"She'll be all right," said the Major. "Just let her get used to her new surroundings and settle in."
"Oh," said his visitor, "she'll be all right for now. But what about her purpose? Sorry to tell you, Major, but I don't think we can train her properly. See, she's too old – way too old. You know Jedi are trained from early childhood. We've never trained an adult–"
"Luke Skywalker was a grown man when Obi-Wan Kenobi trained him, and he's become a fine Jedi in every sense," said the Major.
"Yeah," said the visitor, "but Luke was instrumental in fulfilling his father's legacy in bringing balance to the Force. What is Madeline Tasou's legacy? Being a descendent of Ricar Tasou?"
"And," countered Major Spikeblade, "a direct descendant of Amiel Beauchamps. You, Deke, underestimate Madeline. Why, I had the same misgivings but once Padmé Amidala convinced me otherwise–"
"Padmé visited you?"
"Why not? I'm as much intuited with the Force although my way with it differs greatly from what you're used to. It is not unusual for me to receive visitations from long-dead Jedi."
Spikeblade smiled, adding, "Come on, Deke. I'm sure you and Rath can train Madeline. It may not be like working with a child, but she does have a telling grasp of the Force. So, can I count you and Rath?"
Deke, a huge hulk of a man with a shock of reddish hair, neatly trimmed beard, and merry green eyes, sighed, saying, "Okay, we'll take her on. But I warn you: me and Rath may be abel to work wonders, but you forget Mariah will have the final say in whether this woman is Jedi material."
Spikeblade nearly forgot about Mariah, Rath's sister and who served as her brother's eyes. See, Rath, during a battle in the old Clone Wars, was rendered blind in combat with Separatist droid warriors. An ill-timed blaster bolt only singed his eyebrows slightly, but the tremendous infrared light rays burned the retinas to uselessness. Deke, Rath, and Mariah were the first of a handful of Force Masters to resettle on Earth then subsequently relocate to Oz. Deke was right, and Major Spikeblade, still gazing into the crystal ball, wondered how the trio would regard Madeline Tasou. A true Jedi in the making or a hopeless case?
The tablecloth was of the finest silk damask; the delicate china and crystal wine glasses glistened in the soft candlelight. The hand-lettered menu – all twelve courses – was in French. A massive silver and glass epergne, as centerpiece, overflowed with fresh flowers and fruit, and the entire surface of the table entwined with ivy and sweetheart roses.
Twelve courses...All this sterling flatware...Caviar spoon, soup spoon, fish fork, entrée fork and knife, salad fork, sweet fork, savory fork...and six wine glasses! How will we ever get through all this food? Twelve courses! No one ever eats that much for dinner anymore, but they do so here...In Oz!
I can't believe I'm in Oz. No wonder Charlie or James would divulge this 'vacation' resort. This is no resort; it's the fabled magical fairy land of Oz, and I thought it was the stuff of legends. I heard of Oz through my mother's stories, but I always believed it to be just that – a fanciful place. Yet it is as real as my breathing...
Madeline Tasou surveyed not just the table but her dinner companions. At the head of the table sat her godfather, Charlie Lavigne. Maddie sat on his right, and Princess Ozma was on his left. Next to Maddie was Nick Chopper, the tin woodman. Then there was a pretty lady named Jana Jazzine, then Ron, then Dorothy, then Professor Diggs who Maddie later learned was the great Wizard of Oz. At the other end was Lenore Purcell, Charlie's sister. To her right was another wizard but not of Oz. This was Albus Dumbledore, headmaster of the famous Hogwarts School of Wizardry. Professor Dumbledore explained that he seldom ventured out of his own realm but made a particular exception this evening. Besides, he told her, he always wanted to meet the fabulous lady of the concert stage. Maddie got that jolt again, not unlike what she'd felt so many times since coming to Oz. She wondered if Dumbledore's presence had something to do with why she was here in the first place. Whatever it is, she will learn that she's here for her own safety, and to fulfill an age-old prophecy that originated millions of years ago.
Next to Dumbledore sat a lovely redhead named Jenny Jump who, Maddie later learned, co-managed a day spa and style shop with Jana Jazzine. Next to Jenny sat Tony then cousin James.
She watched the butler Breeze, the footman Peter, and the parlourmaid Emma quietly and efficiently bring forth course after course of delectable fare all expertly prepared by Mrs Deering, one of the best cooks in all Oz.
My goodness, I thought the people of Oz would feast on flower petals and dewdrops. Man, was I wrong. Caviar and Oysters Rockerfeller, a saddle of lamb with little spring peas, champagne sorbet, Guinea fowl, and now a lettuce salad and asparagus with Hollandaise. Then we'll have a chocolate gateau followed by dressed prawns. Thank goodness I didn't stuff myself at teatime...And I'm surprised I'm actually putting all this good food away...
I just wish I hadn't fallen out like that. So embarrassing...
"Don't feel bad about fainting, honey," said Charlie as he helped himself to the salad and bread Breeze brought around a second time. "We all pretty much predicted your reaction. This is why we didn't tell you right away."
"You mean," Maddie said after a sip of white wine, "you didn't want to reveal my special 'vacation' spot."
She laughed, the first real laughter of the evening. Maddie finally felt at peace, but there were so many unanswered questions. Why was she here? Why bring her to Oz for a vacation when there were so many choice places around the world she could visit? And why keep it all a big secret?
No matter now because she was here, and reality sunk in quickly. She didn't say much during the first few courses; she was just too much in awe of Princess Ozma and the other prominent Ozites. It puzzled her that Nick Chopper, though a dinner guest, consumed nothing. No one drop of wine nor a bite of poached salmon passed his lips. Oh, there was a place setting for him, but there were no plates or glasses. She had to ask:
"I suppose you'll think this a stupid question, Nick, but I noticed you haven't eaten a thing. Do you have an appetite? I could guess from your...Umm...special physical makeup..."
Nick laughed and replied, "I have no need to eat or sleep. Oh, there was a time, when I was a man of meat, I would enjoy a fine dinner as this. But since becoming all tin, my appetite for food disappeared as did my need to sleep."
"How did you become all tin?," Maddie asked.
Nick said, "It's a long story, and not the thing to bring up at the dinner table. I'll tell you later when you're not eating. It's rather gruesome."
Madeline completely understood then turned her attention to what Ozma and Charlie were discussing. Apparently, these Oz folks are all music lovers, and Ozma praised Maddie's talent and mentioned a certain American tour.
"I saw you through the Magic Picture," said Ozma. "It was about a year ago, and you performed with the very orchestra that you and your mother saw perform long ago."
Madeline smiled and said, "Yes, that was when I was just six, and I had started taking cello lessons for about a year. Mom saved her money to take me to the big city for a concert. Since we couldn't afford the expensive box seats, we sat on the main floor, third row from the stage. After the concert, I ran up the cellists and told them I was taking lessons."
Charlie Lavigne, remembering Lavinia's recount of a six-year old Maddie's confab with professional musicians, said to Ozma, "They were quite taken with Madeline. Here was this little girl, just beginning her lessons. My goodness, she was barely beginning to read, but what she'd already grasped by way of theory and technique..."
He beamed proudly at Maddie, and the other dinner guests picked up on his praises.
"Right then and there, one of the cellists, Norma I believe her name was, suggested to Lavinia an excellent teacher for Maddie. Even recommended Maddie could, since she lived in Bloomington, start lessons at the university music school."
All at the table praised Madeline's musical prowess, and Nick mentioned seeing that very concert via the Magic Picture.
"There was a short discussion before the concert, Maddie. The second chair violinist interviewed the conductor and concertmaster first, discussed the music to be played, then he interviewed you. If I remember right, he asked of your own compositions. Is this true? You write your own music? How fascinating!"
Madeline obliged Nick Chopper with, "Well, I've always dabbled in composition. Why, just this morning, on the train, I got an idea for a short sonata for cello and piano. I have the main themes for the first movement already on paper. The real challenge is actually playing it through then work on the second and third movements. It tells a story somewhat, based on some weird dreams I've had lately."
Nick smiled, his white teeth shining in contrast to his metallic face. He said, "I can't wait to hear it. Say, why don't you and your friends play for us after dinner?"
"Well," said Maddie as Breeze served her chocolate gateau, "I would, but my instrument is at home."
"No it isn't," said Dorothy. "Charlie called Gladys right after you and James left Lindens End. Number Nine picked it up and brought it here. The Guadagnini, the very cello you use to perform the Dvorak concerto."
She couldn't believe this, and she really didn't feel up to performing. However, as an act of appreciation, Madeline obliged her new Oz friends with an impromptu recital.
In the drawing room, after dinner, while the guests savored coffee and brandy, Maddie and Tony enthralled all with a few Romantic Era selections. One was a Mendelssohn piece which piqued Albus Dumbledore's interest. He leaned over to Charlie and Ozma, whispering:
"Hmm...Variations Concertantes. Lovely. There was a student of Mendelssohn's. Helmut Brück. He composed a special piece for piano and string orchestra especially for a Jewish family who lived in Paris. That is the score, Charlie, and it's en route to Glinda as we speak. I take it Madeline will receive Marbe Tasou's letters and journal."
"Tonight, Albus," whispered Charlie. He then said to Ozma, "Any word on those two Force Masters who are to train Maddie?"
Ozma replied, "Deke and Rath have agreed to train her, but it's Rath's sister, Mariah, who will have the final say. But I believe she will relent and consent to Maddie training in the ways of the Force. So much to do before she visits the valley, thus traveling back in time to reunite with her prehistoric family."
More music, this time a special trio for cello, piano, and tenor. Ron Gilbert, a rather heavyset man with graying dark hair and neatly trimmed goatee, launched into several well known arias. He did, as Maddie assessed, more resemble a big fullback rather than a seasoned classical singer. His voice soared and resonated effortlessly, nearly rattling the glasses as he hit the high C's.
"Quite a talented lot, Charlie," said the Wizard.
"Yes," said that gentleman. "They've known each other since sixth grade. Graduated in the same high school class, and even attended Indiana University together. I think Tony and Ron are the only close friends Maddie ever had, excluding one girl who Maddie knew since kindergarten."
"What happened to the girl, Charlie?," asked Ozma.
"Killed in a car crash, just after Maddie's freshman year at I.U. Maddie was in the car but escaped serious injury other than a broken leg. She was thrown clear of the wreck, but Judy didn't fare well at all. Horrible death..."
Nothing more was said on that subject.
Out on the balcony, after performing so many encores, Maddie sipped her brandy and lit a cigarette. She had to get some air, find some time to herself. Looking out at Emerald City's skyline, she felt as though she'd found that inner peace which so often eluded her.
This city is so beautiful. Look at all those twinkling lights, all those huge gems sparkling in the moonlight. What did Ozma mean by loving my new home? Am I to settle her permanently? If so, how am I to return to the Great Outside World? I have so many commitments: recitals, recording, finishing my compositions, music clinics for the kids. I feel at peace, and I'm already loving Oz at my new home, but why do I keep sensing things are not all that right? I couldn't help sense Charlie, Ozma, and Dumbledore whispering about a special score. Composed by one of Mendelssohn's students. Then Charlie had to mention that accident, the one where I broke my leg, and Judy...
Oh my God! I wish he hadn't brought that up. I tried to help her, but my leg was so badly fractured I couldn't move...I could do nothing but hear Judy scream for her life...It was all so horrible, and after all these years, I blotted it out. That was the same year Jeff left town and never came back. He was the only man I ever really loved, but I was dating his much younger brother then. They both left town the same time, and I never saw either one again...
We'll meet again someday. I can feel it...
"Madeline, there you are. Why aren't you inside with the others?"
Lenore appeared at the door; she carried a heavy portfolio. Joining Maddie on the balcony, she said, "You know, honey, we – Charlie, Ozma, Albus, Oscar, everybody – did this for your own good. You've been brooding ever since your mother passed. No, ever since Judy's death. I know it still hurts, to lose your best friend like that. But don't look back. Feeling sorry for yourself and hating everyone and everything only festers into something you don't want. Don't be bitter, dear."
She handed over the portfolio, a thick tome actually of dark blue velvet tied with golden ribbons. She then told Maddie about Marbe Tasou and her special legacy to her family.
"Marbe wanted to give this to her children, but she later learned the more worthy person to receive these items wouldn't be born for many generations. She entrusted her letters and journal to a dear friend who in turn passed them on to Charlie. He kept them all these years; not even you mother ever saw them, but she knew all about Marbe Tasou and how she came to Earth."
Madeline examined the portfolio. It was rather thick and heavy. Then again, within contained those letters that survived more than four generations and a special recording. Maddie wondered about that. Didn't Anakin Skywalker mentioned a recording of Marbe's life, her early years and ultimate relocation to Earth?
Wait a minute...If Marbe Tasou came to 1840's America, she had no means to record anything since 1848. Such devices didn't exist then. This she asked Lenore who replied:
"Madeline, think about it. Marbe and her brother were from a distant planet. Their ways were far advanced to ours; even now their home galaxy is much further along than Earth. Technologically speaking that is. Marbe had the means to record not just her childhood but her entire life on Earth. Right up to her death, she added more images and impressions of her experiences. Now, you take that home and study it hard. What Marbe foresaw, what others close to her foresaw, is partially the reason you're here."
She embraced Madeline, adding, "Don't worry so, dear. Once you see what Marbe experienced, you will meet with two special Force Masters. They will train you in the way of the Jedi, and only then will you reconnect with what was lost so long ago. Now, come back inside and rejoin the party. Ozma has something else for you."
Copyright©2007 by PRP