Keeper of the Black Stones
by P.T. McHugh
Have you ever had a dream so real that when you woke up, for one brief moment, you weren’t sure where your imagination stopped and reality began? Where you forgot who you were and how you got there, and had trouble remembering even your own name?
I only ask, really, because that’s been happening to me a lot lately.
I realize this sounds crazy, but it’s not too hard to imagine when you think about what I’ve seen over the past few weeks. God, has it only been that long?
I guess I should probably start at the beginning, for this to make any sense at all. Months ago, John Fleming, an old friend of my grandfather’s, introduced him to an archeological discovery. A large stone, which looked more like a kitchen counter than the find of the millennium. His son had found it on an archaeological dig, and taken it to Dartmouth College to unravel its secret.
Fleming showed the stone to my grandfather – Doc to me – because he was a mathematician. See, the stone had hundreds of symbols engraved on its surface, and Fleming thought he’d be able to read them. In the end, of course, he did a lot more than that. He deciphered their meaning, yes. And then he listened to their instructions. Turned out the stone wasn’t just a dusty old relic carved out of granite by an ancient civilization. Or rather, it was, but it was also something a lot more. A portal, capable of doing the impossible. Capable of transporting someone back in time, into the very history of our books and stories. And it wasn’t the only one.
Allowing that journey, of course, means allowing us access to that history, and the people that made it. And that, my friends, is the crux of the problem.
My grandfather recognized immediately how dangerous the stone was. He knew that going back in time would endanger history, and the fate of the world itself. Unfortunately, Nicholas Fleming, John’s son, looked past the danger and saw the fame and fortune that such a discovery would bring. Unwilling to listen to my grandfather’s warning, Nicholas armed himself with a weapon and his twenty-first-century knowledge, climbed onto the stone, and went merrily back to Old England, to reappear some five hundred years before I was born.
My grandfather, with his ability to read the stones, identified Nicholas’ destination and went after him. His plan was to bring the man home, to safety, but that goal was quickly overshadowed by what Nicholas was doing. Because within days of finding him, Doc realized that Nicholas’ ambition had gone far beyond money and glory. He had decided to reshape history to his liking, starting with the War of the Roses. And in changing history – for reasons that still escape us – he was putting the entire world in danger. He had to be stopped.
You might be asking yourself how I got involved in all of this. Devine intervention, coincidence, bad luck? Well, that’s the million-dollar question that keeps me up at night. And I still don’t have a good answer. Not one that would make sense to anyone other than myself. The simple truth is that I also have the ability to read the stones. And I can do it better than my grandfather. I can travel back in time, yes, but I can also do more. Somehow, and I know how crazy this sounds, I can talk to the stones. Learn from them. Use them as the tools they actually are. And it’s all with one goal in mind: to preserve our past. To maintain history and, with it, the thread of time, and the world around us.
How do we do that? I have no idea. But I can say with a bit of pride that we’ve already started. Doc and I, with the help of my friends, Tatiana, Paul, and Katherine, and my recently acquired body guard Reis, defeated Richard III at the battle of Bosworth, despite Fleming taking his side, and thus helped to close the door on the Dark Ages. We stopped Nicholas Fleming from throwing the world off balance by changing the outcome of that one important war. So we’ve already started our fight for history and the world.
Unfortunately, Nicholas Fleming, now known as Dresden, escaped. Doc believes that Dresden has no true relationship with the stones, and therefore can’t predict their line of travel. Based on that, he thinks that Dresden’s last trip on the stones must have ended up at the bottom of the English Channel, or atop Mount Everest under several feet of snow. He doesn’t believe that Dresden survived his escape. He thinks that we’re safe, now that Dresden has disappeared.
But I know differently. I know what I saw when Dresden escaped, and the stone he was on made sure I understood. In reality, Dresden was sent to Germany in the year of 1939, right when the Nazis were coming to power. He didn’t know where he was going, but I’m sure he made it there safely. And I have to find him. No matter how much Doc tries to convince me otherwise, the stones don’t lie. Dresden is still out there, somewhere. And I have to find him and stop him, before he does anything else to damage history.
Because the world won’t be safe until I do.
Keeper of the Black Stones
Keeper of the Black Stones is a historical young adult book/series that follows ‘almost’ fifteen year old Jason Evans as he navigates through school as the nerdy kid who gets cups of soda thrown at him. His parents both died in a car accident several years ago because, or so Jason believes, he insisted they come home early from a conference. Of course, as a kid, he carries a heavy load of guilt and blame for their death. Then he finds out, through secretly reading his grandfather’s journal, that his sole caregiver, his grandfather, may be insane. After all, the Ribbon Theory and time travel don’t really exist. And his grandfather isn’t really a famous earl who helped Henry VII in battle. Or is he?
Sounds boring, right? History is dry, right? Not Keeper of the Black Stones! Highly entertaining and fast-paced, the action leaves you breathless with anticipation. Will history be changed? Will Nicholas/Dresden prevail? McHugh does a fantastic job of entertaining while teaching. I, for one, find parts of history dull-specifically battles and such. McHugh offers history in an adventurous package wrapped with a big bow. His characters have depth and dimension and are empathetic in their attempts to save the world. Great read!!!
Ten things we didn’t know about Jason …
- Favorite Movie(s): The Lord of the Rings trilogy, of course. He’s read the books, but the movies were better.He loves the fantastical world and the fact that there are elves and dwarves. He loves the fact that the hero wins, and gets the girl. He loves the hobbits, who are the best kind of buddies – people who travel anywhere together, and never fail to take care of their friends. Most of all, though, he loves the history of the world, and wonders if it might have actually happened. If so, could he use the stones to get there? Would he survive the trip? Could he take his friends?
- Favorite Book: Catcher in the Rye, though he’d be hard pressed to tell you exactly why. There’s just something about it that feels familiar.
- He was given an IQ test when he turned eleven, and his score was 143, which he’s heard is pretty high. He doesn’t take that too seriously, though, because he doesn’t think it means much. Certainly nothing to do with the real world, which now consists of jumping through time and outsmarting bad guys while surviving random medieval torture devices.
- Jason’s never kissed a girl. Not that he really wants to. He thinks girls are fine, really, but he can think of a lot of things he’d rather be doing than trying to get one to like him. Movies, golf, finding out where Dresden is hiding … the only girls he’s met that he’s even slightly interested in (other than for looking at) are Tatiana and Katherine. He finds them both incredibly confusing and a LOT smarter than him, which doesn’t happen often. He also knows that Tatiana could kick his butt, and though his male ego finds this shocking, he also finds it somehow fascinating. (He does, of course, let Paul think that he’s interested in Cristina, from school. It gives Paul something to tease him about.)
- Jason was diagnosed with insomnia after his parents died. He doesn’t know if there’s any connection, but he does know that he has to do certain things to get to sleep: have his pillow lined up exactly with the top right corner of his bed, have his slippers where his feet can reach them, have either the lamp on his desk OR the light in the bathroom turned on, and be wearing one of two sets of pajamas. If he goes to sleep without these things, he’s prone to terrible dreams about things he doesn’t want to remember.
- He carries a picture in his wallet that shows him at six years old, on a bike path with his dad. They used to ride their bikes for hours, making up stories to tell each other, and then race home to tell his mother. She was the judge, and whoever had the best story won one of her famous chocolate chip cookies.
- He’s allergic to cats, despite his affection for Milo.
- He fell off his bike when he was ten, and got his foot caught in the tracks. Then he heard the train coming, and realized he was going to be one of those kids – like the one in Fried Green Tomatoes, which Paul made him watch – who died by getting stuck in the train tracks. He’d seen the train coming, and thought he was a goner, but Doc had appeared at the last moment to save him. He still doesn’t know where Doc came from or how he knew Jason’s life was in danger, but he has nightmares about that day, and the scars to prove it.
- He didn’t take his first steps until he was two and a half. His mother was afraid he’d never walk. But once he did, she couldn’t keep him still.
- His favorite hobby is fishing with Paul on a Saturday afternoon. His dad taught him, and he still uses the fishing pole his dad gave him for his tenth birthday. He likes to think that his dad is connected to the pole, which makes him feel like Mr. Evans is there fishing too. Which brings him to his fondest wish – somehow seeing his dad one more time.