The Old Oak Tree

The Old Oak Tree

This is an excerpt from Barry S. Brunswick's Chapter-Book Fantasy Adventure Dreamland Part 2 The Masters of Light

They trudged and sludged and slipped and stumbled along until, at long last, they could see the old oak tree glowing like a silver beacon on the hill.

“Oh, we made it! At last, we made it!” Rolo rejoiced with his huge blue hands in the air. The smile beamed on his face as he knew that his muddy hardship was soon to come to an end.

Poor Rolo and Buttercup were in a state, covered from head to foot in partially dried mud. They were heavy and weary, and they slumped down beneath the old oak tree, and in a mere matter of moments, they both snored heavily, away with the fairies.

Jamelia floated near them, humming her most beautiful tune until they silently slipped into their dreams.

Eric stared at the tree. It was huge with a trunk that barrelled around. The bark shone a majestic silver. It was old and grand, and it creaked wisely in the breeze. Eric imagined the things this tree had seen. It was as old as time. He touched the rough bark with his hands and could feel an energy, a life force glowing within it.

“It’s the oldest living thing in Dreamland. It’s stood on the hill since time began,” Dutch informed Eric and Jamelia.

“Wow, that’s amazing. But how can you possibly know how long it’s been here?” Eric asked.

“The tree told me, of course,” the reptile replied.

“You can’t talk to trees, Dutch,” Eric said.

The funny chameleon huffed, crossed his arms and grumpily said, “You, too, can talk to trees if you know their language, and I’m an expert.”

“Of course, you are.” Eric laughed. It seemed his little friend was an expert at almost everything.

“As a matter of fact, I’m fluent in tree.” He was growing grumpier still.

Eric just smiled at Dutch, which seemed to really get him going. “Don’t believe me? Ha!”

“I never said that,” Eric protested.

“Right, I’ll prove it to you. Come around here.” He beckoned for his friends to follow him.

Jamelia and Eric followed him around to the other side of the tree.

Dutch stood up tall, well, at least as tall as he could. He changed almost magically to the same silver colour as the tree bark, and he made a strange croaky, creaky noise from deep inside his throat. “Eeerrreee,” he said. “Rrreeerrr.”

Then stunned silence fell over Eric and his dream guide as the tree said, “Eeerrreee,” and then, “Rrreeerrr.”

“Wow, Dutch. That’s amazing! But what did you say?”

The chameleon smiled cheekily as he glowed a naughty red colour. “I said, ‘These silly billies think I can’t speak tree.’” He laughed from deep in his belly and slapped his thigh. His joke had certainly tickled him.

Eric and Jamelia laughed back if for no other reason than because Dutch looked so funny as he screamed and tried to catch a breath. It really is true that laughter is infectious.

“What did the tree say?” Eric asked, drying his eyes.

“It said…” He was struggling to hold himself together. “It said…”

“What, Dutch?” Eric urged.

“It said… ‘I know they did. I can speak perfect English,’” he screamed again, grabbing his sides and collapsing to the ground as if he couldn’t take anymore. Tears were somehow flying out of his eyes as he rolled around, howling. The others joined in, and before long, even Eric was rolling on the ground.

Soon the laughter stopped. It had to, or there could well have been serious side or cheek injuries sustained.

Only then did Eric say, “Can the tree really speak English, Dutch?”

Before he could answer, the tree answered him herself in the trembling voice of an old lady. “I can, indeed, Nightmare Crusher.”

Eric gasped.

“I have lived here for millions of years watching over Dreamland from my hill. But soon, I shall be gone. I see fearful shadows on the horizon.” The tree rustled her leaves as the others listened to her words.

“The shadows are coming closer each day. Look out in the morning, and you will see it. Even my friends, the bugs, squirrels and birds that live in my branches have fled for the safety of the Heart of Dreamland. But I am stuck here. There is no escape for me.”

Eric felt terrible as he imagined what it would be like just to watch the shadows coming and not be able to run away.

“Don’t fear, Mrs. Tree,” the boy said. “I have come to send back the shadows. That is my task.”

“I know why you’re here, Nightmare Crusher, but I fear there will not be time enough to save me. My fate, I’m afraid, is already sealed.”

“Maybe I could use my powers to move you somewhere else,” the boy suggested. He felt so bad for her.

“I’m afraid that will not work. My roots are so deep in the ground that the hill and I are as one. I am connected to it, and it is connected to me.”

Eric thought, and even he, with his mighty power, could never move an entire hill and tree as well. Besides, where could he put it? He would have to put it on top of something else in Dreamland, crushing that instead. He certainly couldn’t do that. It really did seem that everything in nature has its place, and if you change one thing, something else must die.

The boy couldn’t just let this happen to the tree. He had to do something else to help her, or all that she’d seen and all the knowledge she held would be wasted to the darkness. His mind worked quickly like that of a hero always should, and he had an idea that might just work.

“What I’ll do is the same thing as the Nightmares do when they come into Dreamland,” he said excitedly.

“What would that be?” the tree asked.

“They wrap themselves in a veil of shadow, so I will wrap you in a dome of light. It will only last a certain amount of time in the darkness, but it might just be enough.”

“Could you do that for me?” The tree’s voice trembled as if she were about to cry.

“I can if Jamelia helps me create the dome. We need to fill it with as much light as we can muster to give you the best chance.

“When the shadow engulfs you, do not look around or listen to a thing. Sing songs of light all the time. This will make the dome last a lot longer.”

Eric turned his mind back to the shadows. He had seen it. He knew what it was she faced. If she saw the fear, if she heard the screams, she too would surely be taken by darkness.

“We’ll make the dome just as we’re about to leave. It will give you the most time possible.”

“You will? Thank you for helping me. I’ve been so afraid,” the tree whimpered.

“Everything will be okay, Mrs. Tree. Do not be afraid. That is exactly what the Nightmares want. You must focus on the light that burns inside you at all times.

“I can make the dome, but, really, the only one who can save you is you.”
Silence fell around as his words rang true through the minds of the entire group.

Jamelia warmed with pride. Eric truly was becoming a Nightmare Crusher. He was wise beyond his years, strong beyond his size and braver than a lion. This little boy of eight was protecting a tree thousands of times bigger and millions of times older than he. It was amazing to watch him with each step of his journey growing ever stronger, evolving in front of her eyes.

They listened to the tree’s amazing stories deep into the night before tiredness won the battle, and they all had to sleep.

Jamelia talked to the tree all night as she never did need to sleep. In between, she hummed her beautiful melodies to Eric, so all his dreams were always beautiful.

They awoke to a very unhappy Rolo and Buttercup, who were filthy dirty. The mud was all dry and sticking their fur together. Rolo certainly had a grumpy look on his face.

“Don’t worry, old boy. Let’s have a nice cup of tea.” Eric jumped to his feet from his resting place. He was determined to cheer the grumpy pair up.

A half-smile came across Rolo’s face at the very mention of a cup of tea. “Can we have toast and marmalade as well?” he asked sheepishly.

“Sure, you can, my dear old thing. Fifty loaves of toast coming right up.”

The monster smiled and lovingly patted his steed. “Toast and marmalade are the best, girl. We’ll feast this morning.”

Buttercup stuck out her long ham-like tongue and started to drool and pant like a dog at the very thought.

Now it was Dutch’s turn to complete the cheering-up job as Eric began conjuring up the breakfast he had promised. “It’s all right. We’ll be at the misty shore soon,” he squawked. “Then you two can take a bath. That’ll make you feel much better.”

Buttercup slumped down beside the cuddle monster as a cup of tea was handed to Rolo and a soup bowl of tea put next to his rhino friend. The monster held the cup between both of his hands and took an enormous slurp. A silly smile came across his face as he sighed, “There’s nothing like a nice cup of tea.”

Buttercup nodded as she lapped enthusiastically at the liquid with her tongue.

“Except,” Dutch said, “two cups of tea.” He handed a second cup of tea to his big blue friend, knowing how quickly he would drink it. He’d often wondered why Rolo didn’t just drink out of a bucket, but Rolo always said it was oafish and ungentlemanly. He liked his tea in a china teacup with a saucer, though it seemed awfully strange to Dutch as he watched him shovelling toast into his mouth and spitting crumbs everywhere in the most oafish and ungentlemanly fashion.

In no time, their lovely breakfast was finished, and they were ready to head down the hill to the misty shore. There was, however, one bit of important business to attend to first—the making of a dome of light for their new friend, Mrs Tree.

Eric made them all stand in a circle around the tree.

“Right, everyone, concentrate. Focus on the light that lives inside you. Think happy thoughts of great moments and of the ones you love.”

His hands started to glow, and a spark of light swirled and twinkled between them. Everyone focused harder and harder.

“Concentrate your energy on the spark,” he encouraged.

The spark became a flame as Jamelia shot a huge bolt of light into it. The flame expanded even more as it glowed and burned and swirled, bigger and bigger, until Eric couldn’t hold it between his hands anymore. In a pushing motion, the light flew from his hands and into the tree while more and more light poured out. The spark burned as brightly as a star, but strangely, even though they were staring right at it, it didn’t hurt their eyes.

It grew and grew and zoomed up into the tree’s branches. Her leaves and trunk glowed with majestic power. Eventually, she was completely surrounded by a dome of the purest light shimmering magically all around her.

“Wow, that was the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen!” said Rolo.

Eric smiled, and then a fuzz came over his head. He wobbled, he stumbled, and then he fell.

Rolo made a miraculous yet rather ungraceful dive and caught the boy so he wouldn’t bang his head.

“What’s wrong with him?” Dutch asked worriedly.

“Don’t fear, Dutch,” Jamelia reassured him. “The exertion of creating so much light has worn him out. He’ll come to when he’s ready.”

“What shall we do now?” Rolo asked as he gently and lovingly put the boy down.

“He wouldn’t want us to stop. Put him on Buttercup, that is if she doesn’t mind, and we’ll keep going.”

So that was what they did. After saying goodbye to the old oak tree and wishing her all the luck in the world, they made their way down the hill and headed for the misty shore. The tree had given them a message for Eric for when he awoke.

This is an excerpt from Barry S. Brunswick's Chapter-Book Fantasy Adventure Dreamland Part 2 The Masters of Light - Click the link to keep reading!