Fantasy Science Fiction posted January 21, 2024 Chapters:  ...18 19 -20- 21... 

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Theo takes Echo on a walk in his father's garden.

A chapter in the book Return To Concorde Valley

The Garden of Phoebus

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:
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."
The New Chapter begins:
"My dear, give me your hands and close your eyes. We're about to enter into another dimension."

Echo raised an inquisitive eyebrow. "You're just being figurative, right?"

Theo flashed a quick smile. "Yes, relax. It's just a garden, but it will seem other-worldly."

Echo couldn't help but chuckle, though it came out more as a snort. She hadn't seen anything in days that wasn't other-worldly. Still, she didn't voice her opinion openly, opting instead to close her eyes and reach for Theo's hands.

He took them and walked backwards, leading Echo with the ease and skill of a master acrobat. Just as he stopped, he said, "We're here, b
ut, before you open your eyes, describe what you smell."

Echo allowed herself a moment to absorb the bouquet of aromas before responding. "To me it seems a wonderland of sensations."

Theo squeezed her hands. "That's good for a start, Investigative Reporter, but you can do better."

"Fine." Echo inhaled, letting the fragrance permeate her mouth and nose. Slowly she let it out.

"I'm experiencing the ultimate in olfactory luxury. There's an explosion of exquisite sensations beginning at my nose, traveling through my senses and ending with a tingling in my fingertips and toes. Can I open my eyes now?"

"Not yet," Theo said. "That sounded a bit stuffy. Try again, but this time tell me what you smell, specifically."

Echo sighed. She took another deep breath and relaxed into the moment.

"The first thing I can identify," she said, "is something fruity, almost like there's a tree close-by with ripe fruit on its branches just waiting to be picked, but that makes no sense. It's winter-time."

Theo didn't respond to her last statement, but said, instead, "Go a step further. Tell me what kind of fruit."

Echo concentrated harder, letting her memories join her senses. "Hmmm, I'm guessing peach or apricot?"

"Very good," Theo said. "It's Concorde Valley Peach. This variety is unique to our area, which I'm sure doesn't surprise you."

"Right now, nothing does. Is there really fruit on the branches?"

"No, it just carries the scent all year round. If you think it smells good now, just wait until Spring. Now, what else do you smell?

"Wow, this is hard. I'm really no expert on gardens. I do smell something resembling either gardenia or magnolia, though. I never can tell the difference."

"You're close," Theo said. He dropped her hands. "It's actually winter jasmine, but they do have similar aromas. You've done great for an amateur. Go ahead and open your eyes. I've teased you long enough."

Echo took another deep breath, not to analyze the air this time, but out of excited anticipation, and then she opened her eyes.

"Oh, my gosh!" she exclaimed. She put her hands to her mouth and took in the world around her.

Everywhere she could see, plants grew in a rainbow of colors and a myriad of forms. Some were vine-like and crept up arching trellises that bent over and shielded the snaking cobbled path.

Other plants grew straight from the ground, leafy appendages reaching toward the heavens. These fragrant sentinels of the garden swayed with each stir of air, bowing one moment and shaking arms high the next.

Lining the lanes were a variety of colorful blossoms, some large and spectacular, others so tiny you had to examine closely to see them.

In clusters around the space, sprawled several varieties of bushes shielding the ground from winter's frigid blasts. Intermingled, were low growing plants filling in any empty space that might try to occasionally peep through.

"There are so many flowers," Echo was finally able to say. "How could there be this time of year?" 

"There are many plants that flower in the winter," he explained. "You just have to know which ones, and where to plant them. It takes a lot of time and energy to keep up a garden like this."

"I'm sure it does. How many of these plants originate outside the valley?"

"More than you would think. My father has gathered samples from all over the world."

"It's exquisite. How long did it take him to get the garden like this?"

"As you can guess, longer than any of us can imagine, but he says it's not complete. No garden ever really is. Would you like to see more?"

"Of course. This is very healing."

"Yes, and I think we could both use a healthy dose of that."

Echo paused for a moment and cocked an eye at the man standing beside her.

"I'm sorry," she said. "I've been so focused on my own injuries, I forgot you've just been through a battle, too. Are you okay?"

Theo took Echo's hand as comfortably as if he had been doing it for years. He gave it a quick squeeze.
"I'm fine. My father treated me while you slept. I'm more used to war wounds."

"How can it be that you've ever known pain? You said you're part of your father's army. In this peaceful valley, what do your people know of war?"

"Peace never comes without sacrifice," Theo said, "not even in Concorde Valley. Mankind's day of a perfect garden passed long ago."

"You mean the Garden of Eden?"

"I do. Hey, why don't we sit on a bench? I have a feeling this conversation is going to take a while."

Echo sank into the depths of Theo's green eyes. For once, she saw a man inside with more responsibilities than just being her personal hero. She saw the son of a warrior king. Nodding, she let him guide her to a concrete bench and sat down.
He looked her in the eyes again, this time with an aura of frankness. He simply said, "Ask me."

After a moment of breathing deeply, she gave her mind a chance to catch up with her words and spoke.

"There is much I remember of the stories I've heard about the Greek gods," she said. "They're probably ancient history to you and your family. I also realize I've walked into a living tale of people the world accounts as mythological."
Theo nodded. "You're doing good, please go on."
"You've told me you come from a race of immortals the world calls gods, but you've chosen to call guardians." Echo paused for response.
"Yes, semi-immortals, anyway. We do age and we can be killed under certain circumstances, but point made. What else?"
Echo decided to lay it all on the line. "Let's face it, Anthos, son of Phoebus, son of Poseidon, your people were once worshiped in ancient Greece and Rome as real deities."

Theo nodded and motioned for her to continue.

"There were wars fought over these beliefs, and the Jewish people were persecuted for their faith. Jesus, Himself, was put to death by the Romans, people who believed in your family members."
Theo's eyes grew grim, but he still nodded for her to continue.
"So, how do you account for the Christmas decorations in your home and the crosses on your walls?"

Theo's eyes wandered around the garden as though he was searching for the right words. Echo had noticed that he seldom spoke without thought, unlike her, who was the blurting before thinking type. Finally, he returned his gaze.

"Many wars have been fought in the name of God or gods, and most, if not all, have nothing to do with religious convictions."

"Why do they fight, then?"

"There are many reasons. For some, it comes from innate evil, a perverse desire to kill and conquer. For others, it's a desire to acquire power. Even now, you find Christians fighting Christians, and Muslims fighting Muslims. It's not at all what Jesus or Mohammad taught, but I won't go into doctrine, I'm no theologian. However, I'll own the point you're making."

Echo nodded.

"My father and his people once had greater influence in the world than they have now. I get that, and many basked in the glory of adulation. But, we are still created beings, just like humans, and we still serve the one and true God. I just think some of them forgot that for a while."

"What changed it?"

"A man who died on a cross for all our sins, and who rose again because of the love of His father. Eventually that changed the world, even ours."

"But not all were changed, right?"

"Not in my world and not in yours. As long as evil exists, those who believe must take up arms."

"So Concorde Valley isn't paradise?"

"No, my dear, but it is pivotal and it is worth fighting for."

He took both of her hands and pressed them against his heart. He leaned forward and tapped his head on hers. A warmth spread throughout her body she suspected had little to do with his powers and a lot to do with his love.


A special thanks to Debi Pick Marquette for the artwork.

Also special thanks for Helen for encouraging me to reconcile Greek gods and my own Christian faith. I loved adding in this element to the story.

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, Anthos, nicknamed 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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