Fantasy Science Fiction posted January 14, 2024 Chapters:  ...17 18 -19- 20... 

This work has reached the exceptional level
Echo finally meets part of Theo's family.

A chapter in the book Return To Concorde Valley

A New Life Begins

by davisr (Rhonda)

Years after a fire took her parents lives and devastated her home, Echo worked at a small town newspaper. She's rescued from danger by her old friend, Theo, who takes her to Concorde Valley.
End of last Chapter:

"Yeah, but they're all royalty."

"So's my father who was your physician, and, I might remind you, you're leaning against the Crowned Prince."

Echo turned around and looked him in the eyes. In them she saw ages of history and tenderness. She saw a young boy who had rescued an abandoned girl in the forest, a rookie cop who protected her from Specters, an agile guide who walked her through trees, and, mostly, she saw her Theo.

"Come, my dear. Time to face the music."

Echo gulped as Theo lifted her off the great stallian and set her on wobbly feet. She steadied herself and lifted her chin. She was ready.

New Chapter Begins:

Echo's first impression of Theo's childhood home was one of complete wonder. As they emerged into the clearing where the house stood, she was delighted by the change of fragrance in the air. What had previously been a woodsy scent, now carried the delicate aroma of winter flowers. 
Not a gardener, she wasn't able to distinguish individual flowers but did recognise quality.

The next detail she noticed was the enormous woodland mansion before her. It was not just tall, with its towering three stories, but also sprawling. Echo wasn't good at gauging sizes but guessed it to be about a city block in dimension.

The building wasn't constructed in the manner of traditional castles, something she more-or-less expected, but was ornate with a hint of practicality.

Appearing at the edge of the massive house was an enticing flower garden, providing the source of the unique aroma. A cobbled path led from where they stood to about half-way through the yard. There it split into two branches, one leading to the front door and the other to the flowers.

Echo pictured the path intertwining the garden itself. She longed to feel the cobblestones beneath her feet and to throw herself into the cornucopia of blossoms she imagined to be nestled within.

Theo watched Echo's face as her gaze lingered on the garden access. "It's remarkable, isn't it?"

Echo took a deep, healing breath. Her voice, when she could find it, came out as a whisper. "It's amazing and seems to beckon to me."

"It has the same effect on me, no matter how many times I see it. Maybe, later, we can answer that call together."
"I'd love that."

Theo took her hand and led her to the front door. "Are you ready?"

Echo squeezed his hand in response.

Giving her a reassuring nod, Theo turned the knob. As the wooden door swung outward, a small girl bolted through and jumped into his arms.

"Theo! You're back. Mommy said you were coming, but I wouldn't believe it until I saw you myself."

"This is Hannah," Theo said. He pivoted with his youngest sister to face Echo. "She's the resident skeptic of the house."

"I am not," she said defiantly, "I just don't believe everything people say."

Theo gave Echo a wink as he placed his sister's feet on the hardwood floor. "Hannah, this is Echo."

"Hi, Echo, are you the lady Theo is always talking about?"

"Hannah!" Theo covered his face with his hand.

"Well, I only wanted to know," she said.

"I can't tell you if I'm the one he's been talking about," Echo said, "but I'll bet he'll talk about me now. I've put him through quite a lot over the last few days."

"Well, I like you," Hannah said, "and if you want, I'll show you my rabbits."

"You have rabbits?" Echo asked. She leaned down to make eye contact with Hannah.

"Yes, Ma'am, twelve."

"At least," Theo said.

Hannah put her hands on her hips and scrunched her face into a grimace. "Okay, there are a few more, but my parents will only let me keep my favorite twelve in the house."

"And none in the garden," a woman's voice said.

Echo looked up to see a woman approaching from the foyer and wiping her hands on a pink dish towel. In a habitual way, she slung the towel across her right shoulder.

"Hi, my name is Diantha, Theo and Hannah's mother."

Diantha was a little taller than Echo, with thick auburn hair falling freely about her shoulders and back. She had a striking face with hazel eyes and a warm friendly smile that was reminiscent of Theo's. 

There was a regal air about the Queen of Concorde Valley, but she was dressed in a simple blue bibbed jumper. Stitched on the front was a patch with the image of a woman on the back of a rearing white horse. Beneath she wore a plain white blouse.

Echo held her hand out to shake. "Nice to meet you."

Diantha brushed aside the proffered hand and embraced Echo in a hug.

"I'll tell you the same thing I was told when I first got here," she said. "Concorde Valley women don't shake hands, they hug."

"And so do sisters," Hannah said. She jumped back in Theo's arms and gave him a huge squeeze.

"This may sound cliche," Echo said, "but you don't look old enough to have a child Theo's age, let alone all the other children he mentioned. You seem to be about my age."

"I hold my age well," Diantha said dismissively. She smiled, then turned toward Theo. 
Echo shrugged. It was, apparently, another subject they weren't ready to discuss.

"Where's Father?" Theo asked. He sat Hannah back down and ruffled her hair.

"He's waiting in the parlor, and your other brothers and sisters are in the game room," she said. "We didn't want to make Echo feel bombarded as soon as she walked through the door."

"I see that plan fell through." Theo made a face at his youngest sister, which got him kicked in the shin.

"Ouch, and I was just going to ask a huge favor of you."

"What?" Hannah's face lit up in anticipation.

"This." Theo took Sunny's backpack off Echo's shoulder and handed it to her.

"There's a very bored kitty in here named Sunny, and he needs a place to run and play. Would you and your friends please make him feel welcome?"

"Oh, we'd love to," Hannah said. She resisted the urge to squeal when she saw Sunny peak out of the bag. If anyone was sensitive to animals' needs, it was Hannah. "Do you mind, Echo?"

"No, I'd be happy if you'd let him meet your rabbits."

A beautiful smile brightened Hanna's cherubic face as she lifted the large cat out of the backpack. One moment she had been an energetic, bouncing child, now she was calm and in control. Echo smiled at the transformation.
Hannah whispered something in Sunny's ear, then hugged him to her chest. Sunny purred and put his legs around her small neck the way he often did Echo's. With a backwards glance, Sunny allowed himself to leave with his new friend. Wise beyond his species, Sunny seemed to understand Echo needed time with the humans.

"Now that takes care of two of our prominent issues," Theo said. "Mother, we're all yours."

"Good, please come with me to the parlor." Diantha motioned for them to follow with a dramatic wave of her hand.

As they walked, Echo was surprised to find the hall filled with row after row of bay windows. The natural light they provided illuminated the space with a bright, soul lifting glowEach room leading off from the main hall seemed to be full of the same picture windows, adding their rays to the mix.

"How unrestricting," Echo said.

"The windows?" Diantha asked, looking back at Echo.

"Yes, they make me feel like I'm outside, but warm and safe in here at the same time. Who was your architect?"

"Just my husband and myself," Diantha replied. "We love the outdoors, and wanted to give our home the feel of being part of nature."

"Well, you certainly achieved it."

Diantha smiled, then stopped by an ornately carved door. Carefully she swung it inward. "Here we are."

Echo took a tentative step into a modestly decorated room. There was a set of matching sofa, loveseat and chairs taking up much of the space. They were upholstered with expensive fabric, but looked lived on, like belonging to a welcoming family. In an enormous fireplace, burned a roaring fire. Echo felt at ease. Her heart, which had been beating as fast as one of Hannah's rabbits, returned to normal.

Phoebus stood up from a chair as she entered. "Do come in and sit down."

"I thought you were still at the hospital," Echo said.

"No, I said I had some things to take care of, and those happened to be here at the house."

"How did you beat us here?"

"I'm guessing Theo took you on the long route."

"I did," Theo said. He walked over and embraced his father.

"Well, I'm glad to see you again," Echo said.

"And under better circumstances," Phoebus added. "Last we met, I was your doctor. Now I speak to you as Theo's father. I want you to feel most welcome in this home. Please have a seat."
Once they had all found a spot, Phoebus went on. "For many years our son has been a part of your world. First when you were a child and he rescued you, then later when he would slip into the woods to keep an eye on you."

"You knew about that?" Echo and Theo asked at the same time.

"My son, you should know by now nothing much gets by me. Echo, we feel you're a part of our family. In what capacity, only time and circumstances will determine. I'm sorry for what you had to go through to get here, but am pleased beyond words you got here in one piece."
Echo bobbed her head in agreement to what he said, and in deference to his position. "Thank you for the welcome and the protection, though I'm sure I don't know the half of what that involved. I appreciate your roles of doctor and patriarch, but now I want to address the king."
Phoebus leaned forward, a slight nod of his head acknowledging her statement. "How can I help you?"
"How did our worlds collide?"

"In reality, there is only one world, one my race used to have a greater influence over, but our power has since faded."

"Tell that to the Specters," Echo said.

Phoebus looked directly into Echo's eyes. "They shouldn't have been there. It is a serious breach of protocol I'll have to report to the Council."

Echo's eyebrows raised. "The Council?"

"The Twelve," Phoebus said. "They are our governing body."

"As in the 12 gods on Mount Olympus?"

"The same, but not nearly as glamorous as myth might portray them."

As Phoebus settled back to give a long narrative on the coming and goings of the gods, Diantha cleared her throat and lay a hand on her husband's arm.
"Dear, I think the kids need some time alone. Echo, you mustn't try to take it all in at once. I had to have time to adjust, myself, when I came here. Why don't you and Theo take a walk in the garden and talk? That's where Phoebus and I had our first heart to heart chat. I'll finish making lunch, and when it's done, I'll call you in to eat."

Book of the Month contest entry


A special thanks to Debi Pick Marquette for the artwork. The bunny in the picture represents Hannah's, Theo's baby sister's, favorite animal, the rabbit.

Book Summary so far:
Young Echo Jones is overlooked by First Responders as she hides in a wheat field during a house fire. Both parents killed in the fire, she escapes into an ancient forest behind her home. Alone and afraid, she meets up with a young boy, Theo, from mysterious origins that tends to her while searching for help.

20 years later, Echo is working for a newspaper called the Taylorville Sun. Among other duties, she investigates a serial killer who has now struck in her small town, and covers the opening of a new mega-store, Super Handyman.

After gathering all she needs on the store opening, she meets up with Bessie, an elderly columnist from the Sun who has an inside scoop on the death of the woman killed in their town. Bessie tells what she knows about the night of the murder, and sends Echo off to go back to work.

Echo arrives at the Newspaper, where the Christmas party has already begun. Before going in, she finds an envelop addressed to her. In it are pictures of the dead woman and Echo. The newest member of the police department, Tony Bradley, shows up to take her statement. He is, immediately, suspected of being the serial killer Echo is investigating.

At the end of the party, a parade of her friends set out to follow her home and keep her safe. After a series of unfortunate events, she ends up fleeing across ice and snow to trees she hopes to keep her safe. She's confronted by Specters who try and take her hostage. Theo, her childhood acquaintance, shows up to save the day.
After a battle outside Echo's apartment complex, Echo and Theo have fled through the trees toward his homeland, Concorde Valley, an undisclosed place near or within the Great Forests of Southern United States.


Echo Jones: Young girl left stranded by a fire that took her home and parents in the first part of the book, then as an adult, she's an investigative reporter for a small town newspaper.

Theo: Named Anthos by his parents. Protagonist of the book, and Echo's love interest..

Specters/men in dark clothing: Minions of the Enemy. Have eyes that turn red when they're angry. Can appear as normal humans, serve the Enemy.

Kitty Sunshine, aka Sunny: Echo's Russian Blue cat

Theo, A nickname for Anthos: An 8-year-old, of mysterious origins, who finds young Echo in the forest and tends to her needs. We see him later as a grown man who rescues Echo once again.

Georgios: One of Phoebus' Captains. Theo's half brother

Phoebus: King of Concorde Valley, Theo's father
Diantha: Queen of Concorde Valley, Theo's mother
Poseidon: god of the Sea, Theo's grandfather
Hannah: Theo's 7-year-old sister who loves animals and can talk to them in their own language.

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