The Magic Within
“Hey Sis.” Cole sat at the oak
table in Kaylee’s kitchen. “I need a favor.”
She looked up from her dish washing.
“Hi, Cole and George. What’s up?”
Cole waved a hand at his friend.
“George here wants to hear the story about how I was born.”
George nodded. “Yeah, one thing
before you start though. Does this story have any chickens in it?”
Kaylee grabbed a towel and wiped her
hands as she sat down. “You’ve heard it enough times to tell it,
Cole. Why don’t you tell him yourself?”
Cole shrugged. “He wants to hear it
from the source.”
George chuckled. “Actually, I said
the chicken’s mouth. Well, does this story have any chickens in it
Cole huffed. “No George. As I’ve
told you before, there are no chickens.”
George frowned. “I wanted to hear it
from the chicken herself!”
Kaylee laughed. “I don’t know
whether to be honored or offended.”
Cole grinned. “With George, its
definitely a compliment.”
Kaylee’s eyes relaxed. “No, George,
there are no chickens in this story.”
“Not even a dragon or two?” George
“No, but there is a demon.”
Cole cleared his throat. “I think
George is mostly interested in the parts of the story that deal with
my entrance into the world.”
Kaylee nodded. “I see. Well, where to
start. I should give you a brief recap before starting at the Dying
“Dying Tree? Why is it called that?”
“Because someone has to die in order
for the way to Hades to open. This came at the end of a long journey
when Cole, Sr., my future husband at the time, was going to sacrifice
me to the Dying Tree.”
“Why did you marry him, then?”
“Because I loved him. And because the
events I’m about to relate changed him. Before we came to the
island where the Dying Tree grew, I discovered that Amma was
George raised his hand as if in class.
“Who is Amma?”
Kaylee grinned. “Oh, sorry. That’s
the nickname I had for my mother, Gabrielle.”
George nodded. “And who was the
Kaylee glanced at Cole, who was
grinning as he watched her squirm. “That’s another long part of
the story. But her father was Sisko.”
“You mean, the man who had died
before that? The Sisko?”
“One and the same.”
“Wow, how did He do that?”
“Through Josh. I suppose that is
important to understand Cole’s abilities because Josh had the
Harrower residing in him.”
“Yes. It is the substance that gives
Cole his magical abilities. He inherited it from Josh.” Kaylee
waited in case George had any further questions.
“Scaly! You may continue with your
Kaylee looked upward, as if trying to
recall the exact details. “So, we arrived at the island . . .”
We left the shore and foraged through
the underbrush along a rarely traveled path, which grew hard to
discern in places. After an hour, the branches and leaves parted to
reveal an open area around the center of the island. In the middle of
the clearing stood an old tree. I’d never seen a tree like this
one. A blackened tree trunk as big as an elephant rose from the
ground. Its branches twisted in all directions. No leaves dangled
from them. It appeared a fire had burned it, and this skeleton of a
tree stood alone and dark.
That alone soaked my bones in dread,
but the horror wielding a sword in front of the massive tree stole my
breath. A demon! A thin but solid frame wore a dark breastplate. Deep
red eyes burned from under a heavy and wrinkled brow. Its thin mouth
curled up as we approached.
Memories of Beltrid, and his attempt to
trap me in my mind, forced their way to the surface. Despite my brave
words to Cole, I couldn’t help but shake in the face of death.
The demon’s face flared with heat and
he raised his sword in anticipation. Yet he didn’t move forward, as
if he waited for one of us to cross an imaginary line in the dirt
before he would be allowed to strike.
Cole wrapped me in his arms. “Please
forgive me for what I’m about to do.”
I felt a calm rush over me. “Of
course I forgive you. I’m ready.”
His eyes watered and he bit his lip.
Then he breathed deep, and flung me toward the demon.
I stumbled and crashed upon the ground
at the demon’s feet.
The creature lifted his sword and
brought it down upon me. I rolled to the side instinctively, and the
sword stabbed dirt. I leaped to my feet and scurried out of the
demon’s circle. Cole’s jaw set and his eyes narrowed.
I dusted myself off. “Sorry. But if
I’m going to die, at least let me die willingly rather than being
tossed into it like food to a dog.”
He bowed his head. “I’m sorry.
I pulled my shoulders back and took a
step toward the demon. I glanced back. “I’m doing this for you,
Cole. And for God.” I refocused on the demon licking his lips. My
legs quivered and I closed my eyes. God, please use my death for your
purpose. And please save Cole. I felt my legs strengthen. I opened my
eyes and stepped forward.
A whooshing noise broke the quietness
of the island. I spun around to see a brown flying horse drop to a
landing. Amma slipped to the dirt along with her hard-to-miss
pregnant stomach. Josh also slid off! Excitement raced over me. If
anyone could deal with Cole, it was Josh.
Amma held up a hand. “Kaylee, don’t
Josh approached Cole. “I understand
you intend to harm my friend’s daughter?”
Cole gritted his teeth. “I don’t
know how you arrived back here so soon, but another trip you cannot
make in a few seconds!” He slipped his wand out and recited a spell
as he drew circles around the two of them.
Josh threw his hands up and sparks
showered around him and Amma as if Cole’s energy hit an invisible
shield. But Josh’s legs shook from the effort.
Cole frowned. “So that’s how you’ve
returned so quickly. You have a wizard with you.” He thrust his
wand toward Josh and a ball of energy raced from it.
Josh shot his own fiery blast. The
energies collided and a light flashed from it causing me to shield my
eyes. Josh flung his hands at Cole. An invisible force knocked Cole
off his feet, and he crashed to the dirt.
Then Josh stepped back. His legs shook
and his arms quivered. He groaned and his eyes glazed over as if
seeing into another world.
Cole rose to his feet, his eyes focused
and his jaw set. He thrust his wand at Josh, and a surge of energy
blasted from it. Josh watched it speeding toward him. My mouth fell
open; Josh could barely stand!
The blast plowed into Josh, and flung
him several feet back before he smashed into a tree and collapsed
upon the ground. He groaned and rolled around as if to get up. But
his arms gave way.
“Hold on a minute!” George huffed.
“Josh is strongest wizard in the world. What gives?”
Kaylee paused a moment. “Josh had a
run in before that with another wizard that nearly killed him. He was
still recovering from that when this happened.”
George nodded. “Okay, that makes more
sense of it, I guess.”
Kaylee nodded and continued.
Amma cried out, “Josh!” She rushed
to kneel beside him. Her eyes watered.
I wanted to grab the ring from Cole and
heal Josh. I wanted to do something, but what? I felt helpless.
Amma helped Josh sit up against a tree.
Then she stood and stepped toward Cole.
Cole pulled his wand up again.
She held up a hand. “Cole, please
wait. You win. I only ask for one last moment with my daughter. You
wouldn’t deny me that, would you?”
He held the wand in place for a moment
before his cold eyes warmed. He lowered the wand. “You may say
goodbye to her.”
She rushed to me and wrapped me in her
arms. Her bulging stomach pushed at my own. Tears watered her eyes
but a soft smile caressed her lips. “I’m so glad I arrived in
A knot caught in my throat. I would
miss her. “Me too. But I wish Nathan had come along. Please tell
him I’m sorry I didn’t listen to him. If I had, I wouldn’t be
She lifted my head from her chest.
“You’ll understand when I say I long to see you in Paradise one
I smiled. “Yes, definitely.”
She breathed deeply. “Sorry for
leaving you so soon.”
“What? You don’t mean—”
She shoved me back and my feet
stumbled. I fell onto my rear with a thud. Though pain shot through
me, it felt like a distant throb. For I watched helplessly as she
fled toward the demon. The creature plunged his sword through her
chest and it protruded out her back, stained with her blood.
“No! Amma!” I scrambled to my feet
and raced to her.
The demon started to pull the sword out
of her, but his dark blade glowed, then a burning white light shot up
the blade and enveloped the demon. It screeched but didn’t let go,
perhaps couldn’t. The white light worked its way through the beast
like cracks appearing over its skin. The light burst through the
openings and grew until the demon radiated brighter than the sun.
Cole dropped to the ground and covered
his head. I stared into the light without pain. I recognized it. It
was the light of Paradise. It resided in Amma! The light dimmed,
leaving a pile of charred remains where the demon stood, and Amma
collapsed beside it with the sword still in her chest.
I knelt beside her, and laid my head on
her stomach to cry. The baby? What would happen to it?
But Cole grabbed my arm and pulled me
with him into the Dying Tree. When we came out—”
“Now you’re skipping an important
part of the story!” George cried out.
Kaylee cocked an eye at him. “I
thought you only wanted to know about Cole’s part of the story?”
“You mean, going into Hades isn’t
important to Cole’s story?”
Kaylee shook her head. “Not
“And there are no chickens in Hades?”
“Not that I recall seeing.”
George nodded. “Okay, continue on as
Kaylee smiled. “As I was saying when
I, carrying Cole’s dead body, Josh, and Joel, who had appeared
there to aid us, came out the Dying Tree . . .”
I fell upon the ground and let Cole’s
body roll to my side. But I recalled my mother’s condition and sat
up to find her. She lay on the ground; dried blood stained her
clothing. I let my head sink with my stomach.
Joel pointed at Amma’s body. “Look
I did, and Amma’s stomach moved. “The
baby! Could it still be alive?” I leaped to my feet, and Josh also
hobbled over to her.
Joel nodded. “The entrance into Hades
distorts time as you know it. Several hours there passes in seconds
Josh felt her stomach. “The baby’s
still alive, but we’ll have to take it out ourselves. You have a
I shook my head. “No.”
He frowned, then reached into his cloak
and pulled out a ball. He tossed it three feet away. “Expand to a
A blade fell to the ground. I grabbed
it and gave it to Josh.
Josh slid the knife along her lower
stomach, cutting skin back. Deep-red blood oozed out. He cut deeper
and deeper until he broke into the womb. Then he plunged his hands
inside and pulled out a baby boy.
A wave of joy flood over me. Out of all
this death, a new brother had entered the world. Josh helped me clean
the baby. But the baby didn’t act normal. It didn’t cry. Yet it
breathed fine. The way its eyes darted around, it appeared to be more
aware of its surroundings than one would expect of a newborn.
I met Josh’s eyes. “Who’s the
Josh stared into the sky.
“Well...that’s an interesting story.”
“Josh! Who is the father? Since Amma
has died, he’ll have to take care of the baby.”
“My father!” I swallowed hard,
attempting to digest the statement.
He nodded. “Like I said, long story.”
I stared at the baby I held in my
hands. No wonder he didn’t act like a normal baby. This one was
The baby’s hands jerked up, and he
appeared to point behind me.
I turned my head in the direction he
had pointed and saw Cole’s body lying on the ground. I frowned.
Certainly the baby couldn’t be telling me anything.
Joel stepped beside her. “What makes
you assume that?”
I shrugged. “Yes, I suppose I’ve
seen stranger things.” I hauled myself and the baby to Cole’s
Did I dare hope anything could be done?
His body, cold and stiff, gave little hope. Without the ring, what
chance did I have of raising him back to life?
Joel knelt beside her. “Yes, by
yourself, you don’t have a chance.”
I frowned. “You’re being a little
too free with this mind reading trick of yours. But you’re going to
say God does have a chance.”
He rubbed her back. “Yes. But God
does tend to work through people.” He bobbed his head toward the
Did he indicate the baby could do
something? I checked Cole’s lifeless body, then returned my gaze to
Joel’s searing eyes. “You mean, I can ask, without the ring?”
He nodded. “Faith doesn’t require a
ring to heal.”
I motioned toward Amma’s lifeless
body. “What about her?”
Joel stared into the sky. “You saw
her soul ascend, did you not?”
“Cole has taken a different trip,
much like your father’s. He can return. Your mother cannot.”
I reached out a hand toward Cole’s
body, but paused. Did I not do this for myself? Would he not be
happier in Paradise if such is where he went. Or did he need more
time to change things?
Joel sighed. “It’s all right.
The baby in my arms reached out and
placed his tiny hand on the back of my own. I felt a surge of power
flow through me from his touch. I met the baby’s eyes and saw an
awareness in them. The baby knew what he was doing! I squeezed the
child and focused on Cole’s lifeless body. I rested my hand on his
chest as the baby’s hand lay on mine. “Lord, please heal Cole and
raise him back to life in this world.”
Seconds ticked by, and nothing
happened. But his color? His pale blue skin turned into a vibrant
Cole blinked his eyes open; they darted
around. Then they locked onto mine and grew wide. “I should be
“You were, but now you’re alive!”
I fell upon him and hugged his neck with my free hand. “Oh I’m so
glad you’re alive.”
He squeezed back, then drew my ear near
his mouth. “I’ve been to Paradise. You were right.”
I pulled back and saw a wide smile
below his beaming eyes. But his expression vanished. “Can you ever
I placed a finger over Cole’s lips.
“What happened, happened to accomplish God’s will. I forgave you
before we entered Hades.”
“I’m not talking only about
sacrificing you, but the deception, the fake reality I tried to drag
you into. And for a time, I thought I had. But now I’ve experienced
another reality. The reality.”
I couldn’t help but smile. “And
He grinned. “The freedom to live in
the fire. Paradise.”
I forced myself to frown and set my
jaw. “You’ll have to promise me one thing, however.”
Cole nodded. “Name it.”
I allowed the smile to return to my
face. “To marry me, help raise our kids, and live the rest of your
life with me.”
His smile blossomed into a full grin.
“Yes, yes, and yes!” He shook his head. “You really are an
“Ga gaaa,” the baby cried out.
Cole stared at him, apparently noticing
him for the first time. “Whose child?”
“Amma’s and Dad’s, or so I’m
told. But seeing how I’m one of the few people left in the family,
I guess I’ll be raising him.”
“What’s his name?”
I stared at the child whose eyes
searched me over. They peered deep into my mind. A strong power
resided in him. I jerked my head back. “I hadn’t thought about a
name yet.” I skipped through a list, but one popped its way into my
“I’ll name him Colbert. He just
saved your life, after all. Or God did through him.”
“Colbert.” Cole winked. “Sounds
like a fine name.”
“And that’s how Cole came to be.”
Kaylee waved a hand as if to suggest that was the end.
“I remember those events.” Cole
took a sip of hot coffee.
George stared at Cole. “You did not!
How could you?”
“Like Kaylee said, I was aware of
what was going on. I knew I could heal Cole.”
Kaylee nodded. “I wouldn’t doubt
you could remember it, Cole. You were a very unusual baby growing up.
Why, I remember one time you changed your own dirty diaper.”
Cole’s face reddened. “Sis!”
Kaylee smiled. “I didn’t say you
did a good job of it, though. I had to redo it.”
George grimaced. “Yuk. Scaly! But
Cole closed his eyes and sank into a
trance. As he did so, future events played out on his mind.
A dragon appeared, burning buildings in
a town. Strong, fire-breathing, and it had a rider on top of the
beast. Then Cole could see more, as the scene expanded to show Josh’s
“No, not Josh!”
But the events continued as he watched
helplessly. The dragon set Josh’s house on fire, then settled into
a grassy knoll beside the house. The rider, who Cole couldn’t make
out who he was, dismounted and walked toward the burning house.
Then, Josh appeared and threw a
fireball at him. The fireball bounced off of him, not affecting him
at all. The the rider attacked Josh. Josh tried to get off a spell,
but he wasn’t quick enough to overcome the attacker’s speed. He
ran the sword through Josh twice, and Josh fell over dead.
“No, Josh!” Cole yelled out as the
fire continued to burn over his house.
“You keep calling my name.” A voice
rang outside of his trance.
Cole blinked his eyes open, and saw
Josh standing over him. “Just a nightmare.”
Josh sat down beside Cole. “You
didn’t appear to be asleep.”
Cole hung his head. “It was nothing.
Josh shook his head. “When are you
going to trust me?”
“I do trust you. Really I do.”
“You could’ve fooled me.”
“Okay, okay.” Cole sighed. “I was
looking at future events.”
Josh raised his voice. “I told you
how dangerous that is! Why would you do it?”
Cole shrugged. “I guess because I
“You could also kill your sister just
by thinking about it. Should you do that just because you can?”
“No, of course not.”
They sat is silence for a few seconds.
Josh asked, “What did you see that caused you to call out my name?”
Cole squirmed in his seat. “I, I was
looking into my future and something bad happened. I called out for
you to save me.”
Josh thought for a moment. “You
called out for me to save you by yelling out, ‘No, Josh?’”
Cole said nothing, but continued to
hang his head.
Josh rose from his seat. “Never mind.
I don’t want to know. Just remember, whatever you saw cannot be
changed. It will happen.”
Cole stood and headed toward the door.
“I’m going on a trip.”
Josh said, “You’re not ready. You
haven’t even gone into the steam house yet.”
Cole spun around. “That’s right.
And I’ll never go into that steam house. It would likely give me a
terrible curse, like take away my magic or something else terrible.”
“If you leave, you won’t be near me
to call out for me to save you.”
Cole batted back tears that threatened
to flood over him. “I need to go find my path.”
Josh held out his arms and Cole fell
into them. They hugged for a while.
Cole released him. “You’ve been
like a father to me. But eventually, I need to find my own way.
That’s why I’ve been looking into the future, trying to figure
out my path.”
Josh nodded. “I understand. I was
there once. But I would advise you to not look into the future to
figure that out. You can only see small out-of-context scenes. Best
to live them as they happen and not mess with such fragments. Too
easy to misinterpret what you see.”
Cole hugged him again, wondering if it
would be his last time. “I understand. You are right, as usual.”
Cole turned and didn’t face him
again. But walked straight through the door, for tears now streamed
down his cheeks. Somehow, he would find a way to make sure that
vision didn’t come true. Anna had been able to change her vision of
what would happen to Kaylee, surely he could change Josh’s future
Cole held up a finger. They sat in a
“secret hide out” that they had constructed among some trees.
George paused and waited. They listened to the wind blowing among the
trees and the birds tweeting in them. Cole then motioned it was okay
“Where’s the ale?” George asked.
Cole rolled his eyes. “Is food and
drink all you can think about?” George’s lanky frame hardly
seemed to have room for the food he stuffed in it.
He shrugged. “Most of the time, I
Cole shook his head and smiled. There
were two reasons he and George got along. He didn’t act threatened
by Cole’s abilities, and George’s peculiar way of looking at the
world intrigued him, even if it sometimes annoyed him.
Cole turned his palm downward over the
ground and thought about ale. Two tin mugs appeared with a healthy
head on them.
George picked one up and stared at it.
“I see you got fancy with the stein design. I like the dragon on
He smiled. And a third reason: George
accepted him as he was, without demanding that he change. He treated
him as if...as if he were normal.
Cole took a swig from the stein. “Cute
one, isn’t it? I put him on there because your patron slew one, St.
He threw a hand up. “As if I hadn’t
heard that story a million times. At least once every year on his
feast day.” He lifted his stein into the air and talked in as deep
a voice as he could muster. “Drink hearty men! For tomorrow we go
to slay the dragon, and gain great honor and glory!”
Cole shook his head. “Or a
“That’s just it.” He swallowed a
gulp and wiped the foam from his lips. “I’d never slay a dragon.”
“Why not? Aren’t they evil
George waved a hand. “That’s what
everyone says, but I don’t believe it. Besides, if I saved my
chicken from death, why would I kill a dragon? I’d make friends
with him first.”
Cole laughed. “Friends with a dragon?
You’re more likely to be roasted and eaten than to shake one’s
hand. Besides, they’re myth anyway.”
“Now did you have to go and destroy a
perfectly fine dream?” He laughed as if that were the funniest
thing he’d ever said.
“Could you be serious a moment? I
have some news.”
George swallowed and sat straighter on
the log. “Yes, Sir!” His lips kept threatening to burst into
laughter, but he somehow controlled himself.
Cole sighed. “I told Kaylee and Josh
that I was going on the road today.”
His struggle to not laugh faded. “And
what did they say? How did they take it?”
Cole drank another gulp. “She didn’t
like the idea initially, and Josh didn’t either, but he understood.
That is good, as Josh is the one person who could have forced me to
“I talked with my mom as well.”
“She didn’t have a problem with me
Cole raised his mug. “Great. I didn’t
think they’d let you. How did you convince them?”
He pointed at Cole. “You remember
what happened to me in the steam house?”
That crazy steam house. Everyone
entered adulthood through that building, except him. The steam house
boasted the unique ability to bring forth the hidden character in
one’s heart and transform a person to deal with it or minister with
it. The priest had never cleared Cole to enter due to his pride, or
so he said. Cole wasn’t so sure he wanted to go in either.
Cole shook his head. “If you’ve
told me, I’ve forgotten. But I don’t think you’ve mentioned
George sat his stein down. “Nothing
big. Apparently, the steam house thinks I talk and do things too
fast. Don’t think before talking and doing, as my mom said.”
Cole smiled. “I think it pegged you
“I think, just not like other people.
But what do I know? I’m a kid, right?”
“A sixteen-year-old kid, but tell me
what the steam house did? For all your fast talking, we’re going
nowhere.” Cole drew in the last of his ale.
“Oh, the steam house. You see, it put
this ring on me.” George lifted his hand, displaying a silver ring.
Cole’s eyes widened and he nearly
spewed the ale out before swallowing. “A ring? Like my father’s?”
“Oh no, not at all like that.”
He relaxed. A ring like his father’s
would have been disastrous in George’s hands. “So what does this
one do? Transport you from place to place? Give you the ability to
read minds? What?”
“Well, it slows me down.”
Cole wrinkled his brow. “Slows you
down? Are you fast without it?”
“Oh yes. Watch this.” George
removed the ring from his finger.
His voice rose to a higher pitch, and
his words smashed themselves together. “See when I don’t have it
on, I talk real fast and move real fast, if you want to see what I’m
talking about, watch me as I go to get some more wood.”
George rose from the log in a split
second, and sped toward a group of trees in a blur. Within the second
he returned with an armful of limbs. “See what I mean, you can’t
know what it’s like until you’ve lived it, if you know what I
mean, but of course you don’t cause you don’t have this problem,
but if you did have this problem you would know what I’m talking
Cole watched George’s eyes darting
around. He reminded Cole of someone who’d drank too much coffee,
but multiplied. “I get it. You’d better put the ring back on.”
“Yes, I will, it’s a nice ring,
silver and all, and it fits real nice. Sort of funny how the steam
house knows my ring size, isn’t it? Like if an angel zipped down
from heaven and took my measurements right before I received it.”
George slipped the ring back on. “You see what I mean?”
Cole nodded. “When did you get this?”
“About three years ago.”
“How did you keep this secret from me
all this time, and what does this have to do with leaving your
“I’m getting there, hold on.”
“Not very fast.”
George stared with one eyebrow raised
before continuing. “When I went into the steam house, the affect
had become noticeable. I moved faster, talked faster, and my parents
worried about me. I worried about me. When I came out with the ring,
I talked at a normal speed, like we are now. When I removed the ring,
you see the results, I return to my former state. And each time I’ve
grown faster than before. So, I wear the ring all the time, and I
didn’t want anyone to find out, because they’d think I was a
freak or something.”
Cole nodded. “I know the feeling.”
“And, according to what I learned in
the steam house, to help get me back to normal, I’m supposed to
seek out the scales of an invisible dragon, grind it up in water, and
Cole raised an eyebrow. “An invisible
dragon you say?”
He nodded. “Otherwise, I’ll get so
bad the ring won’t be enough. And I’ll die sooner. So my mom’s
eager for me to go find it. That’s why she said I could go with
you, if you help me find one.”
“Dragons are myth enough, but an
invisible one?” Cole thought a moment. “If my dad’s stories
have any truth to them, I know a town that might provide some clues.”
“I’m with you then.” He lifted
his stein. “But, can I have another fill up before we go?”