On the world of Gabendoor, across the universe in another dimension through time, DJ pulled the hood of his black cloak up and over his head. He waited in an alley overflowing with darkness from the moonless night. Soon, it would be the perfect time for a kidnapping. He had planned this for weeks. Nothing would stop him now. He only had to wait.
On Earth, on a mild summer afternoon filled with sunlight, Windslow’s stepmother cleaned his room to make it ready for his return from summer camp. She found a strange leather bracelet under her son’s pillow and slipped it over her wrist. She ignored the slight tingling she felt, not knowing the bracelet held magic or that it would soon take her to Gabendoor and place her in the middle of DJ’s plan.
So begins the third story from the Secret Books of Gabendoor.
Trish turned on her MP3 player and adjusted her ear-buds before using her toe to press the start button on the vacuum cleaner. She sang out, “I’ll buy you a diamond ring my friend, if it makes you feel alright… hum, dah, dah, hum, dah, hum… can’t buy me love.” The almost on key singing mixed with the whine of the vacuum as she moved it back and forth over Windslow’s carpet.
“Mom. Mom!” Hillary shouted.
Trish ignored her and bent over to push the vacuum farther under Windslow’s bed.
“Mom!” Hillary shouted again. She grabbed the plug from the vacuum cleaner and yanked it from the wall. “Mother!”
Trish turned around. “What?” she asked, almost yelling. She fumbled with the player and took out one ear-bud.
“I need the vacuum,” Hillary said. “If you’re… Why are you wearing Windslow’s dream— His leather bracelet? Here, I’ll take it.” Hillary held out her hand.
“What? Oh this?” Trish said and held up her arm. “It was under his pillow. I’m going to change his bedding. I’ll put it back when I’m done.”
Hillary bit her lip. She and Windslow hadn’t dream-slipped to Gabendoor all summer. They both knew it was just a matter of time before their dream-slip wristbands took them back to the strange world. At the end of their last adventure, another magic book had appeared, almost promising there would be another problem that only she and her stepbrother, the “Children of the Summer Wind,” could solve. The wristband didn’t care who wore it. Having her mother suddenly find herself on the far side of the galaxy, on the world of Gabendoor, in another time dimension, could be a disaster.
“I’ll give it to him,” Hillary said and kept her hand open. “You might forget.”
“I’m not the forgetful one,” Trish said and put the ear-bud back in place. “Don’t worry. I’ll make sure he gets it back. Take the vacuum. I’m done with it.”
Trish adjusted the volume on her music player, turned around and scooped up Windslow’s bedding in both arms. “Excuse me,” she said and pushed past Hillary.
“Crud!” Hillary cursed under her breath. “You idiot, Windslow,” she mumbled and gathered up the vacuum. Back in her bedroom, she dumped the machine and attachments in a pile and sat down at her desk. She gently lifted the delicate silver chain hanging around her neck. A charm dangled from it; a miniature book about half an inch high with a raised texture. The words on its back were too small to read easily. Hillary took a magnifying glass from her drawer and examined the tiny words just as she had so many other times.
A time comes soon, a time of danger when it all begins.
Little else I can reveal until the moon of solstice night.
The book will show itself to you and take you on another flight.
She and Windslow had waited with anticipation on the summer solstice, but nothing had happened. Both had their fourteenth birthdays close to the solstice, and thought either of those might also be the day. Nothing happened. They thought the inscription might be wrong or its magic not working properly on earth. The other two books that had transported them to Gabendoor held mysteries and magic. Everything those books said or prophesied came true.
“Why aren’t you working?” Hillary asked, talking to the book. She gave it a shake. “The next solstice isn’t for another four months. Oh, well,” she said and put the magnifying glass away.
From outside, she heard a horn honk and some yelling.
“It’s Windslow!” she heard her mother call from somewhere.
Anxious to see her stepbrother, Hillary stood. She took two steps and stumbled. The miniature book sprang to dictionary size. It hung like a cement brick around her neck. Its weight pulled her off balance and she charged forward, bent over at the waist. She stopped when her head banged with a thud against her bedroom wall.
Hillary slid downward until the book rested on the floor and she could get the chain off her neck. For the first time she could read the title, tooled into the book’s leather cover. It read, “The Book of Twisted Truths.”
“That’s appropriate,” Hillary said as she rubbed her neck. “I think the whole book is twisted.” She checked the back cover. The words were missing. Turning it over, she pressed on the brass latch that held a leather strap around the book to keep it closed. When she opened the book to the first page, she saw the words that had been on the back cover plus one new word. “Tonight.”
“Oh, crud-o!” Hillary said.
From down the hallway she heard noises and her stepfather, Bill, call for her.
“Coming,” Hillary yelled. She grabbed the book and shoved it under her bed.
“How was camp?” Bill asked as he pushed Windslow’s wheelchair through the living room and into the kitchen. He reached down and ruffled Windslow’s red hair. “You’re sunburned and have more freckles. You’re starting to look like your sister.”
“Hey,” Windslow said and ducked his head away. “If this is what I get at home, I’m going back to camp. I’d rather have a hug.”
“I’ll take care of that, baby brother,” Hillary said. She ran over to her stepbrother and wrapped her arms around him. Putting her lips close to his ear she whispered, “The book opened.”
“The what?” Windslow asked as Hillary straightened up. “And, I’m not your baby brother. You’re only a month older. By the way, I showed your picture around at camp. None of the guys wanted to date a red head with so many freckles except for Crazy Willy.”
“I missed you too,” Hillary said and stuck out her tongue.
Trish came in, holding a backpack and a large duffle bag. She plopped them both on the kitchen floor. “What did you bring home?” She asked. “Rocks?”
“Oh, those,” Windslow said. “They’re really cool. I want to crack them open. Some of them might be geodes.”
“You’ve really got rocks in here?” Trish looked at Bill and laughed.
“Rocks in here too,” Hillary said. She tapped Windslow’s forehead. “Whoa,” she said as she shouldered his duffle bag. “You have half the mountain in here. I’ll unpack for you. Oh, that reminds me, Mom. Windslow’s wristband?”
Trish ignored her and gave Windslow a long hug. “We missed you so much. I cleaned your room for you. Oh, and bad timing too. Not you. I mean us. Your dad and I have to go out tonight. We promised the Follen’s we’d go to dinner with them. We made the plans before you finally decided to go to camp. We have about an hour before we need to leave. I want to hear all about summer camp first.”
“I did some baking,” Bill said. “Hillary, grab a bottle of milk and some glasses. I’ll get the cookies.”
Trish gave a sideways smile. “They’re not bad. She gave Windslow another hug and pushed his wheelchair over to the table.”
“Crud-o. I thought they’d never leave,” Hillary said. She turned away from the living room window. “We’ve got trouble.”
“What kind of trouble,” Windslow asked. “And, what was that you said about the book?”
“I’ll show you.” Hillary disappeared down the hallway toward her bedroom. She came back with the large thick book cradled in her arm. “Remember my little silver locket I got in Gabendoor? Well, this is it now,” she said and plunked the book on Windslow’s lap.
“Whoa,” Windslow said and flipped the cover open. “Very cool. Hey, the words aren’t on the back anymore. They’re inside.”
“Yah, plus a new word. I had just looked at the back again with a magnifying glass and the word ‘Tonight’ wasn’t there. I didn’t do anything special. The book just grew big and I saw this,” she said pointing to the word ‘Tonight.’
“That’s great,” Windslow said. “That means we probably better get ready to dream-slip.”
“There’s one small problem,” Hillary said. She slouched down on the couch. “Mom is wearing your dream-slip wrist band. She found it under your pillow when she cleaned your room. That was a stupid place to leave it. Now what are we going to do?”
“Oh, great. Just great,” Windslow said. “It doesn’t matter where I left it. What matters is… is… What are we going to do? Do you think she’ll dream-slip?”
“Who knows? The only thing I can think of is we’ve got to stay awake until they come home. You’ve got to get that bracelet back. We’ll just sit here, watch some television and wait. The minute they come in the door, you get your bracelet back!”
“All right. All right,” Windslow said and sighed. “Oh by the way. I made up the name Crazy Willy. But I did have your picture with me and a couple of really cool guys want to meet you.”
Hillary gave her stepbrother a long look and slumped back farther into the couch. “Not now,” she said and yawned.
Oh no, Hillary said to herself. She felt herself coming out of a dream-slip. Soft, indistinct images, greeted her. They shimmered and came into focus.
Haggerwolf, leader of the three retired wizards of Gabendoor, stood near her, his long white beard nearly reaching his belt. A light breeze blowing across Lake Shimmerdawn tugged at his robe. Dyed deep blue, the shiny and worn fabric showed outlines of forest animals embroidered in pale blue thread.
“Hillary,” he said and reached out his hand. “We knew you would be coming. We took turns waiting.”
Hillary sat up and rubbed her eyes. “How did you know I was coming? I didn’t even know.”
“Tonight is the Summer Solstice. I thought you new from the inscription on the Book. Windslow is already here. He arrived about five minutes ago. Gabendoor needs you two more than ever.”
Hillary took his offered hand and pulled. On her feet, she dusted off her jeans. “I never thought about a solstice here. We were trying to stay awake. How did Windslow dream-slip without his wristband? My mother isn’t here too, is she?”
“No. Why would she be? Come up to the White House where the others are. We can discuss things there.”
“This doesn’t look like the way to your cottage,” Hillary said as Haggerwolf led her to a narrow path that began where the beach ended.
“No. Our cottage is just over that way, in the next meadow. We started a new government and located the headquarters here. Fistlock designed it. We call the main building the White House just like your government does.”
“Fistlock had better not be up to his old tricks.”
“No, he’s quite a different man. He doesn’t call himself a wizard any more. He calls himself ‘congressman.’ I’m President. Fernbark and Larkstone are lobbyists.”
Hillary tried not to grin. “I can’t wait to hear the details, but we do have trouble. My mother is wearing Windslow’s wristband. I’m afraid of what will happen if she dream-slips here.”
“That could be a problem, but then again, your mother might simply think she is having a vivid dream. Well, there it is,” he said and pointed up ahead. “What do you think?”
At the end of the path, a clearing opened. Sitting back against the trees stood a simple two-story cottage with whitewashed walls, a thatched roof, stone chimney and a porch with a waist-high railing. Four windows held purple curtains with, tiny white stars.
“Impressive,” she said. “So this is the heart of Gabendoor.”
Haggerwolf chuckled. “No, it’s not impressive,” he said. “It’s not supposed to be. Fernbark, Larkstone, and I have rooms on the second floor we can use for offices. Fistlock has an office up there too, but he lives with Aghasta at her castle most of the time. There’s not much business for us to do. Once in awhile we have a meeting on the porch. People can gather in the meadow and listen.”
“Hillary!” Larkstone called from the doorway. He waved, the motion animating the embroidered fish and seashell patterns in his clothing. “We’ve been waiting. Your stepbrother is inside and is very impatient. He just told me about your mother.”
Simple furnishings graced the inside of the cottage. To the far right, a pot simmering on a small wood burning stove in the kitchen filled the cottage with the scent of cinnamon tea. In the main room stood a round table that Hillary recognized from Larkstone’s home. Fernbark sat in one chair. Windslow sat in another. He used a set of crutches to stand while she and Haggerwolf sat down.
“Okay,” Windslow said. “Can we talk about my step-mom now?”
“We wouldn’t need to talk about her if you had stayed awake,” Hillary said.
“Me?” Windslow said. “So I suppose you’re not really here. You’re back home watching TV and this is just my imagination?”
“None of that’s important,” Fernbark said. “First of all, neither of you need dream-slip bands to travel anymore. You’re the Children of the Summer Wind. You’re the future of Gabendoor. Second of all, which type of dream-slip band was your mother wearing?”
“The leather one,” Windslow said and sat back down. “The one Fistlock gave me. It’s the one Molly Folly Sallyforth changed in our last trip here. It’s the wristband that takes you where you need to be.”
“Hmm…” Larkstone said. “That could be good or bad. She would just end up some random place with a normal dream-slip band. With that one, she could end up in some specific place. But then again, there is no specific place she needs to be so she’ll probably end up just some specific someplace. That would be random and not someplace, so--”
“It doesn’t matter,” Haggerwolf said, interrupting. “She’ll come or she won’t. The important thing is to get that wristband away from her as soon as you travel back home. That will end that. Now, we need to discuss things that are more important. People are disappearing; young girls, teens, and older women. And, the oracle has prophesied an invasion related to the disappearances.”
“There is something else,” Fernbark said. “But it makes less sense than the rest of it.”
“DJ knows,” Windslow said.
“Yes!” Fernbark said. “But how did you know what the oracle said?”
Windslow looked up from the Book of Twisted Truths lying open on his lap. “I didn’t know. I’m just repeating the words that showed up on this page while you were talking.”
“Shush,” Trish said as she and Bill stepped into the living room. “The kids fell asleep watching TV. Should we wake them?”
“Let them sleep,” Bill said. “I’m sure Windslow’s had a hard day. He looks comfortable enough and Hillary looks fine on the couch. I say we just cover them up and let them sleep.”
“You’re right,” Trish said. “I’ll get some blankets.”
Half an hour later, Trish walked into the bedroom.
“What’s that?” Bill asked.
Trish held up her arm. “Windslow’s wrist band. I forgot to give it to him. I found it when I cleaned his room. Remind me to give it back to him tomorrow.”
Bill changed into his pajamas. Trish pulled on a comfortable and well-worn pair of jogging pants and one of Bill’s t-shirts. She gave him a kiss, pulled the covers up under her chin and turned to her side. “I’m exhausted,” she said and yawned. “I hope I have good dreams tonight. I need some rest.”
With the room lights out and her eyes closed, Trish couldn’t see the faint green glow that encircled her wrist. As her breathing grew steady and deep, the wristband’s glow pulsed once and blinked out.