Catch up by reading part one: https://inspiredpensite.wordpress.com/2020/06/22/guardians-of-vitalus/
Ron and Stephie were due back home at 6 PM for dinner. It was already 5:30 PM. Steve never understood the importance of family connections. He thought eating meals together as strange and annoying. The three children said their good-byes to Miss Emmy and made their way down the driveway. As they turned left to gather up their bikes, they were oblivious to spying eyes.
Charlie, a twelve-year-old misfit and neighborhood thief, hid behind a tree. He watched them as they left Miss Emmy’s house and rode home on their bikes. Charlie couldn’t believe what he saw. Nobody ever stepped foot inside the crazy old woman’s house. What were they doing with that old woman, he wondered. He knew where Ron, Stephie, and Steve lived and decided to get up early the next morning and follow them.
“Ron, Stephie, your pancakes are ready,” their mom yelled from the eat-in kitchen. Sunday mornings always meant pancakes for breakfast. Pancakes were Ron’s favorite breakfast item. Stephie is weird, Ron thought, because she preferred scrambled eggs and bacon. Ron and Stephie sat down at the table and attacked their breakfast.
“Slow down. What’s gotten into you two?”
“Mom, can Stephie and I go to the park again?” Ron asked with his mouth full. Stephie put her hand over her mouth and laughed at Ron’s funny-sounding pancake voice.
“You know better than to talk with your mouth full, Ron. What’s this sudden interest in the park?”
“It’s better than sitting around here. There’s nothing to do here,” Ron said, this time without a mouth full of food.
“Oh, nothing to do around here? I can think of a million things for you to do. How about cleaning your room? Or, you could wash the car, help me rake the yard, and help me clean out the garage.”
“But it’s Sunday. I thought Sundays were days of rest,” Ron said. He sat up straight and displayed a forced, toothy grin. Once again, Stephie let out a laugh at her brother’s goofy antics.
“Okay. I’ll let today slide, but both of you are going to help me rake the yard this week. And I want both of your rooms cleaned and straightened tomorrow. Is that clear?”
Ron, slumping his shoulders and without a grin, this time said, “Yes, ma’am, it’s clear.”
“Stephie? What about you, am I clear?”
Stephie nodded her head with one sharp nod and said, “Yup.”
After they all finished breakfast, Ron and Stephie put their dishes in the sink and set out to Steve’s house. Steve lived three houses down on the same side of the street, which made it easy for Charlie to find the perfect hiding place to spy on them. Steve was sitting on the front porch waiting for them. Ron could hear Steve’s parents arguing and knew that Steve would be moody.
“It’s about freaking time you guys got here,” Steve said as he stood up. “I don’t know why you all have to eat meals together.”
Ron was tired of Steve’s attitude and comparisons with their families. “Just because your family doesn’t do things together doesn’t mean other families don’t. I like eating with my family. They’re all I got.”
“Whatever, c’mon, let’s go. I’m sorry about being a jerk. I’m tired of my parents, and they don’t give a crap about me anyway,” Steve said.
“I’m sorry, Steve. You can come to eat with us if you want to,” Stephie said with a smile.
Smirking, and cocking his head to the right, Steve said, “Thanks, Stephie.”
The three of them started toward Miss Emmy’s house. This time they didn’t pack any snacks as they knew Miss Emmy would feed them. It was about 10 AM, and the dry autumn air amplified the sun’s light. For Charlie, that was helpful because he situated himself in the direction of the sun. The bright sun caused Ron, Stephie, and Steve to look in the opposite direction. Charlie waited for them to get a safe distance before he followed them. Miss Emmy lived a couple of blocks away, located near a wooded area of town. Charlie knew from the direction they continued they were on their way to the old woman’s house. He took a shortcut so that he could cut them off and question them.
“Oh shit,” Steve said.
Drawing a deep breath, Stephie said, “You said a bad word.” Steve ignored her.
“What’s wrong?” Ron asked. Then he saw Charlie. “Crap, what’s he doing here?”
“Hey, Buttheads,” Charlie said. He stopped and straddled his bike. He was folding his arms, trying to look tough. “I saw you guys come out of that old woman’s house yesterday. What did you do in her house?”
“It’s none of your business, moron,” Ron said.
“Well, when I see three town idiots being friends with the crazy cat lady, I want to know what’s going on,” Charlie said. His insults pleased him. His face contorted into an arrogant grimace.
“Screw you,” Steve said.
“We are not idiots. You are,” Stephie yelled. “Leave us alone.” She was brave with her brother and Steve there.
“Look, we’re just helping her out. She’s not that bad, ya know,” Ron said.
“Helping her with what?” Charlie said. “What’s in her back yard? Everyone knows there has to be something back there. She never lets anyone in her house or yard.”
“Nothing, it’s just another boring backyard. We were helping her with yard work,” Steve said, hoping Charlie would believe them.
“I’m letting you know that I’m keeping an eye on you. I’m going to find out the truth,” Charlie warned them.
“Yeah, whatever. Leave us alone,” Ron said.
“Fine, but I’m still going to watch you.” Charlie let them get by him but watched them ride up to Miss Emmy’s driveway.
The three of them left their bikes in front of Miss Emmy’s porch and knocked on the door. Then, Stephie screamed and pointed to the side yard. Charlie was running toward the fence and was attempting to climb it. Miss Emmy opened the door and looked in the direction Stephie pointed. She hobbled down the porch steps and to the side yard.
Miss Emmy yelled, “Stop.” Charlie glanced to his left and saw Miss Emmy coming toward him. He used the rotting logs Ron and Steve left at the fence to give him a little boost. His hands could reach the top of the fence. Miss Emmy knew that he could easily climb up over the fence. She stood still, stretched both arms out at each side. Her palms were face up. She then raised her arms, and the fence began to rise higher and higher. After it had risen about 15 feet high, she clenched her fists. The fence shook, knocking Charlie off. Before he hit the ground, Miss Emmy held her right arm in front of her and cupped her hand. Charlie stopped falling and hovered two feet off the ground. She took her left hand and pointed her finger at the ground. Vines emerged and crawled beneath Charlie. She then let him drop onto them. The vines wrapped around him, and Charlie screamed. She walked up to him.
“Don’t you ever come to my house again. If you do, you’ll suffer a worse fate than this. Do you understand?”
Charlie screeched out the words, “Yes, yes. I understand. Let me go.”
Miss Emmy waved her right hand over him, and the vines receded into the ground. Charlie got up, ran to his bike, and yelled, “I’m going to tell the police.”
Steve yelled back at him, “Go ahead. Nobody will ever believe you.” Steve knew Charlie was bluffing.
“Miss Emmy. Are you a witch?” Stephie asked.
Ron and Steve glanced at Stephie, then back to Miss Emmy and waited for the answer.
“Yes, Stephie. I am a witch. Don’t look so shocked, children. How do you think I’ve been able to guard the gateway by myself?”
“Wow,” Ron said. “We don’t know magic. How are we supposed to help you guard the gateway?”
“With Pasha’s help,” Miss Emmy said. “We’ve been waiting for children like you.”
“Who’s Pasha?” Stephie said.
Miss Emmy smiled. “He’s the dragon king of Vitalus. Now, let’s go, children. Should we go to Vitalus?”
In unison, the three of them said, “Yes.”
As before, Miss Emmy held her palm over the sapphire stone in the middle of the gate. It still amazed Ron and Steve how the gate disappeared after they entered Vitalus. A sweet floral scent tickled their noses, and Ron sneezed. Stephie breathed deep, closed her eyes, and smiled. Steve looked around, all around in amazement. Animated sprites swarmed them again, and several landed on Ron. Stephie pointed her finger and touched the back of the pink sprite that landed on Ron’s arm. The sprite, the size of a dragonfly, flew and then hovered in front of Stephie’s face.
“You’re so pretty,” Stephie said. The sprite smiled and flew away. “Why do they like Ron?”
“Yeah, why do they like me?” Ron asked.
Miss Emmy shrugged her shoulders, “Who’s to say why. It could be something they sense that appeals to them.”
“It’s cuz he’s a dork,” Steve said as he shoved Ron’s shoulder. Ron ignored him.
The seeing tree groaned and stared at them, annoyed at them for lingering. It unnerved Steve that the tree existed with one eye always on the opening of the gateway. He didn’t like being watched.
“Children, our mission today is to meet Pasha. You need the imprint of guardianship. Without it, I cannot train you,” Miss Emmy said. She was in a serious mood, and the children sensed it.
“What’s the imprint of guardianship?” Steve asked. “I hope it’s not on our foreheads,” He laughed, thinking that everyone else would also laugh.
“Why do you have to be like that?” Ron snapped.
“Come along, let’s not waste time,” Miss Emmy said as she tried to avoid unnecessary conflict between Ron and Steve.
The four of them made their way down a path, through twisted gray trees. The scent changed from sweetness to pungent dampness of the soil. The trees blocked much of the sun, presenting an ominous look to the forest. Upon nearing the edge of the forest, there appeared a valley of lush emerald green grass. They saw a large mountain at the far end. Many cave entrances covered the side of the mountain. There were massive creatures that stood watch in a few of the openings. Miss Emmy and the children got closer; it was evident that those creatures were dragons.
There was one cave in the top center of the mountain. A large gray dragon leaped off the edge of the entrance and glided toward them. As the children watched, they grew anxious, and they edged closer to Miss Emmy.
“Don’t be afraid, children. That’s Pasha, and he is eager to meet you.”
Upon landing, Pasha’s gray hide glistened with a touch of silver. He was stunning, and Stephie took off, running toward him.
“Oh, you are so beautiful,” Stephie squealed. She stood before him, staring up at his face, then sat beside him. Pasha lowered himself to the ground and rested.
“And you are kind and compassionate.” Pasha’s voice was a gravelly, throaty force.
Ron and Steve stood frozen, not knowing how to respond.
“Come forward,” Pasha said. “Hold out your palms. If you are to be the guardians of this world, you will need the imprint of guardianship.”
Ron and Steve joined Stephie, standing in front of Pasha. They held out their palms.