Chapter 1


     Heather was an 11 year-old girl that lived in a small town in Kansas, where she went to school just like all the other children, rode her bicycle just like all the other children, and did all the other things that children her age did. She went swimming every day during the summer, going to the city pool with all the other kids, where she swam and learned to dive into the cool blue water with all the rest of them. She would pick on her older brother, and then complain to her mom and dad when he tormented her right back. In other words, she was just a regular, normal, everyday little girl.

     Except there was one deep, dark secret that not many people knew about Heather, least of all her friends. The fact of the matter was, well…. Heather was actually a very horrible little girl when no one was around but her parents.

     Quite frankly, both of her parents were at a bit of a loss as to what to do about their daughters’ attitude and behavior. “I just don’t know what to do anymore!” her mother would say, shaking her head in dismay. Her father would look up from the computer where he was typing his latest best-selling novel, and agree with his wife.  “I don’t know either, dear. Should I go on the Internet and see if perhaps there is some sort of place where we could swap her for a little girl that is a bit better behaved?” “I wish!” his wife replied.

     Now, please don’t take this to mean that Heather was always horrible, because she wasn’t. As a matter of fact, most of the time, she was actually a very good little girl. She always looked out for her friends. She made sure that all of the animals’ in the neighborhood were being taken care of. If she found one without water or food, or tied up in the sun, she would march right up and knock on the door, demanding that the owners take care of the problem right then.

     In school, she always got good grades and obeyed all of the rules there, even if she really didn’t agree with them. She would look out for the smaller children, and make sure none of the bigger kids were bullying them. If she did spot someone misbehaving, then off she would march to the teachers who were monitoring the playground, and inform them of the problem.

    This often would lead to her own problems with the bullies, but she didn’t care, because she felt that if it was wrong, then it was wrong, and that was all there was to it! If a teacher said that there was to be no gum chewing in her class, well, then that was the rule, and heaven help the kid that tried to sneak a piece in the midst of Math.

      “Ms. McMonigle? Carlos is chewing gum again.” Heather would say. “Carlos? Spit it out right now and go to the principals office!” The teacher would tell him. And off he would go to the front of the classroom, having to spit out his fresh, hardly-chewed-at-all piece of Dubble-bubble into the trashcan in front of the whole class, and then march off to the Principal’s office.

     Actually, Carlos didn’t mind going to the principal’s office, because he was Ms. Dunston’s paperboy, and all they usually did was sit and talk about Carlos’s favorite baseball team, or football team. Carlos actually preferred it to being the classroom, and sometimes he would chew gum just so he could take a break from trying to learn all the new things that the teachers were stuffing into his brain

     But to all the other kids, Heather was sometimes a bit annoying, always tattling on them for everything, no matter how small it was. Sometimes, even her friends would get a bit mad at her, and stay away for awhile. But she didn’t care, because what was right was right!

    But you ask, why didn’t this happen at home as well? Good question, I have to say! It was almost like Heather had a big switch on her back that went on or off automatically when she came through the door. She would come in the front door and sling her backpack onto the floor, pull out her old homework papers and toss them onto the couch. There they would stay until either someone else got tired of sitting on them and threw them away, or they slid down between the couch cushions and out of sight beneath.

     Then she would inform everyone in the house in a very loud voice that she was starving and needed to be fed. This was usually when the horrible-ness would get started. At this point in time, she would be informed that if she was hungry, to get herself a snack. She would scowl, and say, “But I can’t make what I want, I can’t use the toaster!” (stove, microwave, french-fry cooker, take your choice)

     Now Heather was actually a good little cook, and made a fantastic grilled cheese sandwich when she felt like it. But it seemed that she just wanted someone to wait on her and do it for her.

     Most of the time this process involved listening to Heather tell her Mom and Dad that they were not very good at shopping. The logic behind that was that they never bought the stuff that she liked. And, of course, this was what they were there for, right? To buy her what she wanted!

     And no matter what Mom cooked for dinner, it was never what she wanted. It seemed like there was always something that Heather didn’t like, or was tired of, or just didn’t feel like eating that night. So either the dog would get it, (which was always his favorite, unless it was broccoli, in which case he would lick all the cheese sauce off of it and then hide the rest of it somewhere in the house to be found at some point in the future) or it was “saved”.

     This meant it was wrapped carefully in plastic wrap, then put into the refrigerator where it sat until someone looked at it and said “What in the world did that use to be?” At which point it was fed to the garbage disposal. This usually led to the dog giving you that look that meant, “Hey, you could have fed me that last week!”

     Then an hour or two after dinner was over Heather would be hungry. “I want some something,” she would say. Or she would open the door to the fridge and stand there, her eyes roaming over the shelves of food inside. Her favorite thing to eat now would be the small packs of chocolate pudding that Mom had bought for Dad to take in his lunches to work. Never mind that these were for his lunches and she had already eaten several of them earlier in the week, these were what she had to have to eat now!

    Occasionally she would just sit and moan about just how hungry she was, and how that no one ever bought anything at all that she liked, until both her Mom and her Dad were simply tired of hearing it. “You know, Heather, that there are kids in a lot of places that would fight each other to have the food that you threw away last night?” her Dad would ask her. He would shake his head, realizing that she had no idea what he was talking about.

     She would complain about her clothes, her school supplies, her shoes, her hair…everything. Nothing was good enough, or stylish enough, or “cool” enough, it seemed according to what she was saying.

    Finally, her Dad had had enough. Heather had complained that she simply couldn’t fold the towels and put them away, because she was…just…too…tired. He walked out of the living room and went into the bedroom. Going to the closet, he rummaged about in it, pulling out boxes that had been stored in there for years. “Dear, have you seen my old metal lock-box?” he called out to his wife.

    “You don’t mean the one that you keep your…” her voice tapered off as she realized that the metal box he was asking about was indeed the one she thought it was. “What are you going to do with that?” she asked him.

     “It is time she learned a lesson in life, dear. Don’t try and talk me out of it, my mind is made up and there is no changing it!” He finally moved enough things out of the way that he was able to get to the far corner of the closet, pulling out a metal lock-box and setting it on top of the desk. He placed his hand on the box, holding it there for a moment. A bluish glow began to spread around where his hand touched the metal, spreading out across to the lock that hung from the hasp on the front of it.

     With a snap, the lock sprang open, now hanging loose from one side. Twisting it out of the way, he slid it out of the little circle that held it and lay it to one side. Taking a deep breath, he raised the lid and looked into the interior of the box before him. Gingerly he reached in and took hold of something inside. As he touched it, a sudden bright glow flared up, nearly blinding the both of them.

     As quickly as it had flared up, it faded away, appearing now only as an immense jewel that he held. Turning to his wife, he kissed her on the cheek. Ignoring her feeble protests, he went out of the door and down the hall to where his daughter lay asleep in her comfortable bed, covered in her fuzzy, soft, warm blanket. He took one last look round her bedroom, then reached out, took hold of her hand, raised the jewel in his other hand, and spoke. “ 䣥ïñ mÖbïüs.”

     The room now simply “fuzzed” out around the two of them, Heather now lying on a soft patch of grass beneath the spreading branches of a gigantic tree. Her father now lie back against the trunk of the tree, intending to catch a short nap himself, since he had not had any sleep himself.

     He was startled back to full wakefulness by his daughters frantic scrambling up onto his lap as she shook him out of his slumber. “Dad! Dad! Wake up!” she shouted. “Why are we out here in the woods? Did you carry me out here while I was asleep?” She asked him one question after another, not giving him even a moment in which to answer any of them. He gave her a hug, then leaned back and yawned widely, needing to stretch out his body because of the unusual sleeping arrangements. It had been quite some time since he had slept out under the stars, and his body was quick to remind him of this.

     Heather got up off of his lap so that he could stand and stretch out. She was still looking about her, trying to find something familiar to her, but unable to thus far. “Dad, where are we? Where is Mom?” She was appearing to be a bit panicky now that no answers were forthcoming.

     “You know how I have been telling you time after time that you really do not appreciate just how much that you have, Heather?” her dad asked her. “Well, yeah.” She answered. “I decided it was time for you to see just how spoiled you really are.” He stood up now and brushed the twigs and grass off of his jeans.

    “First, we need to take care of a few things, I believe!” He turned to where Heather stood, watching anxiously, sure that her father had gone quite mad. He held out his hand towards her. He concentrated on her jeans and T-shirt and her new top-of-the-line cross-trainers.

     There was a brilliant flash of light that made both of them blink. Heather looked down at her clothes, her jaw dropping as she saw what she was now wearing. “Daaaad!” she wailed. “What happened?” Her dad laughed at the expression on her face as he took in the full-length dress that she now wore. It was a light blue, made of a silky material that was actually quite beautiful.

     “And look at these!” she complained. “These cannot possibly be shoes?” She lifted the front of her skirt to display the matching slippers to the dress that she wore. “The best that I could do on such short notice, dear.” her dad told her. “What do you mean, ‘you’ could do, Dad?” Heather asked him.

     “Well, where do you think the clothes came from?” he asked her. “I dunno!” she quickly replied. “Watch this then.” he told her. He raised his hand once more, this time towards his own clothes. The same brilliant flash of light once more appeared, and then he stood there, his own clothes gone and replaced with a pair of knee-high soft leather boots, breeches and a tunic of a light gray material.

    But what really amazed Heather more than that was the great sword that now rode slung from her father’s hip. She had never seen any thing quite like it before except in some magazines and catalogs that sold medieval things for people that went to the local Renaissance Festival. But this one looked different from those in some way, she was not sure just what it was.

    Her father saw her looking at his sword and reached down and pulled it from the scabbard. It slid free with a metallic ringing that seemed to echo across the woodland clearing that they stood in, the sun glinting off of the polished metal of the blade.

     “Wow, dad, where did you get that?” she asked. “That is so neat!” Her dad laughed. “I have had it since before you were born, girl. I guess you could say it has been stored away.” “But how did you do that?” Heather asked him. “Just one of my many talents, girl.” He laughed. “Now we need a few other things.”

     He turned to her. “If you had a horse, what would you name him?” Her brow wrinkled up as she thought about his question. “I think… maybe… Boogerhead?” Her dad laughed. “Try again!”

     She grinned mischievously. “ Buttmuncher? Or Lizardjuice? How about plain old Barfface?” Heather quickly dissolved into a fit of giggles at all the demented names that she had come up with. “Not very suitable, I am afraid.” he said.

     “Oh, alright then.” She grinned. “Stitch.” Her dad sighed. “Ok, that is better, I guess.” With that he made yet another gesture with his hand and there before them stood two horses, one a pale gray that almost matched her dad’s clothes, the other a dusky brown.

     Her dad looked at her and grinned. “Remember I told you that those riding lessons might come in handy some time, right? Well, this is it.” “Where are we going?” Heather asked. “And where are we?”

     He only smiled at her as he boosted her up and into her saddle, handing her the reins. He turned to the other horse and lifted himself up and into the saddle. Taking the reins in hand, he turned the horse towards a path that led into the forest. Heather had no choice but to follow along on her own mount.

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