Princess Ruby of Tamworthia
2Promises Publishing House
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Title and Copyright Page
Princess Ruby of Tamworthia
Published by Phil Armstrong
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This book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to persons, living or dead, or places, events or locales is purely coincidental. The characters are productions of the author’s imagination and used fictitiously. Thank you for downloading this free eBook.
ISBN 978-0-9877284-1-8 Princess Ruby of Tamworthia
Copyright 2012 Phil Armstrong. Discover other titles by Phil Armstrong at www.2promises.com
I dedicate this book to the memory of Ron Haggerty.
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Princess Ruby of Tamworthia
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Chapter 1: Needs must
Skipton, Yorkshire, England, 2012.
Jevon Smith fed the car’s steering wheel through his hands to carefully navigate the tight lane ahead. It was an early fall morning, the overhanging trees compounded the darkness. The black sky was accented with grey billowing clouds. The car's headlights strained to illuminate a clear path through the murky darkness. He was driving through Chapel Hill, a beautiful narrow lane, with dry-stone walls on one side, on the other, a steep bank leading into a forest. The lane was only one car's width and Jevon prayed he would not encounter oncoming traffic.
Jevon's car was new. It was a modest mid-size, sporting the forestry department's logo, displayed upon each door and applied using a reflective decal. The dashboard heater spewed out warm, welcoming, air. Inside the car, it was comfortable; outside, the air was damp and cold. His mind wandered to an earlier phone call. A satisfied smile crept across his face, signaling the irony that he felt. He'd tortured himself for most of the previous day. How would he manufacture an excuse to visit the cottage today? Then the phone call came. Sometimes life just seems to give you a break. Sometimes, you're aligned with fate, and you have to smile, because often you're not.
Jevon’s phone had burst into life at 8pm the previous evening. It was Christine, his sister. She was clearly in a bind and had exercised her last resort. Christine was a successful real estate agent, based in Skipton. She faced an interesting set of events. Three prospective customers all wanted to view three separate properties, all on the same day. That afternoon, Christine had pre-arranged an open house for a particularly hot property, which she knew would sell quickly. She felt strongly that this opportunity could result in some easy money. It was shaping up to be a busy, yet profitable, day. This type of day doesn’t come around too often.
When the phone rang, Christine sounded agitated and desperate. "Jevon, are you working tomorrow?"
Christine sighed, "I really don't want to do this, but I'm desperate, and needs must. I have a massive day ahead, three showings, and an open house. I will need to be away from the house all day and Kady is sick. Wouldn't you know it, but she's come down with a fever. I'm sorry Brother, but I really need you to cover for me. Can you spend the day with Kady?"
Jevon could hear the torment coursing through her voice. She couldn't afford to be a no-show on this important day. She clearly wanted Kady to spend the day with someone, other than him. Jevon was an exceptionally smart man. He was a loner, described as quiet and a bit weird, by the local folk. Christine knew her younger Brother was harmless, but he was always referred to as weird. Jevon was the smartest kid in school. He always aced the exams and consistently scored the highest within his class. He would frustrate his teachers with exceptionally high grades, without even trying. It was a shock when Jevon shunned a University scholarship to pursue a career in forestry and conservation.
Jevon was always a shy boy. Christine could not recall Jevon having a single friend throughout his school years. He was bullied mercilessly at school. One day, Christine recalled walking past the riverbank bridge, with a group of her friends. One of the girls asked her, if that was Jevon, being dunked into the river by a group of boys. Christine was too embarrassed to say yes, so she waved off the suggestion, and walked on by; ignoring the laughter and the taunts emanating from the riverbank. That memory still haunts her to this day. She wasn't proud of her actions and she couldn't look at Jevon without feeling some guilt. Jevon was a solemn boy, and now as an adult, he still didn't possess any close friends.
Jevon pulled his car into the narrow driveway of Christine's cottage. He glanced over at a Wellington boot; it was artistically arranged with flowers spilling out of its top. It was a large black, man-sized, rubber boot. He recognized it; it once belonged to Dave. Dave was Christine's husband. He remembered them both as school sweethearts, who were extremely popular students. Christine had a fairytale wedding, perfect in every detail. Jevon was invited to attend but he played no formal part; he was not a groomsman or an attendant. He was not assigned any wedding responsibilities, and was not invited to sit at the head table. He smiled and was happy for Christine but it hurt him, feeling like a guest at his own sister's wedding.
She received a perfect summer day, and the bride looked stunning. The speeches were amusing and the bridal party was glamorous and handsome. Both sets of parents were ecstatic and proud. Jevon remained in the background and the wedding proceeded smoothly. Dave was a great guy; he always tried to make an effort around Jevon. He was smart and funny. Dave took the time to talk to Jevon, and quickly realized that Jevon was intelligent and thoughtful.
Jevon was a huge disappointment to his family when he left school. He left with eight, A-grade O-levels. He ignored the advice of his parents, and the pleas of his career counselors, to stay in school and study for A-levels. His intelligence would secure him a place at a top university, and guarantee him a prosperous career. To everyone's amazement, Jevon accepted a low paying job with the local forestry conservation agency.
His choice seemed to prove to people that Jevon was indeed weird, lazy and wasteful of the intelligence he clearly possessed. Christine was really annoyed with Jevon. He would spend hours in the woods, wasting his time. He was referred to as a hermit, wrapped up in his own company and strange ways. Jevon was a nice looking lad; he'd inherited his Father's ruggedly stark features. A few of the local girls tried desperately to get his attention. Some even tried to connect through Christine, but Jevon didn't seem interested.
It wasn’t long before Christine became consumed with married life and her own burgeoning career. One day, Christine called a family gathering, orchestrated to make an announcement. The news of her pregnancy was met with delight. Her small cottage reverberated with the sound of loud joyous celebrations. Jevon took the opportunity to slip out into the garden. The garden was beautiful; it backed onto Skipton Woods, illuminated by the setting Sun streaming through the tall trees. Shafts of light streaked between the large Oaks, dancing across the thick lush lawn.
"It's nice out here, isn't it?"
Jevon spun quickly. He managed to see Dave, leaning on a railing, at the rear of the cottage. "Yes, I love the forest. You have a beautiful home."
Dave approached Jevon cautiously. "Jevon, I’ve many friends, but I don't actually trust too many of them. I like you and I always have. I think I can trust you, right?"
Jevon felt uncomfortable, he didn't know where this conversation was heading. "Sure, why do you ask?"
"I know that you and Christine don't always see eye to eye."
Jevon shuffled his weight nervously, "That's true. I don’t really know why she doesn’t like me; I haven't done anything wrong, that I know of. I guess we're just very different people."
"She loves you, you're her brother. I talked with her at length last night. She couldn't name one single thing, which you’ve ever done, to harm anyone. But you do know, don’t you? You don't seem to fit in easily around these parts." Dave stared intensely at Jevon, causing Jevon to glance away nervously.
"I don't try to fit in Dave. I just try to be myself, a good person."
"I know that. I can't explain why it is, that some people don't like you. You're a bit shy, but that's not a reason. You're polite and helpful. You eat well and you look after yourself. You're a hard worker and you're exceptionally smart. You read a lot and you're well educated." Dave turned his back on Jevon and kicked at a clump of sod, rising from the immaculate lawn. He didn't want to face him as he delivered his next line. "Yet the fact remains. Most of the people in the town don't like you. They think you're weird, a loner, someone who might just crack one day. Why do you think that is Jevon, why?"
Jevon turned to face the warming rays of the Sun, "I don't know." If he were being truthful, he'd confess that he spent countless hours pondering the very same question. He would inevitably realize that he hasn't done anything wrong, yet people were either fearful of him, or they downright despised him, for no reason at all.
"You're a smart guy, but you’re a loner. You're not a bad looking guy, but you don't pay any attention to the ladies. You prefer to hang out in the woods and nobody knows what you're doing in there? Last year, when little Shelley Everstone went missing, you know that everyone suspected your involvement. Malicious tongues wagged, it was your name falling from their lips. When it was discovered that she'd fallen asleep, at the back of that bus," Dave shook his head. "She was found unharmed, yet people still wanted to pin something on you. How did that make you feel?"
Jevon turned to look at Dave, but Dave was still facing away from him. Jevon cast his eyes downwards, "Sad," was all he could manage to say.
"Jevon, I like you and I want to trust you. You've never let me down and I don't think you ever would. Christine's pregnant with our daughter, a little girl. I want you to be her Godfather." Dave turned to gauge Jevon’s reaction. "Christine's not so keen on the idea, but it's my call. She's picked that dippy Carol Swanson, from the sweet shop, to be her Godmother. Now there's a raving lunatic, if ever I met one. By the time our daughter is old enough to want some advice from an adult, dippy Carol will be long gone. I need someone who's reliable and likely to be there for her, no matter what."
No matter what - how prophetic that statement would become. Carol eventually married a real loser. He played in a rock band; she did indeed move away, as predicted. When Kady was born, she immediately brightened the life of anyone who came near her. She was a vivacious child with a sharp brain and a keen wit. Kady had a 1,000-watt smile that could light any darkened room, coupled with her bubbly personality.
Jevon turned his car keys, killing the engine of his car. He lifted himself out of the driver’s seat. He reached into the back seat, straining to grab a large, leather bound book. As he pushed the heavy car door closed, he stopped to take a deep breath.
He was about to turn and face Christine’s cottage, when he remembered his visit from a year ago. He brought wild flowers from the woods and felt more awkward than he usually would. As a Godfather, he wanted to be part of Kady's life, but Christine was always a wary parent. She didn't seem to trust him around Kady. Jevon was committed, attending every birthday party, bearing a suitable gift: a small outfit, a stuffed teddy bear or a bicycle.
Sometimes Kady would rush to the door filled with the excitement at the prospect of seeing her favorite Uncle. As she got older, Jevon was permitted to stay and quietly watch, as Kady and her friends enjoyed her birthday celebrations. Just before her eighth birthday, Dave motioned to Jevon to join him in the garden; a private chat was in order.
Dave shared with Jevon that he was worried about his health; he'd been coughing up blood. Dave’s doctor appointment was scheduled for first appointment of the morning and he was worried. Three months later, the world seemed to turn upside down, with Dave passing away from lung cancer. Christine was devastated. It was an exceptionally hard time. Christine lashed out at her parents and became very protective of Kady. Kady was depressed and Christine seemed to need Jevon around more. He enjoyed this time, feeling needed and loved. He finally felt that he was part of a family.
Jevon helped Christine and Kady through their immense loss; eventually time healed the deep wounds left by Dave's passing. He remembered Christine finding a use for Dave's old Wellington boots, as garden ornaments. It was now over a year later, and Kady's ninth birthday. Jevon’s good deeds had been long since forgotten; Christine had reverted back to seeing Jevon as someone that commanded a healthy dose of caution and mistrust.
It came as no surprise to hear the reticence in Christine's voice, as she finally realized, that Jevon was her last resort. She needed someone to look after Kady, while she went out to earn a living. It was Jevon's day off, and he knew that Christine would not return, until early evening. He would spend the entire day with Kady. He turned to face the cottage and began to move towards the front entrance. With the large book tucked under his arm, he shuddered, as the cold morning air enveloped him. The Sun's rays were starting to force their way through the clouds, but the early light did not bring the warmth.
The cottage was old, but was still a beautifully maintained property. As a real estate agent, Christine had managed to get an inside track on this most sought after property. It was situated on a quiet, narrow lane, surrounded by trees. The property was located on Chapel Hill, which was the entrance to the old part of the forest. It was known as Skipton forest. Skipton forest was a protected area, with mature trees and beautiful walking trails. It provided an idyllic retreat from the bustling market town of Skipton and its majestic Castle.
As Jevon approached the thick wooden door, hinged with decorative black iron straps; it swung open in anticipation of his arrival. He bounded over the two small stone steps and entered the cottage. Christine was positioned at the door to greet his arrival. "Thank God you're here!"
"I'm early aren’t I? We said 8am."
"I know, come in and keep the cold out. I'm desperate ......" Christine stopped in mid sentence, realizing what she was about to say. "I mean; I need some help. I've a really busy day."
"And you would rather have called any number of your friends ahead of me but unfortunately you're stuck with me." Jevon walked past Christine, keeping his wet shoes firmly attached to his feet. He knew this would bug her.
Christine knew she had blundered and wanted to change the subject quickly. "What's that?" she inquired, trying to move past the inevitable truth.
Jevon caught her gaze; she was staring at the large book. “It's a book of fairy tales, something to read to Kady and help pass the time. It's also her birthday present.”
"Fairy tales; good luck with that, she’s nine you know. Anyway, here's what you need to know. She's running a fever and she seems to want to sleep it off. Just check in on her once in a while and let her sleep. She's not allowed out of bed, do you hear me?"
Jevon nodded dutifully.
"Make sure she drinks water, when she's awake. If she needs to go to the bathroom, she's capable of doing that on her own." Christine gave Jevon a stern look. "No video games, mobile phone or Internet allowed. Don't answer the phone; just let it ring. Don't answer the doorbell and keep the front door locked. There's food in the fridge, and extra logs by the fire. I won't be back until 8.15pm. My open house wraps up at 8pm, and I'll come straight home. If you think she's getting worse, call Dr. Sanford. His number is written on a sticky note attached to the phone, near the TV."
Christine picked up her expensive leather briefcase and folded her overcoat across her arm. She dangled her car keys from her fingers and moved towards Jevon. "It's her ninth birthday today. She's as sick as a dog. It's not been a good year for her. She's been complaining of nightmares, for the last two nights, it was monsters in the trees, outside of her window. She hasn't slept well at all. The fever is making her nervous and cranky.
"The book will calm her down," explained Jevon.
"Good. Listen. We both know that you wouldn't have been my first choice, but I do want to thank you, for coming over here and spending the day with Kady. It means a lot to me and I love you." Christine gave Jevon a peck on the cheek before disappearing out of the door. He listened as the droning sound of her car became fainter.
Upstairs, Kady had strained to hear the conversation clearly. The previous evening, she'd pretended to be asleep, when her Mother had phoned Jevon. She knew she'd be spending the day with her Uncle. Kady felt nauseous and was running a fever. She felt sad; her birthday party had been cancelled but she looked forward to her Uncle's visit. She'd sensed a strange tension between her Mother and Uncle Jevon, but she couldn't explain it. She listened intensely but all she could hear was small noises, as he settled in downstairs. She heard the water facet running, as he poured himself a glass of water. Kady wanted company, someone to talk with, so she decided to act. In her best sickly voice she called out, "Mum," and followed it up with a couple of loud, hacking, coughs. It seemed to work, as she heard footsteps ascending the stairs.
There was a light knock on her bedroom door, followed by a soft voice. "Kady, are you alright? It's me, Uncle Jevon. I'm staying with you today, while your Mum's out working." Jevon entered the room and sat on the edge of Kady's bed. Kady pretended to look groggy and sick, but she couldn't conceal her smile. Jevon held a glass of water and a large dark colored book. "Happy Birthday Kady," he said, moving a strand of her sweat soaked hair from her face.
Her face seemed flushed; she was suffering from a high fever. "Would you like some water?"
"No, I'm good Uncle Jevon. I'm glad you're here with me today." Kady lunged forward and coughed heavily.
"You know I wouldn't miss your Birthday for anything, even if you are sick." Jevon followed Kady's eyes to the book. "Oh, I brought you something." He placed the large book across her lap; she pushed herself into a sitting position. "This is your Birthday present." Kady raised her eyes and looked at Jevon. "It's very rare and very old. I've had this for years, and now I'm going to share this with you. There's only one rule though. I have to read this to you and one day the book will become yours."
"What is it?"
Jevon took a deep breath. He'd been waiting for this moment for nine long years. "It's a fairytale, sort of; but not just any fairytale." Jevon looked at the wonderment in Kady's eyes; she'd never be the same again. Did he really want to do this? He owed it to her. "This fairytale is true and I'll prove it to you."
Kady laughed. "I'm nine today Uncle Jevon, I'm not a little girl anymore. I know the difference between make believe and reality. We grow up fast these days you know, my Mum tells everyone that." Kady laughed, mocking Jevon with her sweet eyes.
Jevon pushed a chair closer to her bedside. He hadn't noticed before, but the stuffed animals and pictures of unicorns, had long since disappeared from Kady's room. The decor had changed significantly; it looked like a teenage girl’s room. The walls sported posters; they displayed the beaming white smiles of popular boy bands. Her bed was tastefully decorated with pastel colors. Kady was indeed growing up. Her stare snapped him back to the moment. "Oh sorry, I was just thinking of something. So, do you want to hear this fairytale or not?" Jevon accented the word "not," by leaning back in the chair.
Kady responded by sitting more upright. Her nightgown tightened as she softened her approach. "I'm sorry Uncle Jevon. I didn't mean to sound ungrateful. I really want to hear the story, are you going to read it to me?"
"Yes, that's the plan."
"It’s a huge book, are we going to finish it all in one day?"
Jevon smiled. "We will, if we start soon. Once we get going, you’ll beg me not to stop."
Kady realized that Uncle Jevon seemed just as excited about reading her the story, than she was hearing it. It sounded like fun and she liked the thought of spending the day with Uncle Jevon. Kady's Mum used to read her stories when she was younger, but that stopped years ago. "Good, let's get going then."
Jevon realized that Kady was pinned by the weight of the book. It was bulky and bound in a dark leather hide. The book was worn around its edges and had scratch marks, etched into the leather. The front of the book had no markings, no title and no way to identify what it contained. The spine of the book had six golden circles etched into the leather. A green strap, tipped by a brass clasp, wrapped around the pages and secured the front of the book. Jevon reached over the bed and swiveled the book towards him. His chair was uncomfortable and he shifted his weight to adjust the pressure on his legs.
He lifted the heavy book and placed it across his lap. He leaned backwards, deeper into the chair, and snapped loose the brass clasp. Before he opened the cover, he paused. He took one final look at the little grown-up girl that sat patiently before him. Kady was nine years old, with flushed cheeks and sweat soaked hair. Her eyes were big, brown and innocent. She was dressed in a pink and blue nightshirt; she'd propped herself against the headboard of her bed. The pastel covers were pulled up to her chest and she wore an expectant expression. Jevon wondered what he would have looked like, a nine-year-old boy pushing through a fever.
The moment was broken, "Well, let's go, I'm ready." Kady raised her hands to her head. She shook her dampened hair, releasing the sweat so her hair wouldn't flatten. She was a proper little lady.
Jevon opened the large leather flap, revealing the parchment underneath. Embossed in gold letters was the title of the book. Jevon instinctively began to read. He glanced at her as the words started to fall from his mouth.
"Princess Ruby of Tamworthia, by Ranger Oakmoss"
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Chapter 2: The Mystical Forest
Skipton Forest, Yorkshire, England, 2012.
Jevon fidgeted, in an attempt to find a comfortable position. He turned the front page of the book. He filled his lungs with air, trembling with excitement; he began to slowly read the text.
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My full name is Ranger Oakmoss, my friends just call me Ranger, but you'll have lots of time to learn more about me. I'm the author of this book and I swear to you, that everything described is true. Many books are fanciful tales, designed to entertain an idle mind, but this one is different. The events described in this book actually happened. I bear witness to this fact. The keeper of this book must uphold a time-honored vow. You must promise to keep this powerful knowledge secret, sharing only with the chosen ones. The chosen ones will be carefully selected and must also promise to keep sacred what they learn.
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Jevon peered above the edge of the book; Kady was hanging onto every word. "Got that?" Jevon inquired.
"Yup, you've selected me as a chosen one, and I can't repeat any of this to anyone." Her eyes sparkled with mischief.
Jevon smiled, Kady was far too smart for her age. Jevon continued with Ranger's opening remarks.
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A long time ago Humans were happy to share this Earth with all manner of creatures and plants. Humans evolved, they discovered fire and learned to fight over territory and food. They rose from cave dwellers to farmers. They established settlements and forts, made from wood. Humans started to kill animals for food, and chopped down trees to fuel their fires. There was an insatiable need to provide materials to build homesteads. Humans cleared forests to create farmlands and built roads, forts, bridges, dams and Castles. Castles were quarried from stone, yet their need for wood increased. Humans had now evolved into the dominant species in their eyes. Still they fought amongst themselves. They burnt trees to forge metal weapons, cruelly designed to kill and maim.
It seemed darker times drew near, and this once idyllic land, was altered forever. Evil had managed to seep into our forest, manipulating Human behavior. Dark, evil creatures, sent from the underworld, continued to fight a battle with the forces of good. This battle had raged since time had begun. The countryside of England was once brimming with mystical creatures; they possessed old world powers. They fought together to defeat these evil forces.
When Humans began to hunt animals for sport, the delicate balance of power seemed to tip. Humans fought each other, killing for land, buildings, gold and power. Humans elevated themselves above all other species. They started to believe in their own self-importance. Their fears and insecurities drove them to hunt and kill the mystical creatures. They persecuted some breeds into extinction. Driven by evil forces, the mystical creatures were blamed for disease and misfortune. Great birds of the sky were eliminated. The majestic Fire Dragons were persecuted and hunted into extinction. As Humans encroached upon the world of the mystical creatures, it was clear that evil was winning the battle, and a new approach was needed. England in the year 1610 was home to six mystical forests.
A mystical forest is an old forest, an ancient and spiritual forest. This type of forest was hidden deep within the surrounding newer forests. They contained trees that were thousands of years old, connected, and flowing with pure energy. The oldest of trees housed ancient spirits, strong and wise. Everything in the mystical forest was deeply connected, existing in harmony. Each mystical forest had a stream, brook or pond, supplying fresh water. England was covered in forested areas but few contained the significantly older and more powerful mystical forests.
The mystical forests were pure. They contained native plants, unblemished by Humans and their desire to manipulate nature. Many Human travelers had planted Conifers, Sycamore, Pine and Spruce, to supply an insatiable need for wood. These trees were not native to England causing damage to the delicate balance of the forest. Deep within the mystical forests, you would find Oak, Ash, Lime, Chestnut, Rowan, Sloe and Hornbeam. These were the old trees, the ancient trees. If you were to walk through a mystical forest, it felt different. Everything was in harmony, connected and magical. The energy crackled around the plants, water, fish, trees, flowers, animals and insects, which lived in perfect harmony. Some creatures needed to hunt for food but they only took what they needed for survival. They were never wasteful.
The mystical forests were home to grasses, ferns, shrubs, moss, sedges and flowering plants. A trained eye would see colorful orchids, bluebells, wild garlic, enchanter's nightshade, woundwort, figwort, mushrooms, toadstools, burdock, herb paris, ragged robin, dog's mercury, mint, colored pokers and a host of woodland flowers. The old forest had the right amount of shade, moisture, light, and of course, bees and butterflies. By 1544, England was in a precarious position. A mystical forest located in the South, had being ravaged by Humans. The sacred trees had screamed in pain, as men hacked at their trunks, burning the surrounding land. Animals sworn to protect the mystical forest had long since lost the battle with these dominant Humans.
Fire Dragons had been eliminated. Storytellers now referred to Dragons as colorful characters of legend or within the lyrical verses of fanciful ballads. Dragons could only be seen within the