Fantasy Science Fiction posted February 18, 2024 Chapters:  ...21 22 -23- 24... 

This work has reached the exceptional level
The royal family must make decisions about an insurrection.

A chapter in the book Return To Concorde Valley

Hard Decisions

by davisr (Rhonda)

Years after a fire took her parents lives and devastated her home, Echo worked at a small town newspaper. She was rescued from danger by her old friend, Theo, who took her to a new life in his world.
End of last chapter:

"Are you ready?" Diantha asked.

Echo look apprehensive, but nodded. "Ready as I'm going to get."

Diantha nodded approval, then placed her hand on the shoulder of the younger woman, indicating approval and growing affection. She led her down a wide, spirilling staircase that emptied onto a veranda where the men sat sipping lemonade. They stood up until the women were seated. Echo thought it great that chivalry wasn't dead in Concorde Valley, even if modern amenities were.

New Chapter Begins:

Phoebus offered a terse smile to the group seated with him on the veranda. Surrounding them was a fragrant aroma radiating from the garden, but was no more reassuring than the monarch's smile.

The carefree father, who had engaged in a food fight with his family an hour earlier, had been replaced by a king managing a crisis.

"Diantha, do the other kids know not to disturb us?" he asked.

"Yes," she replied. "I put Rebecca and Adam in charge. I think they're having a croquet match upstairs in the gym."

"And Hannah knows to stay there as well?"

"Yes, but she is Hannah, after all. Who knows when she'll pop up?"

"Yes," Phoebus said with a nod. His voice betrayed an attitude half indulgent, half concerned.

Looking at the others, he took in a deep, ragged breath. As he let it out, he met each set of eyes with directness, and each person sat up straighter in response.

"To make a very long story short," he began, "I sent messengers to my family at Mount Olympus concerning the Specter attack on Echo and her community."

Phoebus paused when he noticed Echo flinch. He glanced at Diantha, who nodded for him to continue. She, more than anyone, would be able to gauge how much Echo could take.

"They returned with the news of a concerning event taking place on the Mountain of the Gods, but weren't sure of its scope. They said they couldn't get through to talk to Zeus or Hera as I had instructed, but were able to speak with a Page that explained there was a Council meeting in session involving 10 of the ruling gods. He went on to say that Apollo and Hades were absent.

"Apollo, we've known for a while, has gone to Earth on some sort of midlife sabbatical, and Hades, it seems, was the subject of their meeting."

"Is Hades in some sort of danger?" Diantha asked.

"I don't think so," Phoebus said. "From what my messengers gathered, he is the danger. Zeus has had trouble controlling him for many years, maybe even from the very beginning, but it has gotten worse lately.

"Echo, it's the duty of our kind to watch over and guide the citizens of this planet. Most of the time, we do a good job, but at others, we mess up worse than the humans we shepherd. This is one of those times."

"What's changed?" Echo asked.

"I'm not sure, but according to the Page, the Council believes Hades is in open rebellion."

"And the Specter guys we met were part of his group?" Echo said.

"Yes, they are, and why I was so concerned when you said you had encountered them. It's not that they aren't always at work in your world, but are usually better concealed and their actions covert. I've seldom heard of them openly attacking your people. They are drawing strength from somewhere."

"And what do you have on your mind to do?" Diantha asked. She could tell from his body language he had decided something.

"I'm going to Mount Olympus," he said. "My messengers might not have been able to speak with the Council, but I can."

"Do you think that's prudent? If Hades is on the warpath, I would think you'd rather stay completely away from him."

"Why? I don't have anything more to fear than the others. We had a war with his twin sons a few years back, but Zeus declared it self-defense, and even Hades agreed they had acted without his approval."

"That's not what I mean," she said.

"You mean the prophecy? I don't think Hades puts much stock in my visions."

"What prophecy?" Theo asked, drawing raised eyebrows from Echo. She thought she was the only one who didn't know what was going on.

"It was the one received by your father when you were born," Diantha said, "and was further reaffirmed in your childhood trial."

"Oh, that one. I've heard nothing but vague hints since I was a child. What light does it shed on the current situation?"

"Nothing specific," Phoebus answered, "and nothing we need to discuss right now."

"I can leave if you would like," Echo offered. "I'm really good at croquet and could join the others."

"He means he doesn't want to discuss it in front of me," Theo said. "Immortal youth are given an adult trial by the Council of Twelve when they feel we're ready. Once successfully completed, we're given our position in the Olympic hierarchy."

"Like Hercules' 12 labors?"

"More-or-less." Phoebus said. "Hercules got in trouble with Zues and had to do extra tasks, but that's the gist of it. There are a lot of responsibilities that come with leadership, Echo. Trials, or labors, prove a person's constitution and help determine what they're capable of handling."

"Your people sure have a lot of trials and visions," Echo said.

"Yes, but remember the level of our responsibilities and the length of our years."

Echo nodded. She couldn't really comprehend either, but was willing to concede it took training. "What about the childhood trials you spoke of before, the one eight-year-olds go on?"
"That's what all the kids in Concorde Valley complete, mortal or otherwise. I introduced it to reflect what the gods do, and to help them discover their horse names, but they don't participate in the adult version unless they are immortal."
"I see. Thank you."
Phoebus offered her a smile. "You're a quick learner."
"I have to be with my job."

"Can't you divulge the complete vision to me?" Theo asked. "I'm grown now, a leader in your guard, and have proven myself in the outside world. What more do I need to do?"

"Receive a calling from the Olympian Twelve. Your mission, if we can call it that, you must receive from one of them."

Theo looked away. Echo had a feeling he wanted to say more, but in deference to his father and the authority of the rulers, he held his tongue. His mother did not.

"Husband," she said. "I've expressed my concerns about you throwing yourself into the lion's den and you've answered to that, but shouldn't you, at the very least, wait for an official summons?"

Phoebus turned his great head her way. There was kindness in his eyes, but authority in his voice. "I do not need a summons from my leaders to realize they need me. My father's heart cries out, and the creatures of the ocean look to me for help. Please understand I'm my father's only son, and that's all the summons I need."

"If you must go, then take me with you," Theo interrupted.  "Since I'm part of the prophecy, I should be a participant in its resolution."

"We've already discussed why you can't go, plus I need you here in my absence. What's happening now wasn't part of the original vision, and I'm not sure what I'll be facing. I need to know Concorde Valley is in safe hands."

"You can leave Adam in charge," Theo said. "He's old enough."

"Adam's not ready for that level of responsibility," Phoebus replied.

"I was at his age."

"You were when you were ten," Phoebus said, "but Adam is still a child becoming a man."

Diantha cleared her throat. "Take me. I've been by your side through danger before."

"You have children to take care of," Phoebus said, and then cringed. Perhaps he hadn't chosen his words wisely.

Diantha folded her arms across her chest and blew air out of her mouth dramatically. "I'm not just your wife, Phoebus, I'm a goddess as well. If Hera and Demetris can fight, so can I."

"I know you can," Phoebus said. "You were an important part of the war that freed our valley when you first got here, and you've been an integral part of its rehabilitation. Neither of those were easy tasks, but my heart doesn't want to take you into a battle of the gods. Immortals can only be killed by other immortals. Here you can get hurt, there you might be killed."

Diantha didn't bother to repond to his remark. She had been given power by Hera that lent her authority when she needed it. She'd fought immortals before and knew the danger. Phoebus knew this as well.
"Rebecca and Mary can watch the younger ones," Diantha said, "and the boys can help Theo. This is their war, too."

Phoebus blinked a few times in thought, then stood and placed his hands on the table.

"Very well. Diantha, please make arrangements for the kids, then be ready within the hour to go. Theo, you're in charge of the valley while we're away. Echo, you're not mine to command, but I recommend you listen to Theo and do what he asks. Diantha and I will return as soon as we're able."

"Yes, Father." Theo stood to his feet along with his mother. He looked at Echo with a raised eyebrow.

Echo rose to her feet as well. She nodded at the looming figure at the head of the table. "I'll do what is needed, Sir."

"God be with you all." Phoebus walked over to Theo and gave his son a hug that seemed more a passage of authority, than an embrace of affection.

With no further word, Phoebus and Diantha disappeared into the house.

"I think your father's worried," Echo said.

"He is."

"Should we be?"

"Aren't we?"

"I am," Echo said.

"So am I."

Theo took her hand and led her inside. He had a feeling, one he didn't share with Echo, that it would be a very long time before they saw his parents again.


A special thanks to Karen Cherry Threadgill for her help with the image of Diantha, Queen of Concorde Valley.

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.

Theo takes Echo into Concorde Valley where she is tended to by Phoebus, Theo's father of many roles. He patches her up and sends her with Theo to meet the family.

There, she is taken on a walk through a magnificent flower garden Phoebus planted long ago and tends. Afterward, she joins part of the family for a luncheon.
The luncheon turns into a food fight, which Echo enjoys, but thinks is a bit odd for a royal family.


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

Rebecca: Theo's 25-year-old sister. She's married to Henry and has a baby Caitlyn
Henry: Rebecca's husband.
Adam: Theo's 21-year-old brother
Phillip: Theo's 17-year-old brother
Helen: Theo's 10-year-old sister
Hannah: Theo's 7-year-old sister who loves animals and can talk to them in their own language.
Mary: Rebecca's mother-in-law and a woman who is like a grandmother to the kids.
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