"Sleep stories are for babies. They're full of dumb stuff that can never happen."
In a grand house somewhere in Gillikin Country, the Force Ghost of Anakin Skywalker laughed as he, via the magical viewscreen, observed Great Valley red letter dates. This scene in particular took place days before Littlefoot and his grandparents departed for the crater. A series of odd sleep stories prodded the Longnecks, and every Longneck from near and far, to undertake a long journey to that crater, a place created by, in reality, a huge meteor millions of years before that journey. Of course, those dinosaurs had no knowledge of solar eclipses or meteors. They relied on Mesozoic folklore to explain such phenomena.
"Littlefoot told his friends of the strange dreams, and Cera laughed it off
as nonsense," said Anakin to another fellow Jedi.
That Jedi replied, "But, in the end, Cera's curiosity got the better of her. It was she who urged her friends to follow the Longnecks' footprints to that crater. I say, she is the one, Anakin. I can sense she is to be trusted, despite her outward haughty disposition. She is fearless and quite resourceful."
Anakin agreed, asking, "When will you make contact? And in what manner?"
The Jedi smiled, replying, "Tonight, during the concert. You know I always work better in a musical setting. It's in my blood."
In her office at Pastoria Centre, Madeline Tasou, after warming up, prepared
to go down to the stage. Nearly thirty minutes until the concert begins. Right now,
Professor Wogglebug and the Wizard are hosting a pre-concert "Words on Music" in
the upper-story reception hall. During that hour before the performance, the
compositions are discussed and the principal soloists are interviewed. On this
night, in lieu of conducting, Maddie would act as principal cellist, so the
spotlight will be off her for a change. She had approached Jack Pumpkinhead to
conduct, but he respectfully declined, claiming he was in need of repair – and a
fresh head. Jack would stay at home carving a new head while listening to the
concert on the radio. Okay, who else did she ask?
Jack suggested an apt replacement but didn't mention the man by name. He just said, "This man, in his life in the Great Outside World, enjoyed a long, distinguished career both as composer and conductor. I've already spoken to him, and he'd be honored to conduct. Don't worry, as he knows all the pieces to be performed. He will do you proud."
Maddie sighed, not knowing who this last minute substitute conductor was; she yet to meet him, and the orchestra never rehearsed with him.
Something else bothered her: That odd book someone left on her desk a few
days ago. She'd been too busy to pick it up and read it, but the book sparked her
curiosity. It looked like a diary of sorts, but very large and thick. If this is a
diary, the person to whom it belongs must have enjoyed a long, eventful life. But
why would someone just dump it on her desk? Could it be that person wants
her to read it? Why?
She picked it up, finding it quite heavy, then examined it. Okay, so it's locked, and there is no key. Perhaps, after the concert, once she's settled at home tonight, she'll break it open. This diary must be that important...
"This," she gasped in sudden realization, "is a Jedi's diary, but which one?
I've already read Marbe's journals...But the other Jedi never kept handwritten
diaries. Or did they? Such a pretty book, too."
Indeed, that diary was bounded in genuine leather dyed a brilliant purple, all hand-tooled with fanciful filigree and what Maddie instantly recognized as the Tree of Life. The pages were edged in real gold leaf as was the spine. Odd that there was nothing by way of a title, other than a name and dates on the spine.
Fantine Larue Brück, 1840–1910
That's odd. Fantine was Helmut Brück's wife. She died in 1910, but the birth year is wrong. Fantine was born 1820, married her first husband in 1838, then he died a year later. She remarried in 1840...Oh my God! If Fantine was a Jedi, then..."
Madeline reeled. Was Brück, a very minor composer who made his living mostly
with "bread and butter" works – short chamber pieces, technical studies, and
incidental music for the theater – a Jedi as well?
"Okay," she muttered to herself, taking many deep breaths, "Calm down. We have a concert to perform. Come back to fetch this thing, then once I'm home, I'll read it. But I still don't get it. I did the research on Brück, nothing out of the ordinary, but...Something is amiss, and this diary will uncover much more..."
She took one last look at the diary, then, after adjusting her hair and
brushing off her long black dress, picked up her instrument and exited the room. On
the way downstairs she prayed that the last-minute substitute conductor knew his
And I've never met him, and we never rehearsed with him...I hope Jack was right, that this man is the best...
The grand concert hall quickly filled with music lovers from all over Oz and beyond. In the royal box, Princess Ozma, accompanied by her guest, Queen Zixi of Ix, scanned the cavernous hall and stage. Surely, several musicians were already onstage warming up. It would be many minutes before the entire orchestra was assembled, and Six, in her role as concertmaster, will lead the customary tune-up. Then the guest conductor will come onstage.
A puzzled Zixi asked, "I see Jack Pumpkinhead listed in the program, but I heard he isn't here. Is he not up to the task?"
Ozma laughed softly, shook her lovely head, replying, "Oh no, it's nothing
like that. Jack was in need of repairs and a fresh head. Another man will conduct.
Just who I do not know."
Then, more seriously, Ozma asked, "Zixi, what is going on in your realm? Major Spikeblade's spy droid transmitted more evidence of this grand army Sirenna and Kaliko have built. This is no ordinary army; the soldiers are battle droids, much like the ones which served the Separatists during the Clone Wars."
The queen of Ix, a beautiful young woman whose appearance was that of an elegant Edwardian grande dame, told Ozma the truth. Yes, she was quite aware of the droid army; Sirenna confessed to all, but not to everything.
"What do you mean 'not everything'?," asked Ozma warily.
"What Sirenna confessed," said Zixi, "is to be kept in strictest confidence. Ozma, it involves far more than an invasion. Sirenna has fallen back on old habits, and what she's done has direct bearing on the Jedi in Oz. Here and now is not the place to discuss such."
Zixi added, "As for the army, it's not very large, really small by most standards. Three hundred, perhaps five, but no more as of last count. It is so puzzling, Ozma. If this mastermind is bent on killing many Ozites, he or she is in for a rude awakening. Ozites, though some are prone to injury, cannot die. Oh, only the truly evil, such as the Witches of the East and West, can die. Nevertheless, we must exercise caution. I trust your future Jedi will be able to thwart this invasion, and we'll need every available Ozite to ward off any attack..."
She fell silent then glanced about the auditorium, hoping no unauthorized persons were present. Given the delicate nature of not only the impending invasion but one – perhaps two – horrible episodes surrounding the Tasou and Beauchamps families, Zixi suggested to Ozma a secret meeting in the morning.
"But by that time," Ozma protested, "Maddie will have departed for Jedi training. Zixi, if Sirenna has, as you put it, returned to her old tricks–"
"You read my mind, Ozma. What Sirenna pulled does have direct bearing on Madeline, which is why your future Jedi must make contact with her Jurassic family posthaste. I take it you or the Wizard has made contact with the Nesting Grounds Herd."
Ozma replied, "Glinda and the Wizard visited the Nesting Grounds this morning and presented to the Herd an interesting proposition. Maddie will not guide the Herd to Oz as previously planned as she'll be busy with the Great Valley herd. We will transport Aladar and company ourselves, using the secret tunnel. Ojo and Dorothy will act as guides."
That said, a sudden thought came to Ozma. She wondered about Charlie's theory on those two missing men and if...
So she asked Zixi, "About the compound...Does anyone else live there, other than Sirenna and Kaliko?"
The queen of Ix whispered to Ozma, as not wanting eavesdroppers, "Only my own spies have been there, and yes, a third party resides in that mountain. A great black bear named Varan. I've met Varan before, shortly after Sirenna first came to Ix, and that was nearly twenty years ago. He's completely harmless, and he and Sirenna are quite inseparable."
Ozma removed an item from her pearl-encrusted evening bag then showed it to Zixi. That lady blanched and nearly fainted.
"Oh my goodness," she gasped in disbelief, "The eyes are the same, but are you
sure? I know our Sirenna has indulged in shape-shifting magic of late, but this is
Zixi then said with much concern, "The only way to be sure is to get those dinosaurs here, as soon as possible. I'll do what I can on my end, perhaps call on Sirenna personally and get the truth out of her. I believe the girl is being forced to do these deeds against her will; and, in the end, it could mean the end of Oz as we know it. And it could spell certain doom for the Jedi in Oz."
Copyright©2007 by PRP