For the next few days, Jack kept to the outdoors, seldom coming near the castle. Valanice was the only person who still came to see him, though she didn’t neglect to tell everyone about the strange animal that had taken residence in the forest, including her daughter, Rosella. As curious as Rosella was about Jack, she never ventured into the forest to find him. Valanice correctly assumed that she was worried for her brother, Alexander.
But one day Jack entered the castle, and since Graham was busy with a traveler that had just arrived at the castle, Valanice decided to have a talk with the cat. When she found him, he was dressed in the same dark green tunic with the gold fasteners at his collar, holding several rolls of paper under his arm.
“So…how have things been up in the tree?” Valanice asked.
“Splendid, my lady,” replied Jack. “I’ve been busy writing, mostly.”
“Writing about what?”
“Oh, this and that. The land mostly. It’s such a beautiful land, Daventry. And your presence makes it even more lovely.”
“If you weren’t a cat, I’d think you were trying to seduce me,” said Valanice.
“I would never do that, Valanice. Anyway, what would you want with me with such a handsome man by your side? Graham is one of the most…”
Jack stopped abruptly. Valanice, even though she wasn’t speaking, also seemed to stop. A strange sound came filtering through the air, reaching the ears of both cat and woman. It sounded like a bird, but it wasn’t. It was a series of repetitive, continuous beeps that went on for about five seconds, then stopped.
“What was that?” asked Valanice.
“I don’t know,” said Jack. “If I weren’t in your time, I’d think it was a…”
Again the sound came, this time higher pitched and lasting for a longer time.
“It sounds like a bird of some kind…but I’ve never heard a bird that sounded like that before,” said Valanice.
“It’s not a bird…It’s something else…” said Jack. And once again the noise came, this time much louder and more reverberant. Jack tensed up and his claws shot out of his fingers.
“Jack…” said Valanice nervously, fearing that Jack was going mad.
“It’s all right, it’s all right. My claws jump out whenever I get nervous. That’s all. But I have to find where that sound’s coming from before anyone else hears it.”
“As you wish,” said Valanice. “May I come with you?”
“Please do,” said Jack. “You know this castle much better than I do.”
And so Valanice guided Jack through the numerous rooms of Castle Daventry. At times, the sound seemed to be coming from right beside them, but whenever Jack or Valanice tried to pinpoint it, it vanished and began emitting from another location, sometimes as far away as three rooms to the right or left.
“I don’t understand it,” Jack moaned. “I thought I knew everything about time traveling. What is going on?”
“Well, basically you’re exiling me into a state of confusion, and I’m trying to figure out what you’re talking about, and Graham is…”
“I wasn’t asking you,” Jack said. “I was just talking to myself.”
“That’s all right by me, Jack. Graham, as you may know, does it constantly, but still…”
“I’m just seventeen! Did you expect me to know everything?”
“No…but I didn’t expect Rosella to know how to defeat an evil fairy, and look where she is now!”
“Less mouth and more mind, Valanice! I’m trying to think, and you should too.”
“If you say so.”
Jack and Valanice stepped out into the hallway. Jack stood on his tiptoes and began sniffing the air delicately. Valanice wondered if his sense of smell was as acute as that of a true cat, but she remembered what he had told her and kept quiet. A loud, wailing sound suddenly came from the door a few feet in front of them. Jack sprang for the door handle.
“Wait!” Valanice cried. “That’s Rosella’s room!” But it was too late to stop Jack as he flung open the door and leapt inside. Valanice ran towards him just in time to see her daughter back away towards her window and let out a squeak of surprise.
“Rosella!” Jack said, dropping to his knees and dropping some of the rolls of paper he was carrying. “I’m so sorry, I didn’t realize…”
“Who are you?” Rosella asked. “Are you that Jack my mother told me about.”
“Unfortunately, yes,” said Valanice, stepping around his prostrate body and into her daughter’s room. “We were trying to find the source of that sound…”
“What sound?” asked Rosella, brushing her hair away from her ear. Valanice was about to respond when she realized that the sound had vanished entirely.
“It’s gone now,” said Jack, getting to his feet. “But it was coming from your room.”
“Well, I did recall hearing some faint noises from downstairs, but I certainly don’t hear a thing now.”
“I know,” sighed Valanice. “It seems to be coming from nowhere. We just don’t know what it is.”
“I wish I could help,” said Rosella, looking at her feet. She then looked up at Jack with curiosity. “I’ve never seen a creature like you before, Jack. You’re amazing.”
“Thank you, I guess,” said Jack. Rosella walked towards him and touched his furry cheek. She drew her hand back when Jack started purring unexpectedly, but then smiled at her own reaction and began stroking his long, blonde hair.
“Mother tells me you know about our future. Is this true?”
“Yes, I do…but perhaps it is best that you don’t know them. It would spoil the surprise.”
“That’s for sure, but…” Rosella pinched a lock of Jack’s hair. “Will Alexander be safe on his journey?”
“Well…I promised myself I wouldn’t tell you, but yes. He will.”
There was a long pause, and then Valanice noticed the scattered papers on the floor and bent down to pick them up. Out of curiosity, she started reading the writing on one:
Cassie: Edgar, put an “a-d” at the beginning of that last verb and what we are doing now sounds much better.
(Edgar looks at Cassie and…
Jack suddenly snatched the papers from Valanice’s hand.
“Sorry, Valanice, you can’t read those. Confidential.”
“And I’m sure Mother knows what that means around you,” Rosella said.
“Seriously, Rosella. I can’t let you read your futures before they come. It might have a major impact on my time, and you know that’s not in the best interest.”
“All right,” said Rosella. “Well, are you going to keep looking for those sounds you mentioned?”
“I don’t think so,” explained Jack. “They seem to have faded away, but no one can say that they won’t come back. I think I’ll go back outside to my tree and think about this. Hopefully I’ll have an answer soon.”
“If you insist, Jack,” said Valanice as he slowly walked out of Rosella’s room and down the hallway, talking to himself and twitching his tail.
Valanice tramped through the dark gardens, clutching a spear she had borrowed from one of the castle guards. She was still in her nightgown, mostly because she was too anxious to speak to Jack and didn’t want to waste time changing her clothes. She didn’t even bother to put her slippers on, and the dewy grass was already bathing her feet. The moon was a tiny sliver in the sky, giving her just enough light to see by and find her way to Jack’s tree.
She finally found the thick oak, shadowed by its neighbors but still distinct. Before she could do anything else, she noticed a scrap of paper lying on the ground at the base of the trunk. She picked it up and read the scrawled, frantic handwriting on it:
There will be nine chapters, each played out by E. and C., not necessarily in that order. Player will be given the choice to choose between the two. Movies will be replayed in some cases, but not all.
Valanice narrowed her eyes and squinted at the paper in confusion. She could not understand what it meant. Was it something from Jack’s magic stories? Who were “E” and “C?” She couldn’t fathom the answers to the questions, and decided that perhaps it was best that she couldn’t. She suddenly recalled that Jack was very protective of his papers, and would probably lose his mind if he caught her with one in her hand. Valanice carefully lay it against the trunk, where he would easily find it.
Then, lifting the spear she was carrying as high as she could she vigorously rattled it among the upper branches, where she hoped Jack would be sleeping.
“Hey, you! Jack! Get down from there! We need you now!”
She heard a faint feline squeak of terror, then the familiar, thin form of Jack leapt down from the branches, landing squarely on his feet.
“What’s going on, Valanice?” he asked, twisting his finger in his right ear and blinking his eyes.
“There are terrible noises coming from everywhere in the castle, worse than the ones this afternoon. One could almost call it music, but it sounds like music from the Underworld!”
“And you think I’m responsible for it?” yawned Jack.
“You’re the only one I can think of asking!” hissed Valanice. “Come back to the castle and hear them for yourself!”
Without even waiting for Jack to process her last words, the queen turned and began walking back to the castle with wide steps and about as much grace as a man carrying a sack of hay over one shoulder. Jack finally caught up with her as she was entering the gardens. As Valanice stomped through the open gates, she threw her spear down, nearly hitting Jack and nearly closing the gates in his face as they entered the palace.
“Do you hear that?” Valanice asked. Jack pricked his ears and listened. It was music, all right, but not the lilting harps and flutes Daventry would normally sound like. It was rapid, screeching, and deafening. Jack could recognize the twisted sounds. They were sounds from his time, modern music, electric guitars, synthesized melodies…
“Jack, what is that racket?” Valanice snapped.
“I…I don’t know…” said Jack, still dizzy from his sudden awakening. “It sounds like music from…from where I came from.”
“You mean the future?” Valanice asked.
“Yes…I think it’s…” Jack was cut off by Graham entering the room and muttering indistinguishable curses and looking around the room, trying to find where the music was coming from.
“Valanice, what in the world is that cacophony?” he cried. “I can’t sleep with that terrible noise!”
“Neither can I!” his wife yelled. “That’s why I got Jack in here!”
“What can he do?” Graham asked.
“Good question,” Jack began, but a cold look from Valanice made him stop whatever he was saying.
“I want to know what is going on, and now,” she snapped. “I’m not a cheerful person when I’m deprived of sleep.”
“Neither am I,” said Jack, “But I think I’m starting to get an answer to the question of where that noise is coming from.”
“Is it a right answer?”
“I don’t know…but I’ll try,” said Jack, taking Valanice by the hand and leading her out of the room, through several rooms and up a long flight of stairs to the second floor.
“So what is this noise, anyway?” Valanice asked.
“Well, my theory is that it’s from my time and world. So were those weird beeping noises we were hearing earlier. Somehow they must have seeped through the membranes and appeared here, in Daventry.”
“I think you are the cause of it, Jack.”
“I was thinking the same thing. I also think the best thing to do is stop it before it gets any worse.”
“What could be worse than this?”
“Plenty, Valanice. You don’t know how bad this music can be, and for all I know, perhaps whole buildings from the future could appear! Maybe even entire civilizations! Uh…” he said, glancing around the hallway they had just arrived in, “Where’s the library?”
“It’s on the ground floor, Jack. I thought you knew…”
“Now I do. Come on. Back downstairs…”
Next Page Previous Page