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Felton and the Wolf: Chapter VIII

Felton helped Grandpaw into his chair.  It took him quite a while to bandage the bite-wounds, and though it was painful for the old fox, he tried to remain in good spirits.  
“I told you their bite was worse than their bark,” said Grandfather, wincing a smile.  “That’s not the worst part, though.  The worst of it will be the sleep I’m about to have.  The bite of a lair hound, or their saliva, really, causes deep sleep and awful dreams which can only be experienced, never explained.  I will need all my strength to choose rightly and not lose myself in the nightmares.  Please, stay by my side here, Felton.  When it seems to become hard for me--and you’ll know when it does--then just whisper into my ear, so that I remember what is real and what is dream.”  
Already Grandpaw’s eyes were beginning to blur over as the bite of the lair hound took effect.  Felton squeezed the old fox’s paw.  
Grandpaw fell asleep moments later, and at first he appeared to sleep quite peacefully.  But a thin line of sweat soon appeared on his nose, and he started tossing and turning.  Then thrashing.  Felton leaned in close to his ear and whispered, “Grandpaw, I’m here, I’m here.”  He couldn’t think of anything else to say.  Grandpaw squeezed his paw…or was it simply his body shaking because of his dreams?
Felton grew nervous as Grandpaw’s body grew cold, and once he gasped, thinking the old fox had ceased breathing, but Grandpaw’s body finally relaxed, the tension draining out of it like water escaping a bathtub.  When he opened his eyes hours later, Felton was more than relieved.  The old fox did not stir.  His body lay prone as if he lacked the strength to rise.  When he did try sit up, his body fell back again.  Felton tried to help him but his Grandfather waved him off.  Finally he rolled forward into a sitting position, his paws on the floor.  He examined the bite marks where the lair hound had struck.  Then he reached inside his pocket and slipped a long silver key, threaded onto a slim red length of rope, into Felton’s paw.  “Take this and look beneath the old loose board by the door.  I am still tired, but do not leave, please.  I think I must sleep a bit longer.”  The old fox was soon asleep again, but now he slept peacefully.
It took him a few minutes, but Felton found the right board.  Underneath it, there lay a heavy, rusted metal box.  The key slipped softly into the latch and opened, revealing a map and a book which was not unlike the one Grandpaw had already given him.  But what most caught Felton’s eye was a medallion.  He picked it up and exchanged it between paws.  On one side was an unknown script wreathed with flowers and vines, and on the other an engraving of what seemed to be a great mountain hill, circled with the same strange script.  
He opened up the book and found it full of poetry and maps.  On the first page he began to read:

    When hope is gone and light is false,
    Seek the seed that once was lost
    To the west the tree will bloom
    O’er the sky the branches loom
    He who faces fear will see
    The darkness fade to victory

He sat for at least two hours, reading.  The book was full of stories about Trounisia and Elandor, its kingdom to the west.  He immediately recognized Saul, the king who had defeated the Dark Queen and her army at the Battle of Trimides Gap.  That story he already knew.  But this book detailed Saul’s exploits before the Battle and even as the Queen invaded.  He had sailed north to the Black Islands (Felton had never heard of those) in order to find a very ancient type of stone that had fallen to earth.  At least, that’s the best Felton could figure.  It was a bit hard to follow the story, as he had no idea what Erogian stone was, or what Dagoninier magic was.  And there were all sorts of other words in a foreign tongue which the author had not deemed it necessary to translate.  Plus, they must have talked very funny back when this book had been written, thought Felton.    

After a while, Felton stood up to stretch.  He put the book back into the box and the box under the board.  He put the key in his pocket, but he kept the medallion in his paws.  He did not want to put it away.  At that moment Felton felt a hand on the back of his shoulder, and flung himself around.  The medallion flew through the air.  Grandfather stood there, trying unsuccessfully to suppress a laugh with his paw.
“You startled me!”
“I am sorry, Felton.  I did not mean to.  Yes, we will work on your awareness.”
Felton paused, wondering if he should ask the question.  “What…what did you dream?”  

The smile vanished from Grandfather’s face for a moment before he continued, “Ah, such things are not good for discussing when I have not seen you in so long.”
“Grandpaw, that was a lair hound, the same…beast…that was at the festival?
“Yes.  They are his servants.  Back a second time.”

“His…meaning Markanus?”

“Markanus, indeed.  The lair hounds are one of his ‘inventions,’ you might say, and apparently he has made them into his scouts.”
“How did it get here again?  And why did it attack you?”    
Grandpaw smiled and stooped down to pick up the medallion.  “I see you found Daggoner’s Medallion.”  
“I did.  I mean, I guess so.  It’s beautiful, but odd.  It’s so heavy.”
“Yes, indeed, and it should be.  It’s made of stuff you’ve never touched, not in this world.  And it’s full of magic.”
“It is?  It just feels like a lump of metal.”
“Well it is that, too, but I assure you: under the right circumstances, this rock will pour forth magic light like the sun.  You should keep it.”
“Really?” said Felton.  
“Yes, I’ve been planning on giving it to you.”  Grandfather laughed as Felton put the medallion around his neck, clearly very pleased.  Felton thought it seemed heavier around his neck than in his paws.
“Markanus is growing stronger, Felton.  And the stronger he becomes, the more magic is at his disposal.  The more magic he has, the easier it is for him to crack the in-between places open.”

“The in-between places?” Felton asked.

“Yes, there are placed in our world connected to his.  We used to call them the thin places.  Imagine it like this.”  Grandpaw picked up a scrap of wood from his workbench and a walnut from the table and placed them both in front of him.  “Like I said, it takes a lot of magic—a lot of power—to bridge time and connect two worlds.  Imagine that magic is like this shoe.”  He removed a shoe from his paw and swung it from high above his head onto the piece of wood.  “No matter how hard I hit this wood, I’m not going to break it.  It’s too strong.  But watch.”  He slammed the shoe onto the walnut and the walnut shattered into countless pieces.  “That is how he does it.  The ‘thin places’ are like this walnut shell.  If you find them and hit them with enough magic, you can break them open.  Then with more magic, you can create a bridge in the place where the shell was.”

“Where are these thin places?”

“Ah, they are all around us, but sometimes hard to find.  You can walk right through them without knowing it, if you’re not looking to feel them.  Usually they’re in the forest, or high on mountains.  No doubt there is a great large one at the summit of Mt. Bendleway.  Or by the oceans.  That’s for our world anyway, but on his end, Markarnus could create one anywhere he liked, if he had the magic for it.  With them, he can find his way into Birchwood, as obviously he has...twice now.  This makes at least two in a relatively short time, which means, I can only assume the worst: Markanus is growing much stronger.”
“But why did it find you?  Why did it come after you?”
“Because, Felton: I have been there.  I have been to that other place, to Trounisia, and that is not easily forgotten.  And I have—had--this medallion, which is like a magnet.  It helps the thin places vibrate, you might say.  Helps them show themselves.  In any event, I will soon need to be on the move now they know I’m here.”  
Felton's mouth fell open, and questions poured out of him, but try as he might, he could not coerce Grandfather to say anything more on the matter, either of his time in Trounisia or on his upcoming move.  “Tsk, tsk, there will be time for those questions, Felton, but look at this mess I’ve got to clean.”  Grandfather began cleaning up the room while Felton was bid to continue reading the voluminous book.  But as soon as he took his place at the desk, he found Grandfather at his elbow, smiling, “But…perhaps now you’re thinking that this nutter who lives in a tree might actually be telling the truth?”  His eyes danced with humor, and Felton rolled his eyes.  But as he started reading, he admitted to himself.  Yes…absolutely.
Once Grandfather was quite done cleaning, he turned to Felton, still reading at the table.  “I was thinking that…well, maybe tonight you might take me…that is, if you think it would be a good idea, to see your family.”
Felton’s face lit up like fireworks.  “Yes, I think it’s a splendid idea, indeed!”
“Good, then,” said Grandpaw laughing again.  And then Felton noticed that the old fox became quite nervous.  “Dear me, dear,” he said as his paws jumped from pocket to pocket in search of something.  “Where did I put my specs, then.  Hmmmm….and my cane, yes I’ll need that, too.”
Felton could not help but laugh as the old fox paced about the room like a nervous school-maid, but he tried hard to conceal his amusement.

Chapter IX