Valanice became human again later that afternoon. At the same time, dark clouds had started moving in around the castle and the air, music and beeping noises had reached a peak none of the people of Daventry had ever known.
“We have to move fast,” said Jack as they walked through the upper hallway. “If we don’t, who knows what could happen next?”
“Don’t count on it, Val. We’ve got to act. No time to think. We have to go…”
Suddenly Jack started fading, and when Valanice gave him the now familiar slap on the back, he didn’t resolidify as he had done before.
“What’s happening to you?” Valanice cried.
“I have no idea. Perhaps all these elements from the future are starting to have an affect on me!”
“But you didn’t say anything from your time to trigger that, did you?”
“No! I don’t understand! But as I was saying, we’d better get the spell book, get the ingredients and get up to the tallest tower now.”
At that moment Jack faded back into normality and Valanice exhaled in relief.
“Have you seen whether the pearl fits into the eye socket or not, Jack?”
“It does. Perfectly. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. We’d better…”
Here he paused and glanced out the window at the gathering rain clouds. “Oh good lord. No way…”
Here he paused and glanced out the window at the gathering rain clouds. “Oh good lord. No way…”
“What is it, Jack?”
“Those clouds…the way they’ve moved in all of a sudden…there’s a weather phenomena of my time that happens once every ten years that starts out just like this…I think this is it…”
“What is it called?”
“El Niño…but I can’t go into it now,” Jack said, turning to her. “Let’s get that book and the materials and get everyone into the tallest tower, and fast.”
Within a half hour, the storm had darkened the land and Graham, Valanice, Rosella, Jack and Ian were standing on the open top of the north tower. The wind had picked up, and the hair of the four individuals has being whipped unmercifully around like blades of grass. Jack had set the skull down on the floor and was trying to figure out what to do next, flipping through “Trans-Time Management and Precautions.”
“Do you think we should put the glass globe over the skull?” yelled Valanice over the roar of the wind.
“Funny, I was thinking the same thing,” said Jack. Carefully he placed the globe over the skull with its two pearly eyes that reflected Jack’s image almost flawlessly. But Jack was still fading in and out of view like a person passing through shadows and light.
“What do we do now?” asked Rosella.
“I don’t know,” said Jack.
“Well,” cut in Ian, “I’m not a master of magic myself, but in a spell-casting moment like this, I’d say the best thing to do would be to lift that thing up towards the heavens.”
Jack looked at Valanice, who, after a moment of hesitation, nodded. “I can’t think of any better idea. Do you want me to lift it?”
“No, let’s lift it together,” said Jack. “You were the first one I met in Daventry, and you deserve to be the one to put a stop to these happenings I’ve been solely responsible for. Let’s do it.”
Jack and Valanice each took a side of the glass globe, and placing their fingers beneath the skull, lifted it up above their heads. Thunder had begun to rumble in the distance and lightning was lighting up the faces of all the people on the tower’s top.
A sudden silence fell over the land, though the wind and rain still whipped through it. A flickering Jack and Valanice looked into each other’s eyes from either side of the globe, each wanting to say something, but fearing to move. Graham, Rosella and Ian were looking worriedly at the sky and the clouds that seemed to be growing denser by the second.
Then, a deafening crash of thunder shook the tower like a sapling and at the same moment, a bolt of lighting zigzagged down and struck the globe, illuminating it with a light that blinded all who laid eyes upon it.
Jack and the queen squinted and shuddered with the greatness of the blast, and tried to look at the skull to see what was happening. The two eyes from the future and the present were shining like twin suns, and the skull itself was hardly visible within that shimmering halo of light. The rumble of the thunder ceased, but the glow remained, pulsating like a heart within the globe.
Then, another, even greater clap of thunder sliced through the quiet of the storm and this time, lighting didn’t strike the globe, but instead, a beam of luminous light shot down through a gap in the clouds and hit the glass hemisphere like a lance piercing the earth.
The two minds of the two individuals holding the globe were filled with tangled, unclear thoughts that seemed to rip them apart. Valanice was flooded with memories of her childhood in Kolyma, her friend Amaranth and her loving parents. Jack was filled with images of his own time and homeland, his sister, the times he had spent alone, planning his trek to Daventry.
The roar of the wind seemed like a whisper compared to the hissing howl that filled the ears of the five atop the north tower, especially the two who were holding the globe. Their cries of amazement and terror were drowned out by the shriek of the wind and the noise that emitted from the illuminated glass globe.
After a time immeasurable, Jack and Valanice began to lose consciousness and started sinking to the damp stone floor. They stared at each other as best as they could with their fading vision. Valanice was bedraggled and weak, Jack was soaked to the skin and flickering so rapidly that he was barely visible. The last thing both of them saw was an enormous halo of light erupt from the beam far above them. It spread out like a misty cloth until it covered the whole sky, resembling silk spun from every star in existence. Then it vanished as soon as it had appeared, and the cat and the queen had fallen to the stones, their eyes closed, their minds at peace.
They were awakened by the sounds of marred, concerned voices coming from above them. Valanice was the first to open her eyes and see Graham and Rosella kneeling over her with looks of worry. Behind their heads was a clear blue sky filled with wispy, ivory clouds. Her limbs felt heavy and so did her head.
“Valanice? Are you all right?” asked Graham.
“I’m fine,” she whispered, slowly rising to her feet and looking around. She was still at the top of the north tower. She walked to the parapet and looked out across the land, which appeared washed over with rain and wind, but just as intact as it had been a week before.
“You and Jack collapsed just as that golden veil appeared,” said Rosella. “Then the storm started dissipating and it vanished in about ten minutes.”
“I see…” said Valanice. “Jack? Where is Jack?”
“He’s still asleep behind you,” said Ian.
Valanice spun around and looked at the still form of the half cat, half man sprawled across the cold stone floor. His grayish blonde hair was tousled and wet, his clothes were tattered and torn, but his chest was rising and falling regularly, so he was still alive, much to her relief.
She walked over to him and knelt down beside his body, like she had when he had been poisoned by the lilies. Leaning over his furry ear, she softly whispered:
“Jack? Wake up. It’s over.”
Jack opened one brown eye, then the other, and looked up at her in the same way an infant looks at its mother. “Did it work?” he asked.
“I don’t know, Jack. The storm ceased, but…”
“Tell me what you hear, Valanice,” said Jack. Valanice listened intently to whatever Jack wanted her to, but she heard nothing. Nothing but the wind flapping the banners and birds singing far away.
“I don’t hear anything.”
“No beeping noises? No music from my time?”
“How is the air, Valanice?”
She sniffed the air. To her amazement, the sickening stench was completely gone.
“It’s…it’s normal! It’s back to the way it was!”
“Then I think it did work,” said Jack, getting to his feet.
“But where are the skull and the globe?”
“Over there,” said Jack, pointing over his shoulder as best as he could, considering that he was lying down. “I’m amazed that they’re still intact. You can have your globe back and Rosella can take her pearl. The only thing I’m keeping is my marble. That’s one marble I don’t want to be caught without in the future. And…” he said hesitantly, “And am I flickering anymore, your highness?”
“No, you aren’t.”
“Well blow me down, I guess all that trouble was worth something in the end after all.”
“You mean the shield worked, Jack?”
“I’m positive now, Valanice,” said Jack, rising to his feet. “Now I’m not going to be a troublemaker in your kingdom any longer.”
“Why? Are you…” she hesitated for a moment, “Are you going back to your own time, Jack?”
“Heck no, your majesty! Now that the time shield is up, I can stay here as long as I want, and nobody will be harmed by elements of my time seeping into your time any longer.”
“That’s wonderful, Jack. Just wonderful.”
“It was nothing, Valanice. I just love your country, and I’m glad that you’re all safe now.”
“But will you be able to return to your own time eventually?” asked Rosella. “You aren’t stuck here forever, are you?”
“Absolutely not,” said Jack, crossing his arms proudly. “I’ll find a way back eventually. Someday when I have some free time, I’ll look through that old book and put together a simple little spell to send me back.”
“I hope you don’t mean simple like the one you just completed,” said Graham.
Jack laughed. “I promise you it won’t be, my king. I’ll practice spellcasting on my own in my tree from now on.”
“If you ever need my help,” said Ian, “I’ll be readily available in the castle.”
“I’ll keep you in mind,” said Jack. “Well, I’d better head back to my tree. That’s where I’ll be if any of you wish to see me again. And Valanice?”
“Yes?” the queen asked.
“Thank you. You’ve really made my stay at Daventry a memorable one.”
“Of course. I’m sure Alexander will enjoy hearing about you when we see him again.”
“Somehow,” said Jack, looking over his shoulder at her, “I expect Cassima will too.”