The Key Quest Kids
Chapter 3: The Protégé
When they arrived at the campground, the man sat them down and placed steaming bowls of stew in their hands. He produced some flat bread that smelled delicious. Christian’s stomach by now was grumbling, but he still wished that he was at his own kitchen table about ready to eat some Frosted Flakes.
Anthony was ready to eat too. His eyes staring longingly into his dish, nose down inhaling the steaming aroma.
The man stepped away from the fire into the trees. The boys heard some low talking that started to escalate into an argument. Some branches snapped and a bird suddenly took wing and darted through the trees squawking, flapping its wings wildly.
While the boys watched the bird fly away, a robed figure, smaller stature than the man, but straight and long necked under a hood that blocked the person’s face, stepped forward toward the campfire. Startled, the boys stood up almost spilling their bowls.
“Who are you?” asked Christian.
The person stood straight and still and said nothing.
“Allow me to introduce both of us,” said the man. “I am called Uriah. This is my protégé, and her name is Chang He.”
“You shot me! “ Anthony shouted angrily. “I could have lost my hand!”
“You are rude and have no manners! You were not invited into our camp,” said the robed figure.
“Now, everyone, we must be at peace and share our food together. We have much to discuss,” said Uriah calmly.
“Why were they invited?” snapped Chang He. “They are loud and untrained and they will be impossible to work with. They did not even know that their belongings were taken. They are so easily fooled.”
Christian shouted, “It was you! You stole our stuff. You’re the one!”
“You can’t even be trusted with a few belongings. You don’t even know how to…”
“Enough!” said Uriah in a Voice that commanded their silence. “Sit. Eat. Then we will talk.”
Chang He stepped forward in stiff anger. She pulled down her hood to reveal shining black hair pulled tightly into a long braid down her back. Her high cheekbones, olive colored skin, almond shaped eyes, and strong chin gave her an exotic appearance, like she hailed from Shangri-la. Her mouth curved slightly downward in repressed anger.
They sat and ate in silence, not looking at each other. Anthony wolfed down his food, making sure every last bit was soaked up with the bread.
Chang He ate in silent obedience. Christian picked at his food, wondering if it was all a plan to drug them and make them into zombies or prisoners.
When they were through eating, Christian, staring at Uriah, asked, “Are you some kind of Jedi Master, or something?” “Are we going to be your padowans?”
Uriah burst out laughing. “That would make you more cooperative, wouldn’t it, Young One?”
Christian pressed on, “We are obviously here by some mysterious circumstance. Maybe we have “the Force” with us or something.”
Uriah studied him a moment before answering. “Christian, have you heard of a Mandorla?”
“No…What is that?”
“That is your quest, young one. To find the Mandorla and enter.”
“Why would we want to do that? We don’t even know what that is,” said Anthony.
Uriah looked at Anthony with amusement, “What if I tell you, young sir, that it will lead you on the adventure of your life, and you will experience fullness of passion?”
“And you, young thinker, what if I told you it will lead you home, and you will find true joy?”
Uriah looked at Chang He, “And you, young maiden, what if I told you it would bring you true belonging?”
“So, this mandorla is sort of a portal?” asked Anthony.
“Like a tardis?” chimed in Christian.
Uriah sighed. “More like a destiny, young ones.”
“I’m in,” said Anthony.
Chang He nodded in agreement.
Christian didn’t say anything. “What numbskulls! This guy could be anyone. What are they thinking?” he thought.
Uriah, seeming to know his thoughts, said, “Of course, it is completely your own choice to undertake this journey. Think of it as an opportunity. To take this journey is a way unknown, filled with uncertainty, allowing yourself to follow something outside yourself. To not take the journey, is to wake up in your own bed, to face the life you envision for yourself, by your own will.”
Christian thought, “My own bed is sounding pretty good to me right now. The other offer is unattractive.” But he thought it would be sad to be left out of the adventure with his brother.
“Of course, there would be gifts for you to receive to help you on your journey,” said Uriah, almost as if he was speaking to himself.
Christian sat up, “Gifts? Like super powers?” he said. “What would I get?”
“That would be revealed on the journey together. Your gifts will depend upon your choices and who decides to go or stay,” said Uriah matter-of-factly.
“Why am I paired with these two?” asked Chang He, speaking up suddenly, interrupting Christian’s sudden gestures of enthusiasm.
“You are all chosen, not only because of who you are. You are chosen from among your people because of the bloodline of your parents and your people. You make the journey not only for yourselves, but for many who have gone before, and those who will come after you.”
“You, Chang He, are a princess of your people. You have been chosen from among your people to bring many out of darkness to the Mandorla. You have been marked from birth for this quest. They are under the darkness of the Jade Dragon. You have been called to lead many to freedom.”
“But these two…” She looked with distress at her companions. Christian was pacing around muttering “Jedi Powers”. He was trying to stare at rocks and make them levitate with his mind. Anthony was karate chopping flies that were following him around because of the food he had spilt on his pants.
Uriah placed his arm around her shoulders. “if they choose to come with you, you will find their company indispensable, and their gifts helpful. In fact, together, as a cord of three, you will not be easily broken.”
Unconvinced, she watched them warily.
“I think I prefer this one to that one,” she stated pointing to Anthony.
Uriah laughed. “You will see. You will be surprised at how much you will rely on Christian if he chooses to come along.”
Uriah stood for awhile and observed them.
“Come then, young ones. I will leave you for now. At sunset, whom ever wishes to continue, come to this place. Who ever wishes not to continue together will find themselves home.”
Christian watched Uriah go with mixed feelings. All of his imagination was soaring with the thought of being given Jedi powers and being chosen. It appealed to his natural feelings of knowing that his is special and destined for some unique calling. The other part of his heart was a little angry. If he was going on a quest, he thought that he wanted to be chosen alone or with Anthony, and at least be given a sword or a light saber, and be surrounded by friends at home, not in some strange unknown place finding something called a mandorla.
Anthony was busy looking around the camp. Where was the bathroom in this place? Maybe he should go back to the flat rock by the stream and find some privacy. As long as Christian would come with him, he was looking forward to the adventure. His heart missed his mom and her hugs at night when he was going to sleep. He was sure, that at the end of the journey, she would be there and he would be able to hug her close and give her a kiss. He missed his dad’s tight bear hugs too. His dad would pick him up in a bear hug so his feet would dangle kicking and air would escape his lungs in a big involuntary, “AAAAH”. Where was Christian anyway?
Chang He searched her heart for some hope. She had known from birth of her nobility. She bore the mark of the chosen one on her. It was a big blue mark on her backside, that her caregivers had said came as a slap from Angels to make her come down from heaven and carry out her destiny. But that destiny did not involve these two scruffy boys. They had no discipline. They were not quiet. They were not observant. They were not careful nor purposeful. How could they be helpful in any way? They would only get in the way. She would have to take care of them. Uriah must be wrong. There could be no other answer. It was a mistake. Had he not seen that they didn’t even notice when she snuck over to take their things? At sunset, she would ask if she could go on alone with Uriah. She was already skilled with the bow and arrow. That should be enough for her to make the journey. She felt a little better with her plan in place.
She was startled out of her thoughts by a noise in the forest. She grabbed her bow and arrow and raced into the woods to see the source of the noise.
Anthony, looking up from his hiding place by the river, having finished his private needs, heard the same noise and started back toward the camp. When he saw Chang He grab her bow, he started running calling for Christian.
Christian, was busy in the branches of a tree, trying to develop his Jedi powers of strength and befriend a bird that was perched just above his head. He was reaching up trying to touch the bird, who just hopped to the next branch up from his hand. Jack the mouse, was at the base of the tree, squeaking away, his whiskers flickering in agitation.
“Sorry buddy, I forgot the key. I think Anthony has it. I don’t know what you’re saying,” Christian said, looking down at the mouse. His eyes caught sight of Chang He running up and pulling out an arrow from her quiver, and sliding it into her bow, pulling it back ready to shoot.
“Whoa, what are you doing?” Christian shouted from the tree.
Not saying a word, she took aim ready to shoot.
Anthony, bursting into the brush, saw her aiming at Christian in the tree and just as she was launching to arrow, jumped on her back pulling the arrow upward in its trajectory. The arrow flew straight at Christian, who, knocked off balance by the tree limb under him cracking with a loud bang, he fell. The bird he was trying to reach, banged out of the tree with a loud swoosh. The arrow landed into the tree with a “whooomp”. Christian landed at the base of the tree in the bushes, with Jack the mouse scrambling out of the way, then scurried up his legs and sat on his chest clicking and squeaking.
Anthony, face forward on top of Chang He, was trying his best to pin her to the ground. She was kicking him with her formidable legs, swinging upward, knees hitting him in the sides. He hung on with all of his might, clamping down harder every time her knee connected with his side.
“Get off of me, get off!!! You made me miss!!! What are you doing?” Chang He snarled.
“Off of you? Why are you trying to kill my brother?” Shouted Anthony.
“What are you talking about? I’m not trying to kill anyone!!”, said Chang He disgustedly. She shoved Anthony off of her with all of her arm strength and her knees.
Anthony rushed over to Christian, who was trying to sit up wondering what was going on. “What happened? What are you guys doing?”
Just then, a wiggling writhing snake fell from the tree with an arrow neatly lodged in its back. It landed on Christian and Anthony’s feet. Jack ran up the back of Anthony’s shirt and chattered at the snake from the safety of Anthony’s shoulder.
“That’s what I was trying to hit, you…Oh, forget this!!” Chang He turned and walked away seething.
Christian and Anthony just stood there staring at the snake.
Anthony kicked it just to be sure it was dead.
“Do you think it would have bit me?” asked Christian.
Anthony just shrugged. “She’s a pretty good shot.”
“Do you think we should say something to her?” said Christian.
“I don’t know,” said Anthony. “Just let her cool off.”
Anthony held out the key to Christian, who held it together with Anthony. Jack the mouse was chattering away on Anthony’s shoulder,”…and the fangs are front facing, so they can strike without coiling, your hand was about two inches from death… Why don’t you listen when I warn you?…”
Anthony put the key back into his pocket.
“Maybe this whole thing isn’t a good idea. It’s time to go back to the rock and think things over. What would Frodo do? At least he had a ring and a purpose. This was just too strange. Chang He was no elf princess.” Anthony thought.
He and Christian limped off to the flat rock to decide together their plan.