"Be Thou my battle shield, sword for the fight;
Be Thou my dignity, Thou my delight;
Thou my soul’s shelter, Thou my high tower:
Raise Thou me heavenward, O Power of my power."
~ from "Be Thou My Vision" by Dallan Forgaill,
translated by Mary E. Byrne, versified by Eleanor H. Hull

Huzzah!  :-)

Okay... so this is different.  I decided this year to give myself leave to be a lil spooky with the Halloween story.  This was the result.  I think this may also be the first Dyeland story to end on something of a cliffhanger.  It leads into the Thanksgiving story which will make up JABB 286 and 287 (it's scarily lengthy). 

Happy haunting!

God bless,

Be Thou My Vision

Sunday, October 25th- The Tunnels, New York

Lady JenniAnn sat in front of her mirror in her chamber Below.  She scrubbed at a particularly stubborn spot of blood at her neck.   Actually... she was fairly sure it was dyed frosting.  In the Tunnels, people made due with what they had and apparently on that day it meant using red frosting for stage blood in the older children's production of Frankenstein

"Stupid Frankenstein's monster," she muttered then beamed as the last of the frosting flaked off.  She decided this was likely the last time she'd get dragged into one of the kids' theatrical efforts.  Or, at the very least, she would only accept parts with pretty costumes... and not make-up that made her look like she'd wandered out of a zombie movie.  Andrew would be arriving at any time and what could possibly be served by greeting him in such a state?  And when everything was going so well...

Now completely freed of the dreaded icing, the woman smiled dreamily.  The past month truly had been wonderful.  Angst-free and idyllic.  If Andrew had been troubled by any of his assignments it hadn't been enough to line his lovely face or deaden the spark in his lovely eyes and this made JenniAnn supremely happy.  Further, her own outlook had been vastly improved.  She no longer felt a sinking suspicion that Andrew wished she'd transfer her affections elsewhere... something she seemed hard-wired against.  Life seemed infinitely more stable.

JenniAnn was pulled from her optimistic musings by footsteps in the hall.

"Laja!  It's me," Andrew shouted while still a few yards from the entrance of her chamber.

"Yay!  It's you!"  She smiled and moved towards the entry.

Andrew rounded the corner and gave his friend a quizzical smile.  "That's a very beautiful dress.  Umm... anything you'd care to tell me?  Do I need to go check a registry somewhere?  Do you need a blender?"

In all her worry over the stubborn make-up, JenniAnn had forgotten she was wearing a cast-off wedding dress.  She rolled her eyes and smiled.  "No, thank you.  I was playing Justine in the older kids' Frankenstein play and this was the only white dress we had handy... ya know, ghostly white.  Not really my style.  Too poofy.  Although now that I look at it... I could get a wand and be Glinda!  Toss!  Toss!"  She tossed her hair and rustled the train of her dress, mimicking the Wicked witch.
"It's only a week before Halloween and you haven't picked out a costume?  Who are you and what have you done to JenniAnn???"  Andrew feigned disapproval.  "I can't believe I have my costume picked out before you!"

She shrugged.  "It's easier for guys.  But... yes, normally I'd have a Halloween costume all settled and painstakingly assembled by now but... I've been working on planning something else and it's actually why I asked you to come here..."  JenniAnn was trying desperately hard not to let out a series of giddy giggles.

Andrew crossed his arms over his chest.  "Why do I have a feeling you've been scheming?"

"Just a bit!  Now just hear me out... it's a good scheme!  And Catherine-approved!"

Laughing, the angel of death nodded.  "Okay, go on."

JenniAnn drew in a deep breath.  "See, I was telling Margherita about all the fun my family and friends used to have at this Renaissance Faire we used to go to.  She asked me if I had plans to go any time soon and hoped, if I did, I'd bring some ideas back to Idlewild.  So I just casually mentioned it to Catherine and she said she wanted to treat as many of us as wanted to go to the trip.  Ya know, in thanks for all our help with getting her shelter together.  I said that was much too much but, well, she's a lawyer so... I lost the argument.  Then I got to thinking maybe I should take some of the kids along if she was gonna insist.  When Vincent taught the Renaissance there were a few particularly interested and he agreed it would be a great experience for them.  So now Jessie, Asher, his little sister, Shelby, and Evan all want to go."

"It sounds like you'll have a great time."  Unable to resist having a little fun with his friend, Andrew kept mum on his realization that she was telling him this not as a polite FYI but instead an eagerly plotted invitation.  "And you should definitely go.  How long has it been since you went on an actual vacation?" 

"A while.  And how long has it been since you have?" JenniAnn asked pointedly.

Andrew stifled a laugh at her boldness.  So much for his attempt at amusing suspense!  But he'd try to drag it out just a little longer.  "I think about it sometimes but when I have free time I usually feel like spending it in Dyeland."  Nonchalant, he began to examine the artwork she'd put up.

"So I've guessed and, don't get me wrong, I'm glad about that.  But... I think you need a lil vacation, too.  And... I really, really need someone to be in control of the boys' suite and Asher and Evan really get along so well with you so..."  JenniAnn beamed up at him.  "Do ya happen to have a couple days free?"

And there it was outright: an invitation.  Chuckling, Andrew shook his head and turned back to her.  "Why do I get the feeling these kids were invited partly for the purpose of convincing me my presence was absolutely necessary?"

"Because you've known me for nearly ten years and are very perceptive which proves quite inconvenient for me at times," JenniAnn shot back with a smile.  "Please, Andrew!"

The angel considered the offer.  It had been some time since his last real vacation...  And there was something amusing in the idea of getting dressed up in a style he'd abandoned centuries ago.  He could imagine how excited the children would be.  Not to mention whichever adults tagged along.  One of them had clearly already gotten her hopes up.

JenniAnn continued her campaign.  "Andrew, think of it: good music, good food, lovely woodsy area just as the leaves are at their most radiant...  The kids having a blast!"  She smiled at the thought and glanced at Andrew who still looked to be wavering.  "And, of course, we'd need to get from the hotel to the Faire grounds and it'd be really, really helpful to have someone with a car and license...  Not to mention the nearest portal would be in Nebraska so we couldn't very well walk that..."   In a last ditch effort, she batted her eye lashes.

Andrew began to laugh again.  "You know that doesn't work on me."

"Oh, it works," JenniAnn responded with certainty.  "Not in an alluring way, of course.  But definitely in a 'Look at the adorable, little human with her big eyes... maybe I should do what she wants' sorta way."

"You make it sound like I think of you like a puppy!" Andrew cried, growing more amused by the second.

"Okay, maybe not a completely accurate metaphor but..."  She looked expectantly at him.

Andrew pretended to ponder it all for a few moments then took pity on his friend and smiled at her.  The Father had graciously given him the two days before Halloween and the holiday itself off, knowing his disdain for the earthly celebration.  It dawned on Andrew that maybe he'd been given the time for this purpose, too. 
"Is this Thursday and Friday too soon?" 

JenniAnn hugged him.  "Yay!!!  Told ya the eyelashes worked."

"So you did.  And you were right.  I could use a vacation.  A vacation with friends.  Is anyone else going?"

"I think a buncha people are gathering at the Cafe for dinner so let's see!"  Grabbing Andrew's hand, JenniAnn bolted to the entrance.



"You're still wearing a wedding dress."

JenniAnn looked down at the skirt dusting the ground and shrugged.  "So I am.  But now I'm too excited to take time to change so... you're headed to dinner with Miss Havisham.  Ah!  This'll be so fun!!!"

Andrew could only smile and follow JenniAnn as she giddily ran to the nearest portal.


Thursday, October 29th- Kansas

"You know, the last time I was dressed like this horses were my main mode of transportation.  That and my feet," Andrew mused as he stepped out of the Jolly Green upon arriving at the Renaissance Faire grounds.

Yva laughed.  "I think it's a good thing you have a mini-van this time.  Horse rides can be great but I'm not sure any of us were up for riding one from Nebraska to here.  Think of the saddle sores..."

"True enough," JenniAnn agreed.  "But that's a wonderful mental image," she sighed dreamily.  "Were you ever in a duel, Andrew?"

Adam began to laugh as he exited his own car with Lady Beth and Henry.  "He sure was.  Why don't you tell them about it, buddy?"

Andrew blushed.  "I don't know..."

"Tell us, Andrew!  Please!" Evan begged while Asher nodded enthusiastically next to him.

"Wait...  I think I heard this story."  Henry grinned.  "If I remember correctly... it was Adam who challenged you."

The children and women all looked at Adam, aghast.

"Well, hey, I had my reasons!  It was an object lesson!" Adam stressed.

Andrew laughed.  "It was and I needed it.  Come on, I'll tell the story as we walk."

Nodding agreeably, the other two AODs, four children, Yva, Rose, Lady Beth, and Lady JenniAnn all followed.  They were glad they were among the earliest arrivals.  The lot was still virtually empty and Andrew could speak about the past with out fear of arousing concern or suspicion.  Dressing up like a pirate, king, or wench was one thing... saying you'd actually lived through the Renaissance was something else entirely!

Andrew gave a friendly smile to a group of jesters piling out of a car and steered his friends away before beginning his story.  "I was worried that I'd fail my assignment and it kept eating at me, you know?  I ran into Adam and told him about my concerns.  I expected him to offer some words of wisdom, maybe crack a few jokes worthy of Shakespeare."

"But you got challenged to a duel instead?" Rose guessed.

Adam smiled to himself, recalling that evening.  "That he did.  With out much warning, I admit, I challenged him and drew my sword."

"I knew he wasn't going to hurt me but I have to admit... I thought maybe our friend here had imbibed a little too much ale.  But it turns out he was more clear-headed than I was."  Andrew shot a proud, admiring smile at his old friend.  "As we went through the motions, Adam rattled off everything I'd told him.  All my concerns, all the imagined twists the case might take if I didn't do my absolute best.  The more he said, the worse I got at blocking him.  Then he just stopped and dug his sword into the ground.  He told me that the more worked up I got about what I thought *might* happen, the less I'd been able to deal with what was happening: the duel.  I realized then it was the same story with my assignments.  If I got concerned about what might happen, I could miss what was happening."

Jessie took Adam's hand.  "That's really cool, Adam."

"Wow, yeah," JenniAnn agreed.  "You could really be a supervisor."

"I think I have my hands full with advising the turkeys, Lady Luscious," Adam countered with a fond smile.  "But I am glad I could help Andrew."

"So the assignment ended well?" Henry asked.

Andrew nodded.  "It sure did.  We prevented a real duel from happening that would have set off a chain reaction of them.  Duels are great as object lessons, not so great when they're real..."  He frowned then shrugged after noting his friends' concern as they passed a banner advertising live jousts.  "But they're okay when they're staged, too." 

"Do we have to see a duel?" Shelby, the youngest of the children, asked.

"Absolutely not.  We'll probly have to split up some, anyhow, so everyone can get to what they especially want to do.  At least for a little while.  And I'd be happy to go to the petting zoo or something with you, Shelby, while others are watching the duels," JenniAnn offered.

"I think that's a great idea," Yva agreed.  "Maybe we can pick a time and place for lunch and settle on a show or two we all want to see.  That way we can be together a few times, too."

Andrew withdrew his pocket watch.  "The gates open in twenty minutes so let's plot the day out now," he suggested, gratefully accepting a program from a pirate.

As they discussed their plans, the courtyard filled with people.  The royal family was announced, the gates were flung open, and in a rush of music and trumpet calls the Faire began!


Two hours later, Rose, JenniAnn, Andrew, Shelby, and Asher were winding their way through a cluster of shops selling an array of handmade items ranging from jewelry, candles, woodwork, art prints, and musical instruments.  The children's eyes were huge as they took in each new wonder.

"Is this really how it was, Andrew?" Asher asked.

Andrew chuckled as they passed a sign announcing that payment was accepted in the form of Lord Visa.  "Umm... well, some parts of it are."

"I'm glad it's not really the Renaissance," Shelby mused.  "Vincent said sometimes they made people get married who didn't want to cause of land and stuff and not always love."

"That's true," Andrew responded.  "There were definitely some very troubling aspects of the time."

JenniAnn noted Andrew's face clouding and looked around for some distraction.  Her face lit up as she landed on it.  "Ooh!  My favorite shop!  It's still here!  This lady makes the best sachets and incense and stuff like that!"

Asher turned up his nose.  "Girl stuff."

Andrew chuckled.  "It's not just for girls, Asher.  I burn incense sometimes.  It makes me nostalgic.  But if you want, I'll go in another shop with you.  How about that?"

Asher nodded and turned in a circle, surveying his options.  His gaze landed on a stone building.  "Cool... armor!"

JenniAnn frowned.  "Oh... I've been in there once.  A friend wanted to go.  It's not really all armor.  It's... it's a dungeon museum.  Terrible.  Showing how people, ya know...  Brutal times..."  She drifted off.  "I think we should skip it.  I had been wishing it would have closed up, personally..."

"But it's historical," Asher countered.  "I'm fourteen.  I can go through by myself if no one else wants to."

Andrew shook his head.  "I don't think so." 

Asher began to roll his eyes but then caught a glimpse of a glare from his teacher and stopped, turning away.

With a sigh, Andrew turned to JenniAnn.  "If he's really set on going then I'll go with him."

"Andrew, I don't know that you should..." JenniAnn began to protest, catching a quick look of alarm from Rose.

"It's not like I haven't seen it all before," Andrew responded under his breath. 

Rose looked to the building.  "That's exactly what we're afraid of, I think."  She looked to JenniAnn for confirmation.  She nodded.

"It looks scary..."  Shelby turned away from the building and began playing with the sleeves of her dress, clearly distressed.

JenniAnn stroked the five year old's hair.  "That's why you're going elsewhere.  Look, see that store with the pretty stones?  They're called 'dragon tears.'  Why don't you and Rose go pick one out for each of the kids in our class and all our friends here?  Unless Rose wants to go inside..."

Rose shook her head, adamant.  "I think my place is definitely with the dragon tears!  C'mon, Shelby."  She took the little girl's hand and led her off.

JenniAnn turned the boy to face her.  "Asher... I really don't think that place is what you hope it'll be.  Sure, there's some armor but mostly it's..."  Her voice drifted off again.

"I've read about the Inquisition, Psyche.  You even taught about it!" Asher countered.  "I'm not a little boy.  I don't need to be sheltered!"

With his response, JenniAnn realized that Asher's desire to go into the museum stemmed more from wanting to prove his maturity than anything else.  She began to consider relenting.

"Asher," Andrew began in a stern tone, "your teacher is only concerned for you, there's no reason to shout at her.  No one is saying you're a little boy."

JenniAnn smiled at Andrew's defense of her then remembered she was supposed to be the adult and had to make a decision.  She looked back to Asher.  "Listen, if you really are sure you want to go, I'll take you since I've been before."

"And you hated it.  I'll take him," Andrew offered resolutely.  "Asher's right.  It is historical so if he's set on going and you're willing to let him..."

JenniAnn nodded to Andrew.  "Historical, yes.  Thus, someone with less history... less prone to be drawn back to his own past... should go," she whispered before turning to the boy.  "Asher, I'll go wi...  Asher?"  Panicked, she twirled around looking for him.  She stopped when Andrew set his hand on her shoulder and turned her towards the building.

"Look.  He ran in while we were talking."

"That brat!" JenniAnn growled quietly, just as Asher disappeared into the darkness.

"I'll go in after him."  Andrew moved towards the building but JenniAnn dashed after him and halted him.

"Let me.  It's not... it's not personal to me."

Andrew smiled at her and squeezed her hand.  "We're in the Renaissance, Laja, and you'd deny me the chance to be chivalrous?" he teased.  "You don't want to go.  I can tell that.  You go get your incense.  We'll meet you, Rose, and Shelby by the dragon tears."

JenniAnn sighed.  "Alright..."

Andrew hugged her.  "We'll be fine.  Enjoy the lavender."  He gave her an encouraging smile and ran into the dungeon.

With a sigh, JenniAnn turned into her beloved shop and tried to distract herself choosing between the myriad scents.  Once she'd made her purchases, she joined Rose and Shelby who were holding a basket brimming with dragon tears. 

"Look, Psyche!  They're all the colors of the rainbow!" Shelby cried.  "Did dragon tears really look like this?  Were there really dragons?"

"You bet there were, princess!" the shopkeeper responded.  "And maybe there still are... hidden away...  Like King Arthur."

"Nice dragons?"

JenniAnn shot the man a pleading look.  She didn't relish the idea of later dispelling Shelby's nightmares thanks to a rogue storyteller.

The man smiled.  "The nicest.  I found them while I was on vacation in Scotland.  I heard this terrible, heart-breaking cry.  I went to see who caused it.  And I found a huge, green, scaly dragon... sobbing!  Do you know why he was crying?"

"Uh uh."  Shelby shook her head, entranced by the tale.

"He was very sad because he'd lost his teddy bear.  So I helped him find it and he gave me his tears as a reward.  He said one day a very nice little girl would come and get them for her friends.  And here you are!  I've been waiting for a very long time!"

Shelby's eyes grew wide and she beamed at the idea of being especially chosen by a dragon.  "Really?"

"Would the friend of a dragon lie?"

Rose and JenniAnn gave the man an appreciative smile. 

"Why don't we get you one you can wear, my treat," the seller offered and produced a purple tear that perfectly matched Shelby's fairy princess dress. 

"Thank you!" the little girl cried, proudly pulling the cord over her neck. 

"You look very, very pretty, Shelby!" Rose encouraged. 

"Definitely.  Why don't you go look in the mirror and I'll settle up?" JenniAnn suggested, taking the basket from Shelby and following the man to the counter.  She smiled as the girl trotted away with Rose following.  "Thank you for that.  We're away from home and I don't want  her getting scared tonight at the hotel."

"So I guessed.  I know how it is.  I have a couple littles ones at home.  And an older boy, a teenager.  He's somewhere around here..."

JenniAnn smiled knowingly.  "They can be slippery!  I'm here on a sorta field trip with one and it only took him a second to disappear into that dratted museum."  She waved to the dungeon.  "I'm not thrilled... although I am glad my friend went after him and not me... sorta."  She shivered and then frowned.  "It seems to be taking them far longer than when I went through years ago.  Have they added much?" she asked as she counted out money and handed it over.

"Thank you.  And, no, they haven't.  Maybe they're just more interested.  I wouldn't worry."

But JenniAnn was already worried.  "Thank you again, sir," she responded and took the bag from him.  "For the story and the necklace and these."  She smiled warmly then joined Rose and Shelby.  The latter was twirling around in front of the mirror. 

"She's adorable."  Rose smiled at the girl and then looked to her friend.  "Of course, she's hardly the only adorable one in our crowd.  The Renaissance suits the AODs."

JenniAnn giggled.  "And we thought Andrew's modern flowy white shirts were attractive!  That blue flowy tunic he's got today... wow.  And Adam's jerkin is very close to trumping the beige sweater in my heart.  And I'm digging Henry's cap.  It suits him."

"And their hair just looks so perfect with the outfits!  Maybe we should have Renaissance days regularly back home."

"Renaissance Wednesdays!"

Rose laughed.  "Well, maybe not weekly...  I'm glad our version of the Renaissance doesn't include corsets."

"Gah!  Me too!"  JenniAnn smiled as Shelby approached and took her hand.

The little girl waved to the museum.  "When are they going to be done, Psyche?  Can we go see the animals when they come out?"

Alarmed, Rose stole a glance at the stone building.  "I didn't check my watch before they went in but...  They're taking an awfully long time, aren't they?"

"Definitely," JenniAnn affirmed.  "I think I should go in after them."

"I could," Rose offered.

"No, it's okay.  I at least sorta know my way around.  Could you just hold onto this and keep an eye on Shelby for a bit longer?"

"Of course.  Asher's going to get some lecture, isn't he?"  Rose laughed, hoping to lighten the mood.

"You better believe it!"  JenniAnn lifted up the hood of her cloak, crossed over to the building, and ran inside.


While JenniAnn was debating the finer points of dungeon rescue; Adam, Yva, and the other two children were just leaving a joust.

"That's totally pretend, right?"  Jessie looked up to Adam, biting her lip.

"Completely pretend.  Everything except the horses.  Unfortunately, CJ isn't here to confirm but I'm confident those were real horses.  Or maybe they were robots..."  The angel of death looked back at the horses, peering intently at them.

Jessie giggled.  "Of course they're real!  And I bet the men were, too.  You know that's not what I meant, Adam!"

Chuckling, Adam kneeled down to hug the girl.  "I know.  Trust me, they don't really fight.  It's like a play that you'd do for school.  Remember when you played Rapunzel?  That didn't mean Gary climbed up your real hair!" 

"Gosh no!  Ouch!"  Jessie looked to Yva and Evan.  "What did you two think?"

"It was awesome!  Adam, can I get a sword?  Please!" Evan pleaded.

"Definitely not a real one.  But maybe a wooden one.  We'll ask JenniAnn what she thinks when we meet up for lunch."

Yva laughed.  "Oh sure, pass the decision off to JenniAnn," she teased. 

Adam grinned.  "She can handle it.  So, Yva, what did you think of the joust?"

"It was interesting and the costumes were amazing.  But I think one joust is enough for me.  That's probably a good thing because we need to meet for lunch in half an hour and I think..."  She withdrew a map from her bag.  "We're about as far away from our meeting place as possible so we better get walking."

"Lead on, Lady Yva," Adam agreed.  "Huzzah!"

With a smile, Yva led them through a grove of trees and down a dirt path.  Walking past a cluster of shops, they came upon a staging area.  All four burst into giggles as they realized it held a troupe of dancers... and Henry.  It was obvious he'd been plucked from the crowd.  Lady Beth remained on the ground, snapping photos with glee.  Adam, Yva, Evan, and Jessie crowded around her.  Poor Henry always seemed one step or one leap behind his instructors.

"I would think he'd have an advantage given he's done this before," Yva whispered to Adam.

Adam laughed.  "Dancing wasn't Henry's strong suit back then and I think all these years with the band, performing a lot of rock, has destroyed what little classical timing he had." 

"He's lucky," Lady Beth whispered.  "The belly dancers tried to grab him earlier but just before they could a group of wandering friars came through and separated him from them." 

"How apropos!"  Yva smirked then devoted her attention back to Henry who, it seemed, had noticed their presence and overheard their laughter. 

He waved them onto the stage.  "Come on, it's fun!  And you can't look any worse at it than I do!" he shouted.

"Oh, no, I'm fine down here," Lady Beth demurred.

"I think it looks fun!" Jessie cried, taking Adam by one hand and Evan by the other and hopping on stage.

Yva shrugged.  "Why not?  It's not like anyone else will ever see this!"

Lady Beth laughed, tucked away her camera, and joined the group.

Little did they know they were being observed by a new arrival who was quite delighted by the sight of his friends hopping around a stage in public in a wide variety of jerkins, gowns, bodices, and breeches.  Willy laughed, withdrew a camera from his tabbard, and recorded the adventure.  If Lady JenniAnn or Andrew were going to make another of their documentaries, he'd be sure his footage got a prime spot!


After only a few minutes in the dungeon, Andrew knew he'd misjudged his own tolerance for cheap reproductions of medieval and Renaissance devices of torture. As he sized up the look on Asher's face, Andrew gathered the boy had been ill-prepared for the museum, too.

"Andrew, I-I'm sorry," Asher muttered, turning away from a particularly brutal piece of equipment.  "I should have listened to Psyche a-and... I want out."

Despite his disobedience, Andrew felt for the boy and wished there was an emergency exit.  But the only way out was to walk through further chambers, little knowing what they held though he could guess based on his own memories of the Tower of London and other desperate locations.  He set a reassuring hand on Asher's shoulder.  "Close your eyes.  I'll lead you out."

"But then you'll see..."  Looking at the angel, Asher knew that his teacher's concerns had been real.  Andrew looked haunted.

"It's okay.  I'll be fine.  Come on."  Andrew smiled encouragingly and reached for the boy's hand.  He moved into the next chamber.  Despite his intention to make his way swiftly through the remaining rooms, the angel paused.  His face became stony as he stared at the iron maiden.  However, he didn't remain transfixed for long as a soft voice pierced through his tumultuous memories.

"Chivalry can work both ways." 

The angel of death turned to see JenniAnn standing behind them.  He smiled at her with relief.

After collecting a grateful hug from Asher, JenniAnn adjusted her hood and parted her hair to the sides to prevent any peripheral vision then stepped in front of the two boys.  "Asher, take my hand and close your eyes if you want.  Andrew, just look straight ahead.  Watch my hair if you want.  The Father knows I spend enough time staring at yours."  She walked into the next chamber with Asher at her side and Andrew trailing them.

Despite the dreary surroundings, Andrew chuckled.  "Thank you.  I'm sorry you had to come in here.  I should have listened to you.  I underestimated what I'd feel... being here."

"I understand, at least a lil.  All those years ago, when I was first here, I felt depressed... horrified of what we've thought to do to each other through the years."  She shuddered.

Stepping beside her, Andrew took her free hand

JenniAnn smiled, feeling better.  "But then I felt peace... because I thought of you.  No matter what they suffered, at the end there was someone like you with the poor people.  And then they saw God."

With that, a bright light peeked into the chamber the trio was standing in.  They rounded one more corner and found themselves safely back in the daylight, facing Rose and Shelby.

Asher immediately went to his little sister and hugged her.

"That must have been some lecture you gave him!" Rose whispered to Andrew and JenniAnn.

The angel shook his head.  "I don't think any lecture is necessary."

"He learned his lesson," JenniAnn agreed before turning to Andrew.  "Are you okay?"

"As long as I don't have to go back in there."  He turned back to the building and ran his hand through his hair. 

"Never," Rose assured.  "In fact, we don't have time even if you wanted to.  We're supposed to meet everyone for lunch in a few minutes and I think we have a little bit of walking ahead of us."

"I think a little bit of walking in the fresh air and sunlight will do Asher and I a lot of good."  Andrew smiled at the boy who continued to hold Shelby's hand as they walked.

Asher nodded solemnly.  "You can say that again."  He tilted his face up to the sun and smiled. 


Adam's group made it to the appointed meeting place first.  While they waited, they wandered from building to building, reading off the delicacies offered at each.  Suddenly, Adam gasped. 

Jessie clasped his hand.  "What's wrong, Adam?"

The angel of death smiled at her, hoping it masked his discontent.  "I'm fine.  Don't worry, sweetheart."

Jessie frowned.  "But you look a little upset and..."  She looked around for the other grown-ups but first spotted what had stirred Adam.  "Turkey legs!" she cried.  "Oh, poor Adam!"  She hugged the angel then looked back at the man chomping on a turkey drumstick.  "But do they even use the rest of the turkey then?  It's wrong and wasteful if they don't!  Although I wish they wouldn't eat them at all..."

"It's alright.  It's not that I expect the whole world to stop eating turkey.  And there are plenty of other things we can eat.  What sounds good to you?"


Adam chuckled.  "Ye olde nachos it is.  Maybe not the healthiest lunch but we're on vacation, right?"

"Right!"  Jessie grinned.  She began to wave enthusiastically when she spotted her two schoolmates, Rose, JenniAnn, and Andrew approaching. 

"We're not late, are we?"  Andrew checked his watch before waiting for an answer.

"Not at all," Henry answered, drawing nearer.  "We're all early.  And look who we found."  He indicated Willy.

"Willy, you made it!" Rose greeted.

The chocolatier nodded.  "There's much work to be done but I decided a person doesn't get many chances to experience the Renaissance with friends.  I couldn't have come at a better time.  I arrived just in time to see our friends here demonstrating their Renaissance dancing skills."  He laughed as many of the others blushed.

"Henry got pulled on stage then, of course, made us get up there, too," Lady Beth explained. 

"I think we all made quick studies.  Or at least we had fun, even if we didn't look completely graceful."  Yva smiled at the memory.

"You all looked wonderful, my dear," Willy assured.

"It sounds like you all had a great time!  I wish we'd been there to see it and dance ourselves!  Maybe from here on out we could all stick together?  At least for a while?" JenniAnn asked.

"Sounds good to me," Adam agreed.  "We missed the five of you up there.  So what's kept you busy?"

Rose, Andrew, and JenniAnn all looked at each other, not sure where to begin.

"I got dragon tears!" Shelby exclaimed, proudly showing off her stash and giving one to each member of the party.  "The guy we got them from received them from a real live dragon whose teddy bear he found!"

"Sounds like my kind of dragon.  Thank you, Shelby."  Yva patted the girl's head.  "So are you ready for lunch?"

Shelby and several others answered in the affirmative.  They divided up just long enough to retrieve their preferred foods.  Andrew and Adam ended up in the same line.

Adam leaned over to his friend.  "So what exactly did the five of you get up to?  You, Rose, and JenniAnn got awfully quiet and Asher looked a little... guilty."

"Asher wanted to go into that dungeon museum and JenniAnn tried to talk him out of it.  I think he thought it would mostly have armor in it.  While she and I were talking, he ran in.  So I followed.  JenniAnn was going to but... chivalry, you know?   And..."

"The memories came flooding back?"

Andrew nodded.  "But Laja pulled us both out."  He smiled sheepishly.

Adam chuckled.  "It sounds like today's the girls' day for chivalry.  Earlier Yva had to yank me away from some overly friendly wenches."

"Funny.  I think I remember doing that a time or two myself in the past."  Andrew grinned.  "So you've all had a good day?"

"It's been great.  Evan and Jessie are completely enthralled.  The only low point: I could have done with out the turkey legs."  Adam grimaced as yet another diner walked by with one.

Andrew set a hand on his friend's shoulder.  "I saw someone with one earlier and I hoped you wouldn't but I guess they're hard to avoid around here.  As much fun as this is... it is an odd experience."

Nodding in agreement, Adam moved up closer in line.  "Sure is."

The two silently agreed to defer the conversation until the group sat down to lunch, preferably a few yards away from the faire-goers who had no idea there were people older than Queen Elizabeth herself in their midst.


Assembled under a tree, the group began to enjoy in their "authentic Renaissance" meals which ranged from the believable soups and stews to the highly anachronistic pizza bites. 

"So what's the least realistic part of this?" Asher asked.

"Cell phones," Henry responded.

Lady Beth laughed and nodded.  "We saw a Musketeer who seemed to be phoning his accountant and asking him to buy some stock."

JenniAnn feigned surprise.  "You means the Dow Jones didn't exist during the time of Shakespeare???"

"Sure it did.  But when we wanted to buy or sell, we sent our requests to our brokers via carrier pigeons."  Adam smirked at the idea. 

Andrew chuckled.  "Right.  We saw a guy dressed as Spiderman.  I can't say I remember seeing Spiderman during the Renaissance." 

"I assume the Renaissance itself was not sponsored by the Pepsi-Cola Company?"  Willy waved to a banner proclaiming the Faire's corporate sponsor.

"You would assume correctly.  Although there were some days I probably would have chosen a Pepsi over the local brew... if I'd known about it, of course."  Henry laughed at the idea of wandering a village, soda bottle in hand.

"Did you have this much fun during the Renaissance?" Shelby asked.

The three angels of death considered her question.

"We definitely had some great times.  But there were also things to worry about then that we're not worrying about here," Andrew answered.

"And we certainly didn't have as many friends around us then as we do today.  That's what's made today the most fun.  I'm looking forward to sticking together this afternoon," Adam added.

"So where do we need to go still?" Rose asked.  "I know Shelby's been patiently waiting for the petting zoo."

"Me too.  I hear they have llamas.  I've always had a soft spot in my heart for llamas... just not as much as I do for turkeys.  We'll make sure we get there," Adam assured the youngest.

"Willy and I noticed that they're having a chocolate festival this afternoon behind the jousting arena."  Yva pointed the spot out on the map.  "We'd love to make that." 

"Sounds great.  I just want to hear some music but I think we can do that about any time and any place."  Rose took a quick peek at the program.  "That definitely looks to be the case."

"Evan, Asher, Jessie, what do you three want to be sure we get done?" JenniAnn inquired.

Evan shrugged.  "I just like walking around and seeing what we run into.  It makes it seem more like a real adventure."

"I want to see the llamas, too," Jessie responded, smiling up at Adam who hugged her.  "And goats and sheep..."

Asher frowned.  "I'm done picking attractions.  I'm deferring to Shelby from now on."  He smiled at his little sister then looked at the three angels.  "It must be weird for you... seeing how we choose to 'celebrate' the past when you know how it really was."

Adam nodded.  "That's not much different than the people of the Renaissance, though.  Many of them idealized the Middle Ages.  King Arthur, Guenevere, Lancelot, etc."

"That's right.  And maybe it's a little startling for us to see things that drove fear and dread into people back then... like what we saw in that museum... dealt with so casually and even jokingly here.  But you know what it makes me realize?"  Andrew looked to the teenager.


"That no matter what happened back then... humanity survived.  Love, faith, hope... they all survived.  And they always will."  Andrew beamed at his friends then looked to the sky. 

"As will your ability to make people smile and feel comforted, Andrew."  JenniAnn looked tenderly at him.  "And yours and yours," she added, her gaze shifting from Adam to Henry.  She sighed then.  "Well, I know what this day has made me realize... I woulda been born a sap whether born in 1982 or 1482."  She laughed at herself.

Andrew chuckled.  "I wonder what Dyeland would have been like if we'd been there during the Renaissance?"

"I'm not sure I want to know!" Rose answered.  "I don't know if we'd handle the three of you leaving very well with out keeping in touch with phones and email.  Poor Ronald would go insane with all the parchment going back and forth!"

"I certainly wouldn't be producing as much candy with out all of my machines," Willy pointed out.

"Dyeland with a chocolate and technology shortage?"  Yva shivered.  "Terrifying idea."

"No flannel..." JenniAnn moaned. 

"I don't think there'd be any jeans to go with that flannel, anyway," Lady Beth pointed out.

Andrew smiled devilishly.  "Of course, it simply wouldn't be permissible for young maidens to visit my house at odd hours of the night, unaccompanied by their nurses, even if there were storms.  Although I'd still be willing to hop onto my trusty steed and protect them from those terrifying creatures... garden snakes."  He looked pointedly at JenniAnn.

JenniAnn playfully swatted at him.  "Darn right ya would!  Cause I might still be princess and I'd make you!"

"'Darn right ya would' doesn't sound very princessy, Psyche," Jessie pointed out.

Adam laughed.  "Princess JenniAnn of Ye Olde Cornhusker State?"

"Works for me, Sir Adam of Lusciousness," she shot back with a grin. 

"As much as I like these costumes, I think it's a good thing we're living when we are," Yva concluded.  "The Renaissance is great to visit but I'm happy with the life I have in the here and now."

The group "huzzahed" and "hear, hear-ed" in agreement.


The afternoon flew by with one enjoyable activity after another.  The petting zoo proved particularly amusing as one by one the Dyelanders got "attacked" by farm animals searching them for food.  A photo of Adam standing eye to eye with a llama was destined to become a favorite.  There was more dancing, too, though Henry was grateful the belly dancers never were able to find him again.  Willy gave quite a surprise to his fellow chocolatiers when he made his appearance at the chocolate festival.  Andrew and Rose tried their hands at Renaissance style drums, the former feeling instantly nostalgic.  Several times the group simply sat and listened to songs of faraway places, smitten maids and lads, fairies, and more. 

As the sun began to set, the group parted only briefly to round up souvenirs they'd purchased.  JenniAnn, Andrew, and Evan were the first to return to the appointed meeting spot. 

"It's probably going to be another fifteen minutes before the others return," Andrew informed as he looked at his pocket watch.  "Is there anything around here either of you want to do?"

Evan surveyed the area.  "Maybe go watch those guys doing archery?"

"Sounds like a plan.  Laja, you coming?"

She smiled at Andrew and the little boy.  She'd known for a while that Evan looked up to Andrew and judged it best to give the boy some time alone with the angel.  "I think I'll wait here in case anyone comes back early but you two go ahead."

With a nod and a smile, the two ran off to the archery area.  JenniAnn sighed contentedly.  Despite a rocky beginning, it had been a truly wonderful day.  Yva and Willy had spent some time together, away from their work.  As had Adam and Jessie.  Lady Beth and Henry had acquired a variety of recipes and spices for their culinary endeavors.  Rose had found herself to be a quick study on the drums, increasing her confidence in her growing musical abilities.  The children had touched everyone's hearts by choosing souvenirs for their friends back home before selecting items for themselves.  And, barring his foray into the dungeon, Andrew had seemed happy and relaxed.  As for her own take on the day, JenniAnn was simply glad they'd all passed the afternoon together, enjoying the Faire and each other's company.  She knew her feelings were shared by them all, especially the kids who were delighted not only by the Faire itself but being included in the group.  She made a mental note to plan more outings for the children.  As she was drawing a pad of paper out of her bag so she could jot down ideas, JenniAnn felt a hand on her shoulder.  She turned, expecting to see one of her friends.

"Would milady desire to have her fortune told?" a garishly dressed woman in her sixties asked.

JenniAnn smiled politely.  "Oh no, thank you, though."

"On the house, miss."

"That's very kind but I'm waiting for friends and, well, I don't really go for that sorta thing..."  JenniAnn blushed, hoping she hadn't offended the woman.

The fortune-teller laughed and dropped her mock accent.  "It's all in fun.  It's just that if people see I'm with a customer they're more likely to stop.  So... consider it supporting small business?"

JenniAnn laughed.  "Sure, whatever."  She figured if nothing else it'd make an amusing coda for this latest visit to a Renaissance Faire.

"My name's Myrna," the faux-psychic introduced as she led JenniAnn to a festive tent with paper lanterns hanging from its ceiling.  "And yours is... Laja?"  She raised an eye brow.

Startled, JenniAnn didn't know how to respond.

Myrna laughed.  "Relax, I heard the young man use it.  It's very unique."

"It's a nickname." 

"Very sweet  Take a seat."

Awkwardly, JenniAnn settled into a chair across from Myrna who, stereotypically, began gazing into a crystal ball.

"Let's see...  There has recently been a change in your life, correct?"

JenniAnn rolled her eyes covertly.  "When is there not change?"

"Point taken.  But I see a greater change coming..."  Myrna peered more intently into the ball.  "A good change."


"A proposal.  From the blonde gentleman."

JenniAnn burst into hysterical laughter.  "And then pigs will fly and I'll reach an actual human on the first ring whenever I call a customer service number!"

"Don't be modest, dear."

JenniAnn shook her head and continued to laugh.  "Oh, it's not modesty... more like impossibility.  Andrew's not the proposing kind.  And I'm not the proposed to kind.  Clearly you just saw us together, noted my lack of a ring, and made an assumption that, in many cases, may have been a good one that'd earn ya a tip but... not in this case."

Myrna shrugged.  "I did say it was all in fun.  That one usually gets the girls going.  And I like the think it nudges the boy along when he hears of it."

JenniAnn smirked and began to stand up.  "Maybe.  But not this boy.  Thank God.  I think I'll just be on my..."

"Laja?  Are you in there?"  Andrew knocked on a beam holding up the tent and poked his head in.  "Oh good.  When Evan and I got back we couldn't find you.  The man at the front gate said he saw you come in here.  I just wanted to check.  I'll leave you to your, uh, business."  He glanced at the crystal ball, surprised and slightly concerned that his friend would be a party to that nonsense.

"No, I'm coming."  JenniAnn beamed at him, feeling rescued.  She wasn't quite sure what the etiquette was on departing from bad psychics and was grateful she wouldn't need to dream up a way to excuse herself.

"Now look at that shirt!  That's not some mass produced tunic!" Myrna exclaimed admiringly as she drew near Andrew.  "The stitch work is stunning!  Was this handmade?"

Andrew blushed, hoping the woman didn't ask too many questions that would force him to talk about the divine origins of his clothing.  "Something like that.  Thank you."

Myrna reached out to his arm, her hand hovering over his sleeve.  "May I?"

"Um... sure?" 

JenniAnn watched the scene with a mixture of amusement and annoyance.  But then her mood altered entirely.  As Myrna's hand settled on Andrew's arm, the woman flinched.  When JenniAnn looked to Andrew it appeared he hadn't noticed.  He'd been too busy uneasily surveying the tent.

Myrna moved away and smiled at the angel.  "Very fine work.  You look quite heroic."

"Thanks."  Still flushed, Andrew smiled at her.  "Have a good evening, ma'am.  Laja, ready?"

Still confused about what exactly had happened, JenniAnn moved to the angel.  She had nearly reached him when Myrna clasped her arm.

"If I could please just have one more minute of your time, milady?"

Andrew looked to JenniAnn, silently offering to make an uncharacteristic demand on her time.

"Sure," JenniAnn agreed.  "Just give me a minute, Andrew, and I'll be right out."

Nodding, Andrew exited the tent.

Myrna poked her head out and watched him walk away. 

"Would you mind telling me what this is all about?  Or did you just want to make some more ludicrous predictions?"  JenniAnn was quickly moving from annoyed to outright angry. 

Myrna settled heavily into her chair.  "I... I know you think what I do is wrong.  And maybe it is.  But I promise you I never try to stir up trouble.  And part of me thought maybe I was even doing people a service because... occasionally I really do see things.  Not often.  I'll do countless readings with the usual claptrap.  But every so often... I see something real.  Something that will happen."

JenniAnn rolled her eyes.  "One of my senior theses was on paranormal hucksters.  I've read the likes of this shtick too often to fall for it.  Give it up, lady."

"When I touched him... I saw... I saw..."  Myrna brought her hand to her temple, rubbing.

The younger woman froze, suddenly concerned Myrna might have guessed Andrew's identity.

"He looked unwell.  Unkept.  Hurt."

JenniAnn felt as if ice was coursing through her veins.  But then she remembered this was the same woman who had rattled off a prediction about a proposal of all things!

"He called for his father but..."

"Stop it!" JenniAnn shouted.  "Is this your game?  Tell some drastic story so that the poor sap you offered a free reading to will cough up some money to save their nearest and dearest?  Well, I'm not falling for it.  And I do think it's a cruddy way to make a living.  G'night."  She turned on her heel and fled the tent, nearly colliding with Andrew.

The angel steadied her and, seeing she was upset, hugged her.  "Hey there, what's wrong?"

"Just annoyed.  None too keen on scam artists."  JenniAnn looked past his shoulder and saw her friends clustered around.  "Oh, good, everyone's here.  So are we headed out?"

"Adam says we can go get breakfast for dinner!" Jessie responded, bouncing at the idea.

Adam chuckled.  "I said it was an option.  I noticed a waffle house near the hotel but we'll see what everyone else has in mind."

Rose nodded.  "I could definitely go for some waffles."

"They have pancakes, too," Henry pointed out.  "That sounds great to me."

The rest of the group voiced their agreement in quick succession. 

As they exited the Faire, JenniAnn cast one last look at Myrna's tent.  She wondered if she was imagining the eerie glow that surrounded it.  Before she could consider it any more, she felt a tug on her hand.  She smiled at Shelby who had her by one hand and Andrew by the other.  JenniAnn's apprehension quickly evaporated and she looked forward to the remainder of their trip together.


Saturday, October 31st- The Fields of Gold, Dyeland

The Faire goers spent Friday exploring Kansas City and didn't return to their homes until late that evening.  As a result, the annual Dyeland Halloween party was thrown together in the course of a day.  The hasty preparation did nothing to diminish the attendees' enjoyment.

Yva and Willy sat at a table instructing children and adults alike on how to make chocolates shaped like pumpkins.  While Willy had retained his Renaissance Faire costume for the evening, Yva had opted to dress as Jareth from the film Labyrinth.  The three angels of death, joined by Nigel on his flute, were playing music they'd been reminded of during their trip to Kansas.  They made for quite a sight as Andrew was dressed up as Indiana Jones, Adam as a Ghostbuster, and Henry as Captain Kirk; all to the delight of the children.  Nigel, who had missed the Renaissance Faire due to an assignment, had taken the opportunity to don attire appropriate to that era.  Rose and Lady Beth (a hippie and a flapper, respectively) sat near them, listening in thrall, as Jessie/Laura Ingalls danced with childish abandon.  Shelby had her own audience as she regaled her brother and several others with more stories she'd dreamed up about her tearful dragon.

JenniAnn the Good Witch was busying herself refilling bowls of popcorn, candy, and other treats she'd set out.  Jacob, her little munchkin of a godson, toddled after her, grabbing handfuls of the treats. 

"Jacob, you must not eat too much at once," his father warned.  "Do you want to have a stomachache?"

JenniAnn smiled at Vincent, regal as ever dressed as Prospero, as he scooped up the little boy.

"Papa want?"  Jacob held out a wad of gummy worms.

Vincent took one.  "I am going to have one but only one.  So I don't get sick.  Thank you for sharing."

JenniAnn giggled as Vincent set Jacob down near Shelby's group.  The two adults smiled as Evan slung his arm around the toddler's shoulders and Jacob handed him some of his goodies. 

Vincent directed his attention to his godchild, smiling with amusement.

"He's definitely learned sharing.  I can't say I've ever seen you eat a gummy worm."  JenniAnn smiled as she picked one up for herself.

The man grimaced.  "I doubt you will ever see me eat one again.  They are... interesting but not to my taste."  He smiled at the children.  "I never had the opportunity to thank you for allowing Shelby, Evan, Asher, and Jessie to accompany you."

"It was our pleasure.  Seeing the Faire through the little ones' eyes made it even more special.  And Asher definitely gave us quite the experience!"

Vincent shook his head.  "So he told me.  But, Psyche, there was something else he told me.  He said you seemed somewhat upset for a time that evening.  Would you like to talk about it?"

The woman laughed.  "Oh, it was stupid.  I had a run in with a fortune-teller.  She made some dire prediction about Andrew of all people.  I admit, it frightened me.  But then she also predicted Andrew would propose to me so... maybe I shouldn't read so much into her visions, huh?"

"That seems a wise idea.  There's nothing else?  The children behaved themselves... barring the museum incident?"

"Definitely!  Really, Vincent, it was all wonderful and I'm feeling wonderful and...  Look."  JenniAnn indicated all the people.  "Everyone's having a great time.  I just wish Catherine could be here but I think it's good she stopped by Joe's party.  I'm sure he misses her."

"And she him."  Vincent sighed.  "I can remember a time when Halloween was the only day I could be with her in the sunlight, to walk among people other than my own with her.  Now we have Dyeland."

JenniAnn hugged her godfather.  "It'll always be here for you, just as you've always been there for me."

"That's right," Andrew assured, approaching them. 

"Band taking a break?" JenniAnn asked.

"For a little while at least.  In between songs we got to talking about how great these last couple days were."  The angel beamed.  "I can't wait to thank Catherine."  He looked to Vincent in her stead. 

Vincent smiled.  "I am so pleased you enjoyed yourselves.  Catherine very much wanted to show how greatly she appreciates your help."

"Well, as it happens, I appreciate what she's doing."  Andrew smiled, noting the pride and love on Vincent's face, then turned to JenniAnn.

She handed him some cider.  Vincent slipped over to where the children were gathered, sensing Andrew had something he wanted to discuss with his god-daughter.

"Thanks."  Andrew gratefully accepted the mug.

"You're welcome, Andrew... or shall I say Indy?  Even though I've seen you in it before, I still think you look amazing in that costume and... also mischievous.  Now *you're* plotting something.  Please tell me I'm not going to open my purse later to find a rubber snake in it."  JenniAnn looked sternly at him.

Andrew grinned.  "First, a gentleman never opens a lady's purse.  Second, that would be cruel.  And, third, I am Indiana Jones and I hate snakes."  He took a sip then set the mug on the table.  "But I am plotting..."

"A new building project?  More quality tool belt time?  Football plays to strike fear into the opposing team's heart?"

"None of the above, but I think you'll like this idea better."  Andrew beamed and took JenniAnn's hands in his.  "Listen, Laja, I have a proposal I'd like to make.  Something we were talking about over there."  He tilted his head to where the band had been playing.

JenniAnn felt like the wind had been knocked out of her.  She felt dizzy and terribly alert all at once.  She could hear Andrew.  See his smile as he talked, proposing that the group make an effort to go on more excursions.  She smiled and nodded.  Even sticking with the existing portals there were many interesting locations they could reach, he said.  And wasn't it relaxing to be away from the castle and not have to worry about chores?  And surely Lulu and Fawn could manage a couple days with out them again, just as they had this time.  Catherine had enjoyed having them at the shelter, hadn't she?

Even as JenniAnn acknowledged everything the angel said, one word looped through her mind: proposal.  Andrew *had* made a proposal.  She had assumed Myrna was hinting at a marriage proposal.  After all, romantic love was the bread and butter of the psychic industry.  That and economics.  But what if Myrna had meant exactly this.  The proposal of an idea...  The thought dissipated only to be replaced by Myrna's voice as she intoned her second prediction.  "Every so often... I see something real.  Something that will happen... He looked unwell.  Unkept.  Hurt.  He called for his father but..." 

Andrew lifted his eyebrows as JenniAnn grasped his hands more tightly.  "So, well, we were thinking Wisconsin..." he continued, uncertain.

JenniAnn continued to delve into her memories of that day.  Myrna's words looped then got lost in another, more comforting voice.  "He told me that the more worked up I got about what I thought *might* happen, the less I'd been able to deal with what was happening...   If I got concerned about what might happen, I could miss what was happening."  Andrew's recount of Adam's words of wisdom resounded in JenniAnn's mind, calming her.  She exhaled slowly.

"Just think about it.  You don't need to give me an answer right now," Andrew finished, looking at JenniAnn with his eye brows still raised.  He was disappointed.  He'd expected her to be enthusiastic about a springtime road trip to Wisconsin.  Instead she looked like the idea repulsed her.  "Laja?"

"No!" she cried, then shook her head when she saw Andrew step back.  "I mean, yes!  I meant no that I didn't need time to think.  It sounds lovely, Andrew.  And there's a bunch of Laura Ingalls Wilder stuff there.  Some of the children would adore the visit, Jessie especially and..."

Andrew looked at her with concern.  "Yeah, I know.  I just told you that she was the one who suggested the location because of that."

Smiling sheepishly, JenniAnn shook her head.  "Sorry.  I just..."  She realized then she wasn't sure what to say so simply hugged him.  "It's a wonderful idea.  Thank you, Andrew."

"Great!  So, hey, why don't you sit down for a while?  You seem a little stressed.  I'll refill the bowls if they need to be." 

JenniAnn nodded.  She looked around and noticed that most everyone was gathered near the bonfire Henry and Adam were tending.  Vincent was reading from a storybook with both adults and children listening attentively.  

"Let's go listen.  I trust Vincent not to have picked anything that gives death a bad reputation."  Andrew smiled, hoping to make his friend do the same.

He succeeded and JenniAnn eagerly followed him, listening intently along with the rest of the group as they spent the next hour sharing stories.

As Nigel told a tasteful Victorian ghost story, JenniAnn felt someone rest a hand on her arm.  She turned to see Rose who pointed to where Andrew sat. 

Shelby, appropriately dressed as Sleeping Beauty, was curled up on his lap asleep.  Whenever she shifted, Andrew would take care to ensure her cloak remained tucked around her before encircling her in his arms. 

The two stared.  Ir was a moment to hold onto forever, a mental snap shot to pull out on a miserable day.  Shelby looked so content and Andrew so loving, so natural.  It was a beautiful, heart-warming scene; painful only in its transience. 

Blinking back tears, JenniAnn stared at the wand in her hand.  She looked to Yva, dressed as a movie magician.  For a brief moment she wished they really were magical and that Halloween night really was imbued with a mystical power that they could grasp and direct into a spell that would keep Andrew safe and as happy as he appeared to be in that moment.  Further, life was not a Renaissance Faire.  Assignments weren't plywood dungeons she or any of them could invade and then pull Andrew out of at will.  Whether Myrna had truly seen the future or merely made a lucky guess at a word and followed it with a dire prediction intended to snag some cash, JenniAnn knew that Andrew would soon have to leave again.  If an assignment became difficult, there was precious little she or any of them could do. 

Shaken as she was, JenniAnn practically jumped at the sound of a twig snapping behind her.  She spun around and felt the tenseness subside as she saw the cause of the noise: a dove.  Staring at it, she realized that she and all the others had access to a power far greater than any magic.  They could always pray and they would always be heard.

Quietly, JenniAnn set down her wand and walked into the forest to pray.  She could just make out Andrew's form through the trees, illuminated by the bonfire.  He was smiling and that alone gave her some peace.  She knelt and began to recite an ancient hymn.  "Be Thou my vision, O Lord of my heart; naught be all else to me, save that Thou art."  She was half way through the prayer when a lump caught in her throat for reasons she could not fathom.  "Be Thou my d-dignity, Thou my delight; Thou my soul’s... his soul's shelter..."

A whisper interrupted her.  "Laja?  Are you okay?"

Startled, JenniAnn turned to see Andrew at the edge of the trees, carrying Shelby.  Drawing a deep breath, she smiled at him.  "Yeah.  Sorry... I, uh, just needed a moment."  She stood and softly caressed the little girl's hair. 

"That's okay.  I just wanted to let you know Vincent's taking the children Below.  They're getting sleepy.  If not asleep already."  He smiled at Shelby.  "Did you want to come with us to say good night?"

Nodding, JenniAnn followed them back to the bonfire.  It was hard to remain melancholy and worried at the sight of all her friends, the littlest protesting going home even as they struggled to keep their eyes open.  The adults ensured the kids were all bundled up before Andrew, JenniAnn, and Vincent led them to the nearest portal. 

When Andrew and JenniAnn returned shortly thereafter, they found their friends still huddled around the bonfire.

"Another successful Halloween party!" Henry announced, proudly.  "Leave it to Dyeland to consistently supply child and AOD- friendly celebrations."

Adam swallowed a bite of pumpkin pie.  "It's been great.  Although I think I'd even put up with a non-AOD friendly party for all this great food."

Lady Beth laughed.  "So you'd eat that pie and drink that cider even if a grim reaper was handing it out?"

The eldest angel of death shrugged.  "Good food's good food even if some unrealistic poser is serving it.  Andrew may not agree, of course."

Andrew's eyes twinkled.  "Oh, I'd take the food.  And make him or her take a few moments to chat with me, learn the facts."

"What if they didn't believe you?"  Rose asked.

Andrew considered her question then beamed at his friends.  "I guess I'd hope he or she eventually came to believe me.  In the meantime, I'd know I have a lot of really great friends who knows how Adam, Henry, and I really are."

"You better believe it."  Yva hugged him as he nodded.

"So when's our next big party?"  Willy surveyed his friends' faces.

"U.S. Thanksgiving," JenniAnn responded.  "Not sure what we're doing for that, yet, but I hope we'll all be together."

"I'll be there," Adam vowed.  "Someone needs to supply the TLS.  I think I've seen enough roasted real turkey for a while."

"Poor Adam," Yva cooed.  "But at least the rest of the Renaissance Faire was pretty great."  She laughed.  "I still find myself giggling whenever I think of our Henry trying to do the coranto."

"We still need to see that video," Andrew mused, indicating Rose and JenniAnn.

"Oh, it's a treat, alright!" Willy promised.  They all dissolved into giggles as they recalled their trip and all the fun they'd had together. 

In the laughter, light, and warmth; any trepidation that remained with JenniAnn was buried.  Andrew was there now and he was happy.  She smiled as Adam slung his arm over his friend's shoulder and the trio of AODs set off on a rollicking version of "Health to the Company" that everyone picked up at the chorus. 

And so as All Soul's Day approached, every soul in Dyeland felt a great sense of peace and kinship and love.


Halloween night- Kansas

As a special on the Salem witch trials concluded, Myrna turned off the TV and turned to her granddaughter.  "To bed now, Melissa!  It's past 11:00 and Halloween or not, you need to get some sleep.  I can't believe you're not nodding off already after all that walking you did at the Faire!"

Melissa continued to stare at the blank TV screen.  "Gramma?"


"Is it true that one of our great-great-great grandmas or aunts or something was a witch?"

Myrna shook her head.  "Cousin.  And she was no witch!"

"But she was accused?"  Melissa watched, astonished, as her grandmother nodded.  "Who was she?  Tell me her story, Gramma.  Please," she begged.

Myrna glanced at the clock. 

"I won't sleep at all now because I'm curious!" Melissa cried.

Her grandmother laughed.  "Since you're so persistent...  But then you're going to bed right after."

"Of course, Gramma."  Immensely excited, Melissa followed her grandma out of the room and up the stairs to a packed storage room.  "What's up here?"

Myrna opened drawers and surveyed book cases.  "A book.  It's actually a copy of a copy.  The original was falling apart and so in the 50s your great-grandfather had a copy made and I made a copy from that.  It's bound in red and about an inch and a half thi... ah ha!"  She snapped up a book from out of a basket and carried it back down the stairs with Melissa at her heels.  Reclaiming her seat on the couch, she indicated for her granddaughter to sit beside her.  She handed her the book.

"'The Journal of Nathan Wilkins,'" she read.  "I thought you said the accused witch was a she?"

"She was.  Her name was Hope Lewis.  Nathan was her betrothed.  Hope was hung before they could be married.  It's been a long time since I read this journal but it seems to me he tells her story pretty exhaustively.  I think he even illustrated it."  Myrna took the book from Melissa for a moment and flipped to a page.  "This is Hope."

Melissa stared in awe at her beautiful ancestress with her sweet smile.  She thumbed through some more pages, searching for more drawings.  "And this must be Nathan?  Wow!  He's pretty cute!" 

The woman stared at the drawing in shock.  She recognized him immediately.  Andrew.  The man in the blue tunic.  The man from her vision.  "N-no...  Here, look."  Shaking, she pointed to a handwritten caption.  "'Andrew, angel of mercy.'"

"An angel?!?"

"Nathan thought so.  I'm trying to remember..."  Myrna brought her hand to her head as dizziness set in. 

"Gramma, you look pale."  Melissa hugged her.  "Maybe we should go to sleep and talk about this tomorrow."

Myrna's kissed the girl's hair.  "No, I'm fine.  I've only remembered something... a man I met at the Faire.  He was also named Andrew and I was very worried about him.  I tried to warn a friend of his to watch out for him but I'm not sure she believed me."  She didn't want to alarm the child by revealing her suspicion that it was that very Andrew she had seen and reached out to.

"Well, maybe we should pray for him," the girl suggested.

Her grandmother beamed at her.  "I'd like that."  They joined hands and bowed their heads.  "Heavenly Father, please watch over Andrew.  Protect him from harm, surround him with loving friends, and... bring him home."

"Amen," Melissa finished just before a yawn snuck out.  She stretched.  "Maybe I do want to go to bed."

Myrna smiled.  "I think that sounds like an excellent idea.  We can talk about this tomorrow," she suggested, setting the book on a side table. 

Melissa trotted off to get ready for bed as Myrna tidied up.  After tucking the girl in and wishing her good night, the woman returned to the living room and picked up the book.  She read Nathan's words, long into the night, and reacquainted herself with Hope's story.  When she was finished, she found herself staring at the drawing of Andrew.  She traced the lines of his face, imagining him comforting the frightened girl before her death and encouraging her grieving father and fiance.  She wondered if it could truly be him who had wandered into her tent.  The resemblance was so strong and the man had such an aura of warmth and peace about him, even flustered as he was by her attentions.  He had seemed angelic...  And the blonde woman's absolute rejection of any idea of him proposing... was it because she knew who and what he was?  And if that Andrew was an angel...  Myrna remembered her vision, the details of it still so crisp in her mind.  She bowed her head and prayed again for him, all the while struggling with one question: what was going to happen to turn the smiling, stunning young man she'd watch depart the Faire surrounded by friends into the solitary, hurting wreck in her vision?

The End

Author's note: The Renaissance Faire the Dyelanders visit is loosely based on the Kansas City Renaissance Festival whose site you can visit here.  However, I've also mixed in elements from other Faires I've been to and then just plain added some stuff.  So if you've been to the KC Ren Faire and read this and think "Wait... I don't remember that..." that's why!


JABB 286

(Photo Credits: The photographs used on this page are from "Touched by an Angel" and owned by CBS Productions, Caroline Productions, and Moon Water Productions. They are not being used to seek profit.)