Amidst the dappled sunlight that filtered through the ancient trees, Annie, Rose, and Theodore stood at the edge of the forest, their eyes fixed upon an unexpected sight—a massive monastery that seemed to rise from the earth where a vibrant field of wildflowers once thrived. Their SUV, the symbol of modernity, was conspicuously absent, as though it had been swallowed by the very fabric of time itself.
The monastery, a sentinel of the past, stood proudly before them, its weathered stones a testament to the ages it had witnessed. Immaculate gardens encircled the stone structure, a symphony of color and life that painted a sharp contrast against the sternness of the stone walls. Men and women, draped in garments that evoked the mystique of history, moved about the gardens with purpose, their hands tenderly tending to the flora that adorned the landscape.
As the trio approached, a sense of awe overcame them, their footsteps echoing softly against the path that led them to this hidden sanctuary. Rose, Theodore, and Annie found themselves enveloped by a sense of belonging as the monks greeted them with open arms, as if the currents of destiny had whispered of their arrival. With graceful gestures and smiles that seemed to hold the wisdom of ages, the monks guided their guests into the heart of the monastery—a dining hall that bore witness to countless stories of those who had come before.
The hall, an embodiment of history itself, welcomed them with an atmosphere of camaraderie that transcended the boundaries of time. Polite conversations flowed like a gentle stream, weaving together past and present in a harmonious dance. Warmth enveloped them, and the boundaries between strangers and hosts dissolved into the embrace of shared humanity. A feast laid out before them, an array of flavors and aromas that seemed to span centuries, nourished both body and spirit. As glasses were kept brimming with care, the monks whispered almost imperceptibly, “You must be famished,” their eyes twinkling with an understanding that surpassed mere hospitality.
With laughter and tales, the evening passed in a blur of enchantment, as the walls of the dining hall seemed to come alive with echoes of the past. Each story shared was a brushstroke upon the canvas of time, contributing to a masterpiece that transcended individual narratives—a symphony that resonated with the rhythm of existence itself. When the meal concluded, the monks led the trio to their separate chambers, citing manners and politeness as their guiding principles.
As the doors closed behind them, the once shared experience now split into individual narratives, a sense of unease began to creep over Theodore. His footsteps echoed through the dimly lit corridor as he followed the monk who was guiding him to his designated room. The shadows seemed to whisper secrets as he went along, and just as the monk opened the door to his chamber, a sudden force grabbed his chest and throat, and sent Theodore spiraling into darkness.
When he awoke, Theodore found himself in a place that was the antithesis of the warmth and welcome he had encountered earlier. He was in a cold, dark cellar, the walls of ancient stone exuding an oppressive chill. Panic seized him as he realized he was bound, once again restrained against his will, unable to escape the grasp of unseen captors. The air was thick with foreboding, each breath heavy with a reminder of his dire circumstances.
In the chambers above, Annie and Rose remained oblivious to Theodore’s plight. The serenity that had accompanied their arrival now bore a tinge of unease, an undercurrent of mystery that swirled beneath the surface. As they settled into their separate rooms, lavish and pampered both Rose and Annie were caught up in the pleasantries, mindless and satiated by the influence of the monks.
Unbeknownst to Annie and Rose, Theodore’s captivity unraveled a narrative that had remained hidden amidst the monastery’s façade of warmth and hospitality. Darkness clung to the corners of his cell, a metaphorical echo of the hidden truths that shrouded the very heart of the ancient edifice. Time seemed to warp as Theodore struggled against his bonds, his thoughts a whirlwind of fear and determination. He knew that escape was essential, not just for his own sake, but to unveil the secrets that threatened the very fabric of reality itself.
In the hushed shadows of the forest, Annie, Rose, and Theodore embarked on a journey that would forever alter their perceptions of reality. As they walked to the very edge of the woods, their eyes widened in awe at the sight that awaited them: a colossal monastery, its grandeur standing in stark contrast to the once-vibrant field of flowers that had been replaced by its solemn presence.
The monastery, a testament to centuries past, was a masterpiece of stone architecture, each weathered block a witness to the passage of time. It exuded an air of reverence and mystery, its walls seeming to hold secrets that whispered through the winds of time. However, what truly stole their breath away were the meticulously maintained gardens that surrounded the monastery—a burst of life and color that stood in defiance of the stone structure’s stern countenance. Men and women, cloaked in the attire of the ages, moved about the gardens with purpose, tenderly nurturing each blossom and leaf.
As they drew closer, the trio found themselves enveloped in the warm embrace of the monks who appeared as if they had anticipated their arrival. The welcome they received was not simply one of pleasantries, but of a connection that seemed transcended time itself. These monks, guardians of ancient wisdom, possessed an aura of knowledge that stretched far beyond the bounds of conventional understanding.
The journey-worn travelers were ushered into the heart of the monastery, a dining hall that seemed to emanate a tangible sense of history. Polite conversation danced like a gentle melody, the monks’ stories carried an air of old-world grace. The spread that adorned the table was nothing short of a feast, a fusion of flavors and aromas that ignited the senses. “You must be famished,” the monks whispered in their ears, their eyes twinkling with a knowing wisdom and influence, as they ensured that the glasses remained more than half full — a gesture that went beyond mere hospitality, but servitude to greatness.
Amid laughter and camaraderie, the travelers shared their tales, their pasts intertwining with the secrets harbored by the monks. It was as though the walls of the dining hall held a symphony of stories, each note contributing to the greater melody of the universe. Their conversations flowed like a river of sweet honey, and when the meal finally drew to a close, the monks graciously led Annie, Rose, and Theodore to their respective chambers, citing rest and recovery.
Yet, as the shadows of the monastery’s corridors swallowed their retreating forms, a sinister undercurrent began to weave its way into the narrative.
Theodore, unbeknownst to the others, found himself thrust into darkness, worlds away from the warmth and comfort of the warm welcome he had just experienced. The air was thick with foreboding as he struggled against an unseen force, his consciousness slipping away. Then nothing.
In the midst of ancient stones and immaculate gardens, the fates of these companions took a perilous turn — one that would propel them into a labyrinth of mysteries and revelations, testing their bonds and unraveling the very fabric of their understanding. For behind the facade of warmth and welcome lay a hidden world of secrets, a dance of light and shadow that would soon lead them to confront the heart of evil itself.
Annie, Rose, and Theo were explorers, and they were on a special adventure in a dense forest. As they walked along, they saw a man sitting on a fallen tree. He had a blue bird on his shoulder that moved in the breeze, and his beard was full of critters!
YUCK! It made Rose feel a bit squirmy.
“I’ve been waiting for you,” the man said with a twinkle in his eye. He looked old, but his voice sounded young.
“Did the Organization call you?” Annie asked, sounding like she knew something important.
The man laughed a little. “Nope, I heard you all coming. You were making quite a ruckus in the woods. The birds told me!” He smiled, and some birds nearby chirped happily.
Then, the man stood up and started walking. “Are you coming?” he asked, looking back at them.
Annie, Rose, and Theo followed him, and after a while, they found something amazing. At first, it looked like a hole in the ground, but when they looked closely, it was like a doorway to another world! Animals were everywhere, rabbits, squirrels, and even birds.
“Wow!” Rose gasped as she looked around, her eyes wide with wonder.
The man showed them to a table covered with delicious food. There were fruits and vegetables, mushrooms, and yummy things from the forest. Everything looked so tasty, and the best part was that no animals were hurt to make the food. It was a magical feast!
As they ate, they didn’t talk much, but then Rose couldn’t keep her curiosity in check any longer. “So, why are we here?” she asked the man.
He smiled kindly. “I’m here because of a prophecy, my dear.”
Rose used her insight to gleaned the words, “When the serpent leads the lamb astray…”
The man finished the prophecy in a hushed tone. “The Drogan will emerge.”
“You mean dragon?” Theo asked
“No, ‘Drogan'” the woodsman said again.
Rose’s brow furrowed, grappling with the meaningless words.
Theo looked a bit puzzled too, but he was more interested in the cool staff the man had in the corner of the room. “What’s that staff for?” he asked.
The man chuckled. “That staff helps us do something special. We can shift to a different place, but in the same time. It’s like magic!”
Annie nodded, her eyes focused. “A phase shift,” she said with a knowing smile.
Theo scratched his head, a bit confused. “Phase shift? What’s that?”
The man patted Theo’s shoulder. “It’s like changing where we are without really moving. Imagine dipping your finger in water and feeling its temperature – it’s like that, but with where we are. Same place, difference space.”
Annie seemed a bit skeptical, but she knew they had no other choice.
The druid smiled and asked them to follow him into a small hallway. He had a voice like the wind in the trees. The friends were puzzled but decided to do as he said. They walked around a corner and into a small room.
But then, the druid remembered something important and walked back the way they came, saying he would be back in a moment and closed the door behind him. The three friends waited in the small room for what felt like a very long time. It got hot in there because they were so close together.
Suddenly, the door opened, and they were surprised. When they looked outside, they saw that everything had changed. The table that had been full of food was now empty and covered in spiderwebs and dust, like no one had been there for a long, long time.
The druid was gone, and the forest outside was different. The colorful leaves and lively animals they had seen before were gone. The forest looked dull and boring.
“Are we back?” Annie asked after a moment.
“You’ll see,” Annie said as she led them out of the forest.
They followed the path that had brought them to the druid, and it took them out of the forest. But what they found outside was amazing. Instead of colorful flowers, there was a large monastery where Monks in robes were taking care of beautiful gardens, and everything looked peaceful and special.
The place was more beautiful than they could imagine, showing what people can do when they take care of things very carefully. Annie, Rose, and Theo had discovered a magical world where the forest led to a place of happiness and calm.
Trudging through the dense thicket, Annie, Rose, and Theo ventured deeper into the woods, delving into the heart of wilderness. Their footfalls were cautious, reverberating through the undergrowth as they stumbled upon an shadowy figure perched upon a fallen tree. The man exuded an aura of mystery, his rugged visage framed by a wild beard that housed a multitude of critters, a living testament to his symbiotic connection with the natural world.
“I’ve been waiting for you,” the man’s voice resonated, an unexpected blend of youth and wisdom. His shoulder bore a blue bunting, its gentle flutter mirroring the man’s subtle movements.
As Rose scrutinized the scene, unease gnawed at her. The sight of creatures nesting within the man’s beard sent shivers down her spine, a primal discomfort she couldn’t shake.
Unperturbed by the eerie companionship, Annie’s demeanor remained steady. “Did the Organization call you?” she inquired, her voice laced with a knowing tone.
The dirty man chuckled, his response laden with amusement. “No, my dear. you’ve been stomping through the forest for the past half hour,” he nodded to his feathered friend on his shoulder, “everything knows you’re here…” and with that the man set off, beckoning the trio to follow, his steps leading them deeper into the embrace of the trees.
Annie, Rose, and Theo trailed cautiously behind the man of the forest, a subdued quietness enveloping them as they journeyed onward. Their nimble guide led them to an astonishing sight, a small opening in the canopy allowed a few beams to illuminate a small landing that begot a seemingly ordinary hole in the ground, yet upon closer inspection, one could see a world teeming with life bursting forth from every crevice. Animals of all sorts crawled, frolicked and roamed, coexisting in a delicate balance more benevolent than nature’s design.
Inside the tree man’s den a sumptuous feast awaited them, a table laden with the bounty of the forest. Fruits, vegetables, and mostly edible delicacies adorned the spread, an offering that emanated harmony and respect for the creatures that called this realm home. Animals thrived here, untouched by harm, a testament to the stewardship that governed this place.
The silence between them bore the weight of understanding, questions left unspoken as they partook in the feast. It was Annie who eventually shattered the hush, her words cutting through the air like a blade.
“You know why we’re here,” she addressed the man, her gaze unwavering.
“I know my reason,” he replied with an air of calm certainty.
With a knowing glance, Rose interjected having shined the prophecy, “When the serpent leads the lamb astray…”
The man finished the prophetic statement, “the Hand of God shall emerge.”
Rose’s brow furrowed, grappling with the meaningless words.
The woodsman took the lead once again, his voice weaving a tapestry of truths and mysteries. “This place, this hole… is not just a hole. It’s a gate, a passage to another realm — same place, different space.” He stood up and grabbed his gnarled staff that had been leaned against the wall. “We can manipulate our body’s material frequency, just slightly, and alter when our atoms condense into solids, thus rendering out us out of phase from our current standing.”
“That’s what they meant by phase shift,” Annie muttered, piecing the puzzle together.
“Yes, ‘phase shift’ – exactly,” the druid confirmed, a glimmer of admiration in his eye.
With a knowing smile, he beckoned them into a small corridor. “This way,” he said, his voice resonating like the wind through leaves.
The three friends exchanged puzzled glances but decided to follow the druid’s instructions. They were led around a short bend and into small chamber.
“Oh!” The druid erupted, “I almost forgot the most important part,” he turned and exited the room “I’ll only be a moment,” he said as he left and shut the door behind him.
The three companions stood in the cramped room for a uncomfortable amount of time and their close proximity caused the air temperature to rise.
Then, without warning, the chamber door cracked open. They were startled, and as they looked out around the bend they realized something had changed. The once-laden table was now barren, covered in cobwebs and thick dust, as if it had not been touched for centuries.
The woodsman was nowhere to be seen, and the forest outside was markedly different. The vibrant life they had witnessed upon their arrival had vanished. The forest floor was mundane, and the colors of autumn leaves had faded to dull shades of brown. It was as if they had stepped into a different dimension.
“We’re there,” Annie said after a moments pause.
“Where,” Theodore asked.
“You’ll see…” Annie said as she started to lead them back out of the woods.
Annie was driving like a maniac with one hand on the wheel while trying to call a number on her phone with the other. Rose, who was sitting beside her, couldn’t help but complain, “Stop texting, Annie!” Rose was still handcuffed, but she managed to get her hands to the front to sit more comfortably.
Annie didn’t listen to Rose’s warning and finished dialing the number. Then, she put a tiny device in her ear, so only she could hear the person on the other end. “Talk to me, Murray. Where are we?” Annie asked after the call connected. “Yeah, I see it,” she said, making a right turn toward town.
In the backseat, Theo tried to copy Rose’s trick of getting his hands in front, but he got his cuffed stuck on the edge of his heel and started rolling around. Rose noticed and chuckled under her breath, not wanting to disturb him.
Suddenly, Rose turned her attention to Annie and shouted, “Don’t do it, Annie!” Annie seemed to ignore Rose and kept talking on the phone. “Are you sure? Those maps are… old,” Annie said.
Rose was using her ability to read Annie’s thoughts and didn’t like the plan that was unfolding. “45% success rate Annie,” Rose pleaded.
As they drove through a historic downtown with red brick buildings, Annie steered the car into a narrow alley and faced a dead end. Rose tried to open the door, but Annie locked it from her side. Rose turned to Annie, her eyes welling up with tears. “45% success rate, Annie. Those maps can’t be trusted.” She tried the door again, “45 percent.”
Theodore stayed quiet. He had finally managed to get his hands in front of him, but he was confused about the maps, and the plan, and where they were going. Annie and Rose spoke as if they were from another planet.
Annie calmly capitulated that this was a risky choice, but was also the fastest route to the druid. She looked at Rose straight in the eye and said, “If we make this jump, we’ll be heroes…”
“I’m already a hero,” Rose replied, sliding down into her seat.
Annie floored the gas pedal, and the car sped toward a brick wall. Theo shouted in fear as they approached the wall. For a split second everyone was convinced they were about to crash.
But instead of crashing, the car passed right through the wall and emerged in a beautiful field full of colorful flowers. It was a peaceful contrast to the chaos of the city. Everyone caught their breath as they took in the tranquility of the place.
“YYAAAHH BAABEEEYY!” Annie exclaimed slamming her fist against the steering wheel. Rose was still recovering from her fear, whispering, “45 percent” repeatedly to herself.
Theodore, curious and amazed, asked, “What was that?”
Annie stepped out of the SUV to retrieve her bag from the back. “Follow me,” she said “we’re off to see the Druid at the Gate,” she said with a new found energy in her step.
The all set off single file across the field, and into the woods.