayed here. For now, it would have to do. He turned around to offer his gratitude. The Black Rose gave a short nod before he could say anything, a sort of unspoken understanding between them.

“Now then, there are inquiries about your travels.” The Black Rose set the map back onto the table. He picked up a thin gray pencil and began to trace a line on the map.

“What’s so important about our travels?” Jay came over, looking down at the map for a brief moment before resting his questioning gaze upon the Black Rose.

“One of your people said that your travel began in America.”

Jay took a moment to answer. Technically, the Black Rose hadn’t asked him a question so therefore, he didn’t need to answer. But when the Black Rose looked up at him, eyebrow rising, he decided that maybe this wasn’t the best of times to keep secrets. “Yes, we left the eastern coast.”

“And you arrived at the lower ends of France near Italy. Why go that far? Why not just stop in Portugal or Spain?” The Black Rose tapped the pencil against the map. “You were running from Ram before but Ram has not been seen in America yet.” He moved the map to the side towards Jay and he pointed out the red-colored areas. “His areas are far from there, actually.”

“What sort of map is this?” Jay grabbed the end, holding it up higher into the light.

It was a map of Europe but none like he had ever seen. The continent held its shape but the countries did not. There were no names, no boundary lines that he could remember. Where there was Portugal and Spain, there was the name Castile. France, Germany, and other close countries were merged into Green Wood. The upper islands were combined into one mass called the North Sea Islands. The left half of Russia was left to the name of Caliber while the rest of Russia was still just the Mongol Empire. Below, Africa had no countries. It was just separated into three factors: Morocco, Rwanda and South Africa. Everything else was either not labeled or covered in gray pencil marks and notes.

“My accomplishments, if you would like to call them that, thus far.”

Jay snapped his eyes from the map and looked over at the Black Rose with a look of sudden realization. He was not just dealing with a tyrant. The Black Rose was also a conqueror. He drove into lands that were not his own, completely erased all previous claims and made himself a claim.

It wasn’t the first time this idea of controlling a series of countries or even the world had surfaced. There had been hundreds, perhaps thousands of others who had attempted such a great feat. But the world was an enormous place and could not be controlled by merely one man.

“Of course, I alone would be unable to keep all of these lands in control,” the Black Rose spoke as if reading Jay’s thoughts. “I have other leaders underneath me, others that I trust completely.”

“I did not take you for a man who would share his power.” Jay commented dryly as he turned back to the map.

“No, your experience has left you quite biased.”

“Biased?” Jay chuckled. “I hardly think so.”

“Yes,” the Black Rose reached out and used his finger to tap the faded, red circled-T tattoo on his forehead. “Ram was hardly a good example of what a leader should be.”

“You’re not what I call a good example of what a leader should be, either, Black Rose.”

Tell me lies and I’ll come running.

“Black will do, General. The entire title sounds like something out of a fairytale.” The Black Rose, or Black as he preferred to be called, bit his bottom lip in deep thought, at first completely ignoring Jay’s somewhat subtle insult. “Yes, Black will do very nicely. Naturally, I would chosen a different name for myself. Something a bit more masculine.”

Jay clenched his teeth and mentally counted to ten. This man was purposefully trying to annoy him. “Black, you are not a good example of-“

“Yes, yes. You’ve already said that. You’ve become quite annoying, haven’t you?” Black took the map from him and set it on the table. He straightened out the edges and smoothed out the wrinkles before continuing. “You are such a distraction too. Always asking questions.”

“I haven’t asked-“

“Why did you wait to land?” Black asked, pointing his finger to the red X on the map.

Jay glared at it. “Ram had extended his-“

“I know where Ram’s stretched his clean hands out to. I don’t need to know specifics. I want to know reasons.” His finger pressed harder against the map, those ocean eyes staring over at Jay with a gaze that he could not tear away from. “Why did you not land farther up? Your ships were still heavy with supplies. You could have lived on that boat for another six months without docking. You could have chosen an easier route, taking your tribe to the North Sea Islands. Are you just incompetent or did you think it would be easier on foot?”

“Are you asking because you are curious or do you just love hearing yourself talk?”

Tension filled the air between them. Jay knew he was crossing onto dangerous grounds but he wasn’t about to play storyteller to this bully. “I agreed to help you in return that you protect us. That does not make us your slaves or yours to freely command. There may be some who will want to stay here and by all means, they will be free to but do not think that we all will turn over our freedom to you so quickly.”

Black tightened his lips together. “I had no means to keep you here longer than I needed,” Black managed to keep his face impassive but Jay could tell that Black was not used to being talked to so freely, or so bluntly. He wondered if Black allowed anyone to speak much of anything to him. He seemed like such a private man, stuck in his own delusions and dreams.

Much like Ram had and look where that had gotten him.

Jay sighed and turned away from the map. He suddenly, very much wanted out of there. The darkness was overwhelming him, his senses felt twisted by the shadows that played at every corner of the room. How anyone could live in this room and still remain sane was beyond him. “We’ve made our deal. What else do you want from me?”

“ … How are you at stories?”


“Stories. You do remember what stories are, don’t you?” Black laid down the pencil, that teasing smile forming over those stern lips.

“Of course, but I don’t understand what it is you’re asking.”

“Indulge me, General. I hardly ever have company.”

“I can’t imagine why.”

“Yes, I’m hardly a hospitable host, am I?”

“You’re hardly a host at all.”

“You’re not one for sugaring the truth, are you?” Here, Black turned his head abruptly to the left, looking behind Jay. “Star?”

A figure moved out of the corner of his eye. Jay gasped, and almost shouted in surprise, when a young girl stepped out of the shadows and walked up beside him. She wore similar clothing to that of Black but of a vastly different color: a crimson red. Her mask was smaller too, tiny intricate designs over the front and to the back. Hair, black and brown silk, streamed down her face and neck in thin slices. On one leg, a dagger was sheathed while, on the other, a long blade rested easily higher up on her hip. She had the look of danger about her and justly so because her eyes said so.

“Yes, milord?”

“Star, have some food brought up for our guest.”

“Yes, milord.” The girl closed her eyes and nodded, then turned around.

Jay could feel her eyes on him as she walked back. He heard the creaking as she opened the door and then the ominous click as she closed it. But again, his attention was stolen when the familiar flicker of a lighter. A steady flame brought light to the room. It was incredible at how different the room looked with even such a small glow.

“This room has been feeling chilly all day. I’m sure you know enough of history to know that many castles, if not all of them, were never built with heaters.” Black turned and went from candle lamp to candle lamp, sparking each one to life as he went.

Soon, the entire room was heavily bathed in warm and inviting light. Jay looked around, curious to see what had been hidden in the dark. There was the bed, now much larger in the light than in shadows. It was covered in red and gold comforters, two gold-colored pillows stuck at the top. Red tassels were placed on the ends of the canopy, matching red velvet curtains swooping over them.

The walls held pictures, large and various in their objects; A herd of ducks playing in the water, a portrait of a lion and a lamb, peacefully napping alongside each other, unicorns romping, stallions running and eagles soaring. Each picture more inspiring than the last.

“Each one hand-painted. My most recent one is this,” Black pointed to the small picture near the window. “There are dolphins that come here in the summer. No one knows why.” He pulled a chair near to the window and tapped the seat. “Here, sit and be comfortable. Star won’t be long.”

“They are beautiful.” Jay said as he came over to sit. The chair was a gorgeous satin blue and it was soft as feathers. He closed his eyes and smiled. How long had it been since he had sat down in something so comfortable. He leaned his head back against the chair and let himself sink into the cushions. It was impossible to stop a satisfied sigh from escaping his lips. Suddenly feeling self-conscious and somewhat embarrassed, he quickly sat up and opened his eyes.

When he did, he noticed that Black had also pulled up another chair opposite him. His elbow was propped up on the arm of the chair, his chin resting on his knuckles as he watched him with amusement.

Jay cleared his throat. “You … you said something about a story.”

“I did.” Black exhaled deeply, his eyes lowering to the floor as if trying to catch some lost thought. “There … I … in America.” He brought his gaze back up. “That is where you said you started from, correct?”

Jay nodded. “Yes, that’s where westarted from.”

“How about you? Where did you start?” Before Jay could say anything, Black raised a hand. “You say that ‘we’ started from America. Am I to believe that you have been with the same group ever since the Virus started?”

He hesitated this time. “No. The kids joined us along the way.”

“General, you are not an American. Your accent suggests British or perhaps Australian but definitely not American. And you history, that I’ve heard of, places you at the far regions of-”

Jay could hear him continue talking but for some reason, it was hard to focus on his words. The room was getting warmer and his eyes were getting heavier. He was tired and his body was betraying him to sleep. But he would not fall asleep right here, in this God-forsaken room. Jay propped himself higher in the chair, redirecting his gaze to Black.

“Your point, Black?”

Jay watched as he smiled knowingly, a smile he was beginning to detest. Black knew that sleep was catching up to him and he was using that to his advantage. Damn him. Damn him and this comfortable chair. They locked gazes for a moment before Jay turned his own eyes to the floor. But Black’s voice still reached him, clear as crystal.

“Tell me your story, General. Tell me where this all began.”

Tell me lies and I’ll come running.


End of Chapter Three

Tags: , ,
Mindset: calm calm
Musical Interlude: Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl

Keep the dream alive

Chapter Two



What price would you pay for freedom?

The guard led the blonde through a maze of turns and twists. Doors appeared from nowhere and stairs that seemed to go on forever. Here and there, the blonde could sense others moving about in the rooms behind the secret doors and each time he thought they were there, the guard would turn down another corner and lead them further and further into the labyrinth of the castle.

“Here,” the guard stopped suddenly in front of a larger than life painting. The blonde stopped, staring at the masterpiece before him.

“Is that … ?”

“Yes, it was done when the Black Rose first came to these shores. Captures him quite nicely, don’t you agree?” He watched as the blonde licked his chapped lips, unable to give the guard an answer as he continued to stare at the painting. The guard decided that it was all right to linger for a moment, if only to give the blonde ample time to appreciate the artwork in front of them.

As the guard has said earlier, it was a painted portrait of the recognized Black Rose. It was a battle scene, zombie-like corpses surrounding the main figure. He was tall and muscular but lean. A torn black cape fell over his shoulders and down to the ground in a powerful sweep, covering him in a shadow of blacks, grays and reds. The right side of his body seemed to have been covered in cuts and deep wounds.

“You’ve heard of the experiments that the adults did?” The guard spoke quietly, gently. When the blonde shook his head, the guard took a step forward and placed a hand on the painting, his two fingers pointing to what looked like a smudge in the far back of the portrait. “They were German doctors, fueled by the past actions of Adolf Hitler. Before the Virus, they experimented on breeding, among other things. They tried to bring the dead back to life, even. Experimental, all of it, but still very dangerous. They kept it quiet, far from watching eyes and for years, no one knew.” The guard moved his hand down to the ghostly faces of the sprawled corpses. “After the Virus, however, things changed. The doctors grew worried that humanity would die out and sought to create a new race. A perfect race, as they said.”

“Is that what they are? Those … things were people?” The blonde stared at the faces, then back to the Black Rose. The figure looked so large compared to the corpses but his face, the color of his face was no different. It was pale, gray, with no hint of color at all. “Is he one of them?”

The guard chuckled. “No.”

“But his face –“

“A simple symbolic gesture. But shall I continue?”

“Oh.” The blonde nodded his apology. “I’m sorry. Go ahead.”

“As you can see, the experiment was only that. An experiment. They couldn’t complete it and they were dying too fast. They figured they could try to save their experiments by infusing them with the Virus. It took a nasty turn. The experiments began to feed off the doctors and they mutated into what you see. They broke free and terrorized the cities. Thankfully, they only remained in one spot.” The guard removed his hand and stepped back, his head bending back to see the entire picture. “Black Rose came to France first and heard of the stories people were telling. He decided to see if there was any truth in the matter. And … as you can see, the rest you can imagine.”

“How did no one believe this?”

“The experiments had only been out for a month or so, not long enough to spread very far and by the time it did, the Black Rose had already eradicated the problem and so, truth became fiction.”

“Who painted this?”

The guard closed his eyes as if remembering something very painful. “I did.”

The blonde almost regretted the question but he wanted to know. Whoever painted it had obvious connections with the Black Rose. He remained silent though and decided to look the scene over again. A bright but stained sword was held in the figure’s right hand while his other hung loosely at his left side. A simple black mask covered the top half of his face, leaving his stern lips in full view. The blonde found it to be of no coincidence that the only very detailed portion of the portrait was the Black Rose’s face, more importantly his eyes. They were sapphire blue and milky white, swirls of grim black with them. They reminded him of the ocean, caught in the middle of a storm.

What price would you pay for freedom?

“Eyes are the window to the soul, they say.” The guard patted the blonde’s shoulder. “Story time is over. We’ve kept Black Rose waiting long enough. Come,” His hands went to the side of the portrait and grasped the engraved frame. With a gentle pull, the frame moved and it became a door.

The blonde then felt the guard place a hand firmly on his back and push him forward. Through the door he stumbled, the darkness of the room catching him off guard. As he turned around to question the guard, he watched in horror as he shut the portrait door on him. There was a loud menacing click and the blonde knew he wasn’t getting out. Quickly, he turned around, his back against the wall.

There was very little to see. Nothing but shadows and moonlight were in that room. There was an outline of a bed but the light from the moon showed that no one was in it, or had been it in a very long time. To the right, he could see a large table, small objects and many papers covering it. It was so simple, hardly anything was there that would cause anyone to assume that someone actually lived there.

But the blonde knew whose room it was.

“If it isn’t the General.” A low, whispery voice creeped through the room. “My, my. What Ram wouldn’t give to have you back under his command and here you are, under mine.”

“I am not under your command.” The blonde shouted into the darkness. “I do not take orders from tyrants.”


“No.” There was the sound of something moving to the left and the blonde turned just in time to face his captor. Those same blue eyes caught him in the most demanding of gazes. “But you are under my power.” It was terrifying, he had to admit, to see what he had so often dismissed as nothing but a rumor, a story to keep the children from wandering off.

No, the Black Rose was very much real.

A hand came to clutch his chin suddenly, turning his face away and then back again as if to size him up. “So, you are the General. I had my doubts but there’s no mistaking you, I’m afraid.” The hand released its hold and the blonde couldn’t help but sigh in relief as the figure moved away, back into the shadows. “I wonder what Ram would pay to have you back.”

“You can’t!”

“Can’t I?” That voice again. It filled the room with that dangerous tone, making the hairs on his neck tickle with fear.

The blonde’s eyes widened, trying to search the dark for that elusive figure. “He would send the kids to the camps and the others, he would try to bend them to his will. We’ve gotten this far. Please, just release us and we won’t bother you. We have no desire to fight.”

“Nor do you have the means. Your kids are starved and weak, barely able to walk any long distance.” The voice changed to something soft. “You yourself haven’t eaten in three days.”

“How did you-“

“I make it my business to know, General. It is my castle.”

“We’ll manage.”

“No, you’ll die. And then, where will you be?” The blonde watched as the figure moved out of the shadows and towards one of the windows. He kept a gasp from erupting through his lips. It was the same image as the portrait. Same stance, same cape.

Same stern lips.

The Black Rose had just stepped out of the painting and into real life, it seemed. Like a ghost come to haunt him, reminding him of times past. He watched as the Black Rose crossed his arms and leaned against the window, eyes on him. “Tell me your name, General. You didn’t give it to my guards when they asked.”


“That wasn’t so hard, now was it?” The Black Rose said in a clearly taunting tone of voice. He brought his arm and waved it to the blonde. “Come, if I am to negotiate with you, I ought to see your face.”

The blonde, or as he most commonly called, Jay narrowed his eyes at the Black Rose and proceeded to comply. Slowly, he came forward. It was still very dark and hard to see. He stopped when he was three feet from the Black Rose. It was then he noticed that he was significantly taller than the black-shrouded tyrant. This somewhat amused him and he couldn’t stop the grin on his face. Instead of annoying him, like Jay would have thought, this amused the Black Rose and he managed to smile back.

“Height is over-rated, General.”

“I admit, I expected you to be quite taller.”

“I think you’ll find I make up for it in other ways.” The Black Rose then turned and swept his hand to the table behind him. There was a bowl of bread and a small wooden cup of water. “Onto more pressing matters, you should eat these. And you needn’t worry about what the others will eat.” The Black Rose moved away from the window and like before, disappeared into the shadows. “As we speak, they are being led to our main kitchen where they will be fed and then bathed and cleaned.”

Jay went to the table and took a small piece of bread. His lips hurt as he spread them apart but there was little choice. He was starving. Soon, he grabbed another piece and ate that as well. The cup of water was grabbed and brought to his dry mouth just as urgently. And no sooner was the cup sent down when he heard it being filled. He looked up and watched as the Black Rose held a large jug of water over the cup, pouring carefully so he wouldn’t spill. “Thank you,” Jay told him before stuffing his mouth with another piece of bread. Once he had eaten the entire bowl’s contents, he turned to the still figure. “If you had planned to help us, why did you keep us locked up for so long?”

“You asked my guard the same question and so you receive the same answer.” The Black Rose smiled wearily. “For political reasons. I had to know that you were no threat to me or my men. You should understand. You were once a General in the same position as I was.”

Jay pondered on how to answer. Part of him wanted to tell the tyrant that he was nothing like him but that would have been rude, especially after the recent change of events. But he still didn’t trust the man so agreeing with him would have been too polite. He settled for a nod and a change of subject. “Your guard mentioned there were … negotiations.”

What price would you pay for freedom?

- ~ -

End of Chapter Two


Tags: , ,
Mindset: annoyed annoyed
Musical Interlude: Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl

Keep the dream alive

Chapter One

Black Rose Castle


There were many secrets at Black Rose castle.

The moon was shining a very pale sort of light down across the ocean. Midnight had fallen upon the German shores and everything was covered in shadows. A tall castle stood out among the black trees. Small lights were flickering from room to room, most likely fireplaces started to keep the inhabitants warm during the long night.

A very tiny, tiny light could be seen at the farthest ends of the castle and it was the castle’s dungeon.

It was dark and cold. The firelight of the candles wavered as the muggy breeze blew through the dungeon, light flickering. Somewhere, there was the sound of rushing water but it was faint and too far to mean anything. The floors were made of hard, freezing stone and they were covered with dust. Rats lounged about as they searched for crumbs, acting as if they owned the place. As if they knew they had nothing to fear.

But there was fear in that dungeon and it had many names.

Two prison cells were filled with raggedy kids, all sniffling and sobbing. There was no hope left in their eyes, no impossible dream to keep them going. They only had the knowledge that some time, sooner or later, something would happen and their situation would change. Whether it would be for the better or for worse, they didn’t know. Life was always changing for them. Nothing remained the same.

Not since the Virus.

Not since power and chaos.

Not since ever.

A whistling guard captured the attention of the young captives. They all moved towards the bars, their chains rattling. Dirty faces crowded the cell door as they waited. In the short week that they had been there, they had learned that guards did one of two things. They either came to feed them or came to ask them questions. They all wore the different outfits but they also wore the same emblem: a rose, black and red in color.

They figured it was an emblem for their leader, the infamous Black Rose of whose castle dungeon they were currently residing in. They had been traveling up the coast of France, trying to find a place to hide from the Technos but something worse had caught them.

Ram was known for being meticulous, temperamental, manipulative and evil. The Black Rose was known for being murderous, cold-hearted, totalitarian and torturous. Of the two, meticulous was far better than murderous. Still, they had yet to see the Black Rose kill any of them. So far, the tyrant had only questions for them. Strange questions.

Strange in the sense that they were normal. ‘Where are you from’, ‘what are your names’, ‘do you have siblings’, ‘what did you do after the virus’, and so on. Sometimes, the questions were easy to answer while some were hard to even think of.

Why did the Black Rose need to know these things? Usually, when one is asked a question, one is also answered a question. A bit of tit for tat. They hardly knew anything of the Black Rose except for stories they had heard. They knew next to nothing of the place they had been taken to.

There were many secrets at Black Rose castle.

The whistling came to a stop as the guard, carrying a heavy brown bag over his shoulder, made his way past the empty cells. His good mood seemed to bring a little hope to the kids. Some of them even grinned up at him as he came to one of the cells.

“Breakfast,” he called out. All hands instantly went out as he pulled the bag around his shoulder and set it on the floor. With a knowing smile, the guard pulled out something the kids hadn’t seen in a very long time: fresh bread. The huge loaves were met with gasps of excitement. The guard handed three to one cell and three to the other. “There, now make sure you all share that, you hear me?”

The kids said nothing in return but there was the sound of bread being ripped apart and a chorus of tiny thank-yous followed. Looking quite satisfied with himself, the guard folded the bag up and tucked it away in his jacket. He then took out a set of keys and started to search through them. “Alright,” he said without looking up, “I’ve got orders to bring one of you up to the Black Rose.” The guard tossed his head up and gave them a reassuring grin. “Time for negotiations.”

The keys jingled as he opened one of the cell doors. He walked in, tucking the keys back in his pocket, and looked around at the kids. None of them were over twenty years of age and most of them were hardly older than thirteen. The guard himself was no older than sixteen but it was hard to tell from all the dirt on his face and his over-sized clothes.

The guard sighed, watching as the bread disappeared in their hungry mouths. He bent down and looked one small boy in the face with a sympathetic smile. “Hey, don’t worry. As soon as things get worked out, you’ll all be out of here.” He patted the boy’s head. Standing back up, he looked around again. “Okay, so one of you is coming up to talk to the Black Rose. Who’s it gonna be?”

“What kind of … negotiations?”

There were many secrets at Black Rose castle.

The guard grinned as a tall blonde stood up from the group. The Black Rose had been right in assuming which one of them was the leader and the Black Rose was never wrong. The boy was probably older than him but it was hard to say just how old he was. Eighteen. Nineteen. Either one would have worked. He was thin, probably from the lack of food over their rigorous journey. The guard looked down to his right and this time, tried to keep from grinning again. There, next to him, were probably the other three that the Black Rose had pinned as the main leaders of the group. A girl with a sleeping baby wrapped tightly in her arms sat in the corner, her sharp green eyes staring daggers at him. On her left side were two other boys, both looking at him with the same stare.

“We’ve done nothing wrong!” The blonde continued, straining against the chains around his wrists. “If anything, he should be apologizing to us for keeping us here like stray animals!”

“You were trespassing on Black Rose territory.”

“We didn’t know!” The girl suddenly shouted. One of the boys put a hand on her arm as if to calm her down. While it seemed to work, it didn’t keep her mouth closed. “He doesn’t own the land anyway!”

“You were traveling in a large group,” the guard explained. “Black Rose deemed it necessary to investigate.”

“And keeping us here? What sort of necessity is that?” The blonde was beginning to pull against his chains and the guard was starting to feel as if he should have come down with some extra company.

“A political one,” was all the guard had to say. “One of your people has had extreme close contact with his rival. Black Rose has zero tolerance for Ram, surely you must have known that. You took a huge risk going through Green Wood.” The guard took a bold step forward and, taking out his keys again, unlocked the chains around the blonde’s wrists. “You should consider yourself lucky that the Black Rose is letting you go.”

“Lucky?” The blonde rubbed his swollen wrists, his chapped lips pursed tightly together in deep concentration. He seemed to be contemplating whether he agreed with the guard or not.

“So … the Black Rose, he’s really not going to keep us here?” A small girl tugged on the guard’s pant leg. The guard smiled and shook his head.

“No, he won’t.” The guard turned to the blonde and frowned. “As long as you do as he says, of course.”

“Then take me to him and let’s be done with it,” the blonde knelt quickly next to the three and whispered something to them. The guard didn’t try to hear. He doubted it was anything other than reassurance and if it were something else, well, he would deal with it if it came.

“Come on,” the guard urged. He walked out of the cell and waited for the blonde to follow. Once out, the guard pushed the door shut and locked it. “Now then, if you would be so kind as to follow me, I’ll take you to him.” The guard walked down the dark dungeon hall, adjusting his cape as he climbed up a flight of stairs not too far from the cells.

“You’ve been very kind to us,” the blonde spoke up suddenly, his voice much less angry than it was before. “The other guards hardly say anything and when they do-“

“They are uncivilized and all of them have been shipped off.”

"Shipped?" The blonde seemed to question the reality of this. "Where to?"

"You shouldn't worry. It is none of your concern." The guard came to the dungeon door and, for probably the fifth time that night, he took out his keys and went through them. “I should either just make one key for all the locks or take off all the locks,” he muttered in annoyance as he searched for the right one. Once found, he pushed the door open and let the blonde walk past him. He shut the door, locked it and turned around to continue their short excursion.

“Welcome to Black Rose castle,” the guard waved his arm to the dark hall around them. To their right, the tall openings, medieval-designed windows, led to a view of the coast. They had been right to think that there was water nearby. From here, they could see the waves pound against the shores and they could hear the furious sounds of the ocean. “There’s been a storm for the past week or so. Again,” the guard turned to the blonde with a knowing smile. “You should consider yourself lucky.”

“I doubt luck has anything to do with it.” The blonde replied dryly, moving his gaze to the guard.

The guard hung his head and tried to conceal a chuckle. He glanced over his shoulder at the blonde. “You’re right about that.”

The blonde’s eyes narrowed. In the dark of the dungeon, it was hard to pull out any details from a person’s face, especially when half their face was covered by a black leathered mask but now, it was easy to see. “Do I know you?” He asked. The guard frowned, turned and quickened his pace. “Wait, what’s your name?”

“The Black Rose is expecting you. He is not a patient man,” the guard turned a sharp corner and hurriedly dashed up a hidden set of stairs, gesturing to the blonde to follow him.

The blonde said nothing more. He watched as the guard adjusted the mask around his face and he frowned.

There were many secrets at Black Rose castle.

- - 

End of Chapter One

Tags: , ,
Mindset: accomplished accomplished
Musical Interlude: Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl

Keep the dream alive

Look in to the future, what do you see?
I really need to know now, is there a place for me?
Tell me where do we go from here

Take me as you find me, for what I am
And when I make mistakes, please understand
And as long as I know you're near
There is nothing for me to fear

Out of the darkness, a light shines
Burning through the coldest night
And we can find a way
(together we'll make it)
With every step we take
(moving be closer together)
If we're gonna survive
The dream must stay alive

Baby will you hold me, When I'm afraid
See me through the danger, till the break of day
If there's love there's a chance for me
Just believe in yourself you'll see

And as long as I know you're near
There is nothing for me to fear

Tags: ,
Mindset: artistic artistic
Musical Interlude: Adam Watts

Keep the dream alive