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PLOT: Allie discovers that her new necklace and an unlikely friend are her keys to traveling across the world to save her mom from a cult and their otherworldly leader, and in the process learns that she has a greater destiny.
Without further ado, let’s finish the book, Allie Strom and the Ring of Solomon.
Although Allie had been allowed to sleep in her own bed the night of their return, a week had passed before her mom was discharged. Army commanders from a special unit waited at the hospital to explain to everyone that asked how they had found her mom and brought her back just in time. Allie suspected they weren’t exactly real Army at all. The doctor told Allie that an average person could go for only a few days without water, but the damp caves had been kind to her mom. And she was strong, she had put up a fight.
Making up a story for Allie was much harder, and then there were the missing children. The Strayers had vanished. Cop cars were everywhere, but no one had answers. Regarding the bruises and scrapes on Allie and Daniel, they found a simple enough explanation—they were beaten up by the bullies, Chester and Vince. Since no one could find Chester or Vince, the story held up.
Principal Eisner gave Allie the week off school to spend at her mom’s side. Allie would talk for hours with her mom, something she couldn’t remember ever doing. She never realized how beautiful her mom’s laugh was, or how firm her grip was as they held hands. But they always avoided the topic of what had happened—until the day of her mom’s discharge.
“We have to talk,” her mom finally said when her banana-pudding was done.
Allie simply nodded, understanding by the tone of her mom’s voice that this was serious.
“Do you know what you wear?” her mom asked, glancing at the ring on Allie’s pointer finger. “Has anyone told you?”
Allie nodded and said she knew. Principal Eisner had filled her in a bit more, told her about the eagle and spirit animals, and the “Bringers of Light,” a group dedicated to protecting those around them.
“I see,” her mom replied. “Yes, listen to her, she came here for you.”
“What do you mean, she came? From where?”
“We worked together, her and Gabe.”
Her mom nodded with a smile. “He was so pleased to take that position, imagine Gabriel surrounded by books all day.” She chuckled and stared out the window at the trees blowing in the wind, losing track of herself.
“They were in the army?”
“No, God no.” Her mom laughed again. “That’s more of a cover, dear, for what we really do. We guard the light.”
“That doesn’t even make sense, the light? You’re like security for electric companies?”
At this her mom couldn’t control herself and burst into hearty laughter so loud the nurse ran in. Her mom held out her hands and told the nurse she was okay, then calmed herself and turned back to her daughter once the nurse had left.
“It’s more like the protectors of all that is good. Eisner wasn’t a principal before this year.”
“When I was transferred here, the Guardians sent her and Gabe to watch over you. I insisted it wasn’t necessary, but it seems I was wrong.”
“But now you’re back, right? So everything can go back to normal?”
“No, it has chosen you. We never know who it will be, or why. In this case, I can only think it was to save me, but perhaps that’s too self-centered a way of seeing things. I don’t know. The ring, Solomon’s ring, it holds light, or rather it calls upon the light when you need it most. But it isn’t for your enjoyment. It serves a purpose so much larger than you or I. The Bringers of Light work to stop the evil forces of Samyaza, the foretold bringer of darkness. You may not be ready for all this, God knows I wasn’t. Samyaza meant to bring the world to a place his followers claimed it should have always been—in darkness. If we don’t stop him, the world loses hope, the world loses life.”
“And your work is part of this?” Allie couldn’t believe it. She had seen a couple of war movies, on the TV when her dad wasn’t in the room, and always wondered how her mom could be crawling through the jungles, riding ships onto beaches as bullets rained down. Now she knew the truth of it, but she understood it so much less.
“Not anymore dear.” Her mom took Allie’s hand and placed her other hand over the ring. “Now my job is to support you. The ring has chosen you. There are others—rings, necklaces, all sorts of symbols that contain the power of the light or the power of darkness, but none more powerful than this ring. However, it depends on you. It only works when you need it, when you have true faith and a true need.”
Allie pulled her hand back and stared at the ring, unable to believe it. Slowly her hand dropped and her eyes rose to her mom’s.
“Why me?” she asked. “Why now?”
Her mom shook her head. “I have no idea, and honestly, it worries me. But seeing you in action out there, I know you have it in you.”
“I can’t, I….”
“Allie,” her mom sat herself up in the hospital bed. “Of course you can, you saved me.”
That same day, Allie’s mom was finally allowed to leave the hospital. She was met in the waiting room by big hugs from her dad and brother. They laughed and sang along with 70’s songs the whole way home, and when her dad opened the door he turned and picked up his wife to carry her through the entryway.
“Here’s to us spending more time together,” he said as he lowered her feet to the floor.
Her mom smiled and caressed his cheek, then looked to Allie, who had run to the kitchen to pour her mom a glass of water.
Her dad followed her gaze. “All of us.”
Her mom smiled and wiped her eyes. “I’ll never leave your side again.”
Her dad pulled his wife in close and kissed her forehead. “I was never truly at ease when you were out there, but this time…” He turned to Allie. “And this little one never gave up, she never lost faith in you.”
Allie looked to her mom, wanting to ask if she had told her dad. But her mom shook her head in a way that said it wasn’t the time. When her mom tucked Allie into bed that night, she held her tight then looked into her eyes.
“We’ll tell him, someday,” her mom said later. “I don’t think he’s ready to believe, okay? One day he’ll be ready to accept that his little baby is facing the dark forces of the world, but not yet.”
Allie smiled and said she understood, all the while wondering what made anyone think she was ready. She certainly didn’t think so.
The next day, after her first full day back at school, Allie went to the baseball field where Daniel said he’d be. She couldn’t believe her eyes. There he was indeed, on the pitcher’s mound. He leaned forward, assessed the boy at the plate, wound up, then released the baseball with more speed than any twelve year old kid should have been capable of.
“Strike three!” the umpire yelled and the students went wild, rushing Daniel.
Students surrounded him, giving him high fives and jumping around. She couldn’t believe it. Was this the same boy she had met only a couple of weeks before? The nerdy boy she had been sure would ruin her reputation? Now he had more friends than the entire student body of her last school!
The sun sparkled in his eyes when he saw her. He waved bye to the other kids, apparently making some excuse for why he had to leave, then ran over to join her at the lonely side of the bleachers.
“Hey,” he said.
“Hey.” She smiled at him, checking out the baseball uniform. “So you made the team?”
He blushed, then lowered his baseball cap. “Sorry, you know.”
“I know you wanted to make the soccer tryouts.”
“I used to… I don’t know, being by my mom in the hospital felt more important, you know?”
Daniel smiled. “Yeah, I get that.” He motioned to the stands and an older man in a camouflage jacket waved. “My dad came to watch me play.”
“That’s your dad?”
“Yup. I don’t know what came over him, but he insisted he buy me my first glove and come to all my games.”
She looked at his dad and at all his new friends out in the baseball field. Sure, she was a bit jealous, but she had her family, and at least one really good friend.
Daniel’s face lit up. “I thought of something.”
“What?” she said, hesitantly.
“Well, Paulette was the goalie, and she’s gone, right?”
“And my dad mentioned he knew the coach, on the way over he was saying it was too bad because now they had to find a new goalie, and well, maybe I could have him tell the coach about you?”
“Yeah, think you can play goalie?”
“Of course I can!” she jumped over, arms around him. “Oh my gosh, you’re the best!”
He stared back, his brown eyes wide and confused under his blue baseball cap. She stepped back, holding her arms behind her and smiled awkwardly.
“Um….” Daniel looked around then took off his cap and fanned himself with it. “I’ll take that as a yes?”
“Thanks, I mean…” She felt her cheeks flushing now, unsure why she had acted so silly. “I would love it.”
Daniel’s dad gave them a ride home. After talking about school and everything she had missed, she lay with Daniel in the grass outside their apartments to relax. Rays of light broke through fluffy white clouds in the perfectly blue sky above.
“It’s so weird without Paulette and Chris around,” she finally said.
“And there are others too,” Daniel said. “You should hear everyone talking about it. They all have their own theories about what happened. UFOs, the rapture, an exodus in preparation for a flood…. And half the parents are claiming government conspiracy, others suing the school. They have the police scouring the woods, the lakes, everything. Only we know the truth, but they wouldn’t believe it.”
“The things kids come up with.” She smiled, but it faded quickly. “What about Chris’s mom?”
“She’s over every day, getting consolation from my dad. I can’t imagine what she’s going through.” Daniel propped himself up to better see Allie’s face. “Do you think Principal Eisner knew so many of her students were Strayers?”
Allie paused, unsure how much to tell him. If not him though, could she trust anyone? She smiled, excited to share what she had learned from her mom in the hospital. “Most of them didn’t go here, they came from all over.”
Daniel raised an eyebrow. “Wow, I never would have guessed. But that makes sense, there were so many of them, more than have gone missing from here.”
“There’s a whole war going on, and we’re caught in the middle of it.”
“You bet,” she stood then, hands on her hips. “But don’t worry, I’ll protect you.”
Daniel guffawed and threw a piece of grass at her. “This isn’t my war.”
“Hmm,” Allie squatted, unsure. “But you were there with me, and…”
“Chris used me to get the necklace, right? That’s all.”
“Maybe.” She still wasn’t convinced. Something told her Daniel had a role to play yet. But for now, she didn’t want to worry about it. She looked over and saw Daniel was smiling like a buffoon.
“What?” she said.
“Dad’s cooking beef stroganoff tonight, first time he’s cooked in ages…. Allie?”
“Thanks. I’m happy you moved here, I’m glad we’re friends and, you know.”
She leaned over and hugged him. “Thank you for helping me save my mom.”
Daniel blushed, then hugged her back. “Don’t mention it,” he said as he pulled back and stood, his face blotched with red.
“No, I will mention it.” She stood and cupped her hands, looking into the sky and yelled, “DANIEL HELPED FIND MY MOM AND IS MY BEST FRIEND IN THE WHOLE WORLD!” She turned with hands outstretched and a proud smile.
He stared back, shocked. She chuckled. He giggled. Then it was unstoppable – they broke into laughter.
When they were done laughing Daniel figured he’d best see how his dad was doing with dinner, and Allie agreed because she swore something smelled like burnt hair. She walked him to the entryway and gave him a hug good-bye. He turned and opened the door, then turned as if remembering something.
“Wait a sec,” he said.
“I got something to show you.”
Allie noticed the shield she had found, hanging on the wall. “They let you keep it?”
“Oh, yeah. Funny thing, most people can’t see it, you can only see it if you believe, something about another plane. So my dad sees a drawing I did in class of a tree.”
“I guess since I’m part of this whole world now I can see it.”
“I’m glad you are,” she said. “But Chris….”
“That’s what I wanted to show you. Remember the present he gave me for my birthday?” He pulled his blue backpack from the wall and took out a book, Aesop’s Fables.
“What about it?”
“Well, I thought nothing of the book until we got home last week. I was about to throw it away, or burn it, I don’t know. I was pissed at Chris. But then I picked it up and noticed a couple of pages were all dog-eared.” He held it out to her. “And well, look.”
Allie looked at the page, a sketch of a wolf. Behind it rose a mountain, very similar to Solomon’s Throne in Kyrgyzstan.
“How…?” she asked in amazement.
“Exactly. It’s a fable of a wolf that craves power, only in the end to find his hunger controls him and his power causes destruction over everything he loves.”
“Could it be possible?”
“That Chris knew something was happening and somehow couldn’t control himself? I know Chris. Not only is it possible, but there’s no way he would have betrayed me unless something was controlling him.”
“And the wolves! That must be his spirit animal.”
“I don’t know exactly, but I asked Principal Eisner about that eagle, when she visited us at the hospital, and she said that maybe it was my spirit animal, and well…. What if Chris has one too but it’s a wolf? Maybe he sent the wolf to warn us in the caves. They defended us against the giant, and then followed him when he ran with the army.”
“So he may not be completely lost after all!”
“No, perhaps not.”
“I’m going to need some time to process all this.”
Allie shook her head, bewildered at the ways of the world – not the normal world, but the new world she had somehow stumbled into. She paused in a moment of realization.
“And then we’re going to have to save him,” she said.
“I suppose so.”
Allie walked home in a daze, unsure how to take everything that was happening, unsure what to think of the past couple of weeks. She reached her home and entered to see Ian reading on the couch with their mom beside him watching the television. Allie smiled and jumped in between them, snuggling up against her mom. For the time being at least, she could be a little girl again, if only for a few minutes.
Her dad entered with a large bowl of popcorn. “Feeling up for a movie, Princess?”
Allie smiled up lazily. “I wouldn’t miss it for the world. Anything but action.”
Her mom squeezed her lovingly and Ian grabbed a handful of popcorn as he sat up. Their dad put on the movie, then sat beside his wife.
He lifted the remote but paused, then turned to Allie. “Thank you for never giving up hope.”
Allie looked lovingly from her parents and then to Ian as the opening music to their movie began. Ian smiled back and ruffled her hair. She frowned at him and the ring on her finger glimmered before returning to normal as she giggled.
That night she slept soundly, the most relaxing sleep she ever had.