Everybody needs a saviour... of some kind. Hop aboard... adventure awaits!
The Birth of Salvation
by Elizabeth Newton
“You can’t leave me here!” Mallory said, raging with anger. He’d even thought of picking up the chair and throwing it at his companion–or soon to be not his companion–but he would probably have been zapped out of existence for doing so.
“I do whatever I feel like doing,” he laughed.
“But we’re partners!” Mallory pleaded.
“We were partners. I fancy flying solo from now on. No offence old chum.” He’d said it with no trace of feeling. It had more harshness than the pounding and humming of the machine, which was grinding louder and louder beside him in the gloomy underground chamber.
Mallory had never dared to raise his voice like this to him before. “But I’ve helped you in the past! I’ve been your right-hand man! I knew you were a ruthless man, but to do this to me?!!”
“Mallory, you’ve known all along that this invention of mine can only take one person. And it was always going to be me wasn’t it,” he said, smugly and selfishly. “It would take years to prepare it again for another journey. Years that I’m not prepared to waste. So I suppose this is goodbye. It has been fun, old friend.”
“I’m no friend of yours!”
“So long!” And the man was gone. The stifled air in the room seemed to have just swallowed him up.
Mallory swore at the empty space before him. He threw the chair and shouted again and again at it, straining his throat and causing the veins in his head to bulge with hot blood. Just when he thought his tantrum was over, he turned around and punched the stone wall beside him, wincing in pain and regret afterwards.
He was angry beyond all control and description. He’d never learnt to operate the machine himself and having damaged part of the machine with the chair, he’d ruined any slim chances of getting out of there now.
He was stuck, in a very permanent way. And that was that. But he never came to any settling, contented acceptance of this. And how could he have done, when he didn’t belong there? Here in the middle of his prime, his life was over.
* * *
8 years later...
In the spaceless realm of the time vortex, the Captain and his crew were in trouble. There had been a thud from the Train’s mechanics. Usually, a gentle thud was normal after taking off, but this thud had sent the three travellers buckling to the floor of the strange, little spacecraft, and there had been a lot of turbulence following.
“Meteor shower?” suggested Paulo, just as he was tossed violently to one side on the floor.
“Collision with another satellite?” shouted Evie Bamford, hoping desperately that it wasn’t.
“Can’t be either of those things!” said the Captain of the Train over all the noise. “The radar screen says there’s nothing surrounding the outer hull of the Train!” The Captain was trying to control the Train from the engine room floor. One hand was holding on for dear life, and the other was fiddling with the controls on the central control panel, which at this moment was straight above his head.
But no amount of fiddling did any good. “My controls aren’t working!” he told the others. “Nothing I’m doing is making the slightest difference!”
Having come to the conclusion that the controls were locked, the Captain told Evelyn and Paulo to start feeding the Train’s furnace with Carnane fuel.• “Shovel in as much as you can fit! We need to try and get some thrust from somewhere!”
There was a special stash of Carnane fuel in the floor in between the engine room and the cozy, old fashioned single carriage of the Train.
While Evie and Paulo worked like a machine, shovelling in the coal as fast as they could, the Captain managed to get a reading of the controls. “This makes no sense,” he said to himself. “These controls are never wrong!”
“What’s it say?” Evie shouted.
“It says we’re going back in time. And really, really fast! I can’t stop it! 1991, 1973, 1805, 1633, 1211, 321...you’d better get down on the floor, quick! I don’t know when this girl’s going to stop, but it’s certainly going to be a big crash!”
“But the furnace...”
“Leave it now, you’ll have to!!”
Now every time traveller knows that a time crash is much more dangerous than a physical crash–like something dropping from a great height. So as Evie and Paulo closed and secured the furnace door, the Captain made one last attempt to regain control of his Train. But it was no use. He crouched down on the floor as he’d commanded the others to do and said, “God protect us!” and then waited for the inevitable to happen.
The ‘crash’ was considerably smoother than he had expected. One could hardly even call it a crash at all. There was a long... silent... wait.
“Was that it?” said Evie, afraid to open her eyes.
The Captain opened one of his, and glanced around at his all-in-one-piece Train. He opened his other eye and began to get up. Typically, he left Evie in suspense by not replying, and merely looked over the control deck and navigated his hand over all the controls. This was something he did often. If he was blindfolded he would still be able to find every one of the Train’s controls just by touch. He’d probably even be able to fly it. Running a hand over the control deck gave him a sort of comfortable feeling. A familiarity. A feeling of being at home.
However, as comfortable as it made him feel–especially so, now that the Train was still in one piece–the controls were still locked. It was just like a computer when it’s frozen, only you can’t just turn it off and on again.
Evie and Paulo stood up slowly, balancing themselves by walking their hands up the wall.
“Every-everything alright?” asked Evie, timidly.
The Captain just frowned down at his controls.
She tried again, “Captain, what’s...what’s happened?” She waited. Then a smidgen of her timidity vanished. “How come I can hear my voice but no one else can?”
“I can hear you, Evelyn,” he said, without looking up, “but technically you shouldn’t even be here, so I shouldn’t have to be answering your questions.”
Evie was hit hard. This Captain that she’d only met a day and a half ago was so unpredictable. One minute, he was really nice and the next, he could seem so cold.
But then he looked up and his eyes met hers. One side of his mouth curled up slightly and he said softly, “I’m sorry. You were going home, and now you’re far from it.” He paused and then slowly walked around to the other side of the centre control deck to where Evie and Paulo were standing. “You’re only fourteen and I was supposed to be taking you home.”
Afraid, but trying not to show it, Evie tilted her head slightly to one side and said, “Where are we?”
The Captain, leaning back against the control deck, was plain and straightforward. “We’re in the year 4 B.C.”
Angels We Have Heard On High
After taking a glance out of the Train’s big front window and checking the scanner for the safety of the atmosphere, the small group of three ventured outside.
“Is it... necessary to leave the Train?” asked Paulo.
“Are you kidding?” said Evie. “We’re two thousand and... fourteen years back in time. This has got to be the most exciting thing that’s ever happened to me. Of course it’s necessary!” She got a rush of nervous excitement as her foot trod down on the ground from inside the Train. She wasn’t even born yet and her foot made an impression in the soft grass. “Hang on,” she said, “what planet are we on?”
“Two thousand and fifteen to be precise and it’ll make a nice double surprise for Paulo. We’re on Earth.”
“Earth,” Evie said, trying to get her head around it. “Earth, in 4 B.C.”
“This is Earth?” asked Paulo–also with nervous excitement, (but a tad more nervous than excited).
“It doesn’t look any different from 2011 so far,” said Evie.
“Why is it that we can’t see your spaceship, Captain?” Paulo asked. He’d wondered that for a long time now, but this had been the first appropriate moment to ask.
“It’s the paint,” he said.
“It’s not invisible,” Evie added, “You can actually see its surface.”
“The paint causes an optical illusion and your eye sees whatever it expects to see behind the Train. There’s nothing but countryside out here and your eyes fill in the big gap where the Train is.”
“I know what your next question is,” Evie said, with a smile, “and it’s because the Captain wears special glasses and sometimes his driving-goggle things, so that he can see it whenever he wants to. It’s only through the lenses that you can see it.”
“I’ve never heard of anything so ingenious. The perfect hiding place, anywhere you go.”
“It doesn’t stop people bumping into it, though.”
Paulo smiled, and then tried to refocus on what he was talking about before. “Before, what I meant by ‘necessary’ though was... well... could there be anything... dangerous around?”
The Captain shook his head quite confidently. “No. Unfortunately. Anyway we’re not looking for trouble this time. But a general wander about will be necessary because I need to find out what caused the controls of the Train to lock. And lock onto this time and place. And even if I can’t find out why, I still need to find out how I can fix it so we can be on our way.”
“Well I’m glad we have to wander about,” Evie said, starting to stray.
“Ah, remember rule number two?”
“Don’t wander off.”
“And rule number one, for that matter.”
“Stay with you, yes I remember.”
“That applies to you too, Paulo. We all stick close, alright?”
“Right,” they replied in unison.
“Anyway,” added Evie, “it’s dead quiet out here in these fields or whatever they are. There can’t be anyone around for miles.”
“Hello?” called a voice from nearby. “Who goes there?”
The three spun around to face where the voice had come from. They couldn’t see anyone at first. They must be on the other side of the Train, the Captain thought, bending his upper body over sideways to see beyond it. He saw two men in the dull light of the moon coming up a hill towards them. Towards the Train. He quickly jogged around the Train and stood in front of it to save the approaching men a painful, embarrassing and highly confusing experience.
The Captain heard one of them say to the other, “There. Straight ahead.”
The Captain put his hands in his pockets and smiled cordially, “Good evening.”
“I thought I heard voices,” one of them said.
Evie and Paulo appeared behind the Captain.
Then the same man spoke again. “Only... a moment ago, I thought I could see only one of you. Must have been a trick of the moonlight.”
“It is very dark tonight, Zac.”
“That is true.”
The two men had reached the Captain, Evie and Paulo. Evie immediately noticed their clothes. They looked like they were straight out of an old biblical movie.
“What must you be doing all the way out here?” one of them asked.
“Are you shepherds from a neighbouring field?” asked the other one.
Evie was about to answer, but the Captain quickly got in before her (after whispering, “Rule number three.”) “Er, well, I suppose you could say that. Yes we are shepherds from a neighbouring field.”
The men were clearly looking questionably at Evelyn.
“Oh, this is Evelyn. She was lost... way out here and she’s trailing along with us until she can find her way home.”
“Where are your sheep?”
“Your sheep. Where are they?”
Evie wondered whether the Captain was going to be able to whip up some sheep from out of his pocket liked he did with most of his tools and peculiar gadgets. He seemed to be able to whip up a story quite well from out of nowhere.
“They’re lost,” he said.
“All of them?” the man said with alarm.
“All of them, yes. We’d lost one... er, hadn’t we, Paulo, and we went to look for it... unsuccessfully, and when we came back, all the rest were gone too.”
Evie suppressed a chuckle.
“Oh dear. That’s awful.”
“You’ll be out of work for a while, then.”
“Yes, yes. That’s right. We still have to break the news to our employer, though.”
“Are you hungry or anything? We have more than enough for ourselves.”
“Actually, we’re alright for food for a while.”
“I’m Zacchaeus,” said the taller man on the left, “and this is Joshua. Why don’t you come and rest with us, you won’t get far on a dark night like this. We’re camping just over the crest of this hill. Continue your journey after day break.”
The Captain didn’t want to delay his search for whatever it was that could fix his Train but he knew that Zacchaeus was making sense. Someone who knew this countryside well would possibly get somewhere, but being passing travellers, the Captain and his crew would only get themselves lost.
“That’s very kind of you, Zacchaeus,” the Captain replied, with a gracious smile. “I’m known as the Captain, this is my... fellow shepherd, Paulo, and as you know, this is Evelyn.”
The five of them started walking down the hill.
“We are fortunate are we not,” said Zacchaeus, “to have a fellow shepherd. I remember when I was a shepherd on my own once. My master was much poorer than the one I have now. I would become so lonely. It can be unbearable.”
“This is my first job,” Joshua said, “so I do not know what that’s like.”
“May I comment...” said Zacchaeus, awkwardly, “...your clothes seem very... well, they’re very strange. I’ve never seen such a fashion.”
The Captain was wearing loose khaki-brown trousers, a cream coloured shirt and over that, a dull blue knitted vest, with his long dark trench coat over the top. He looked just like a 1920s automobile enthusiast, especially when he wore his driving goggles. Sometimes he even wore a leather cap that covered the ears to match. Evelyn was still wearing her jeans rolled up to just under her knees, long black-and-white striped socks with black-and-white sandshoes. She had her favourite warm hooded jacket on. Paulo still had on his sky-blue, long sleeve overalls from when he was working on Serothia’s Satellite SB-17.
“I suppose we do look rather different, don’t we,” the Captain said.
Before anymore could be said, the group saw before them a large huddle of sheep.
“There they are,” Joshua smiled, introducing the travellers to the sheep. “They’re a good flock, they are. Something must have spooked your sheep for them to wander off so far.”
“Well it only takes one, doesn’t it,” the Captain said. “And they all follow. Just like... well... sheep.” A thought then occurred to him. “Tell me, did anything unusual happen here in the last ten minutes or so?”
“I don’t know... something in the air, any sounds, a person maybe, someone lurking around?”
“Trying to work out what it was that frightened your flock away?”
“Something that attracted my Train here, actually,” he said quietly.
The Captain told him it was nothing, just as a sudden glow of light suddenly appeared in the sky, and it shone down brightly and hit the grass with its beams. It was so bright, it would have blinded all five of them immediately if they hadn’t looked away so quickly. It illuminated the land all around them, and the grass and even their own skin seemed to glow with the clean, white light. With light, you expect there to be heat as well, but this light was like a cool, refreshing breeze. But no matter how wonderful it looked, the five were absolutely terrified. They had crouched low on the ground and were now shielding their eyes and trying to see what it was at the same time. Evelyn’s heart was racing and Paulo racked his brain for what it could be. The Captain, on the other hand, had a slight, hair-raising hunch.
All five of them were too frightened to utter a word. The light was like nothing any of them had ever seen before. Soon, when their eyes started to adjust to the bright light, they saw a shape–only brighter still than the surrounding light. It was very big and very tall, and the shepherds and the travellers were each shaking like a dry leaf.
The shape was a figure, a man in gleaming clothing. When suddenly he looked down on them, they trembled even more. They felt so puny cowering beneath him, but his face was kind, and when he spoke, his voice was calm and smooth.
“Do not be afraid,” he said. “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people.”
Evie’s stomach wrenched upwards and swam around and around, as she vaguely recognised the words this giant was saying.
Paulo and the two shepherds were still trembling and couldn’t speak. They could only listen. The Captain, (without rising from the ground) began to straighten up and his mouth dropped open in awe.
“Today in the town of David,” the man said, “a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.”
The group looked up and kept listening.
“This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
Evelyn was now in awe as well and she felt weak all over. “Jesus,” she whispered, finding her voice and not physically being able to blink.
Just when Evie thought the huge creature looked right at her, a great company of heavenly figures, (she just knew were angels), appeared behind the first angel and the shepherds had to cover their eyes again because of the radiant light.
Then, the most beautiful sound arose from them as they lifted their hands up to the night sky. They were singing, and the three travellers could hear the words very clearly:
Glory to God in the highest, and on Earth peace to men on whom his favour rests.
Their song was like nothing the shepherds and their new companions had ever heard before. It somehow was like fire and water at the same time. It trickled out of their mouths like a graceful stream, yet it withheld so much power, one got the feeling of something about to erupt.
Then, as quickly as it had all happened, the angels vanished upwards, and the light dimmed until it was once again a ghostly, star-lit hillside. The five of them were paralyzed on the spot for a few moments, speechless.
Then, it was Joshua who broke the silence. “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that’s happened, that the Lord has told us about.”
“The lord?” said Paulo. “What lord? How do you know who brought you this message?”
Zacchaeus answered, “Because it could be nothing else. Have you never heard of the God of Israel? God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob?”
Paulo had a blank look on his face, and then he glanced at the Captain.
The Captain said to him on the quiet, “This is who I’ve been telling you about. The Ancient of Days, the one you wanted to meet. The whole reason why you came with me.” The Captain then said, more so to himself, “What a perfect time for us to land in, to show you who He is.”
“Quickly, let’s go,” Joshua said. “I don’t want to wait. The angel said it was a Saviour that’s been born! The Christ, he said!”
“That means he’s the Anointed One,” said Zacchaeus. “We’ve heard prophesies about this. This could be the time the prophet Isaiah was talking about.” He was already rounding up all the sheep and collecting up their bedding and food supplies. Then he picked up some of their spare clothing, which was amongst the bedding. “Here,” Zacchaeus said to the Captain, “put these on, then you’ll blend in more, look like one of us. You can come with us.”
“What?” Evie blurted out suddenly. “And see the baby?”
“Of course, that’s where we’re going. And right away. There’s no time to lose.”
“How far is Bethlehem from here?” asked Paulo.
“Only a few miles west,” said Zacchaeus. “We could be there in an hour or so.”
Evie was slipping a heavy robe over her shoulders, while muttering to herself, heart still racing, “I can’t believe this. This can’t be happening. I must be dreaming.” She saw that the Captain had just put on his shepherd’s robe and was helping Zacchaeus and Joshua gather up the sheep. Evie went up to him and her side touched his, “Is this really going to happen?” she asked softly.
He smiled. He could tell she was as nervous as anything–just like him. His face beamed. “I can’t believe it either, but I think it is.”
She looked up at him with her young, innocent eyes, “I’m going to see Jesus.”
“Right, everyone ready?” Zacchaeus said.
“It’s amazing that light didn’t frighten off the sheep,” Joshua was saying.
“Well the Lord would not want us to lose our job now, would he?” Zacchaeus smiled.
“I hope they won’t mind us leaving a whole flock of sheep nearby.”
“I’m sure they won’t,” said the Captain. “There’ll probably be a lot of animals around as it is.”
“What makes you say that?”
“Well... the angel said we’d find the baby in a manger. Well that’s what animals eat out of. Maybe they’re in some kind of stable.” The Captain had had a lot of practice at being careful what he said when he was in the past. For Zacchaeus and Joshua, there was no such thing as Christmas yet. There was no such song as ‘Away In A Manger’ here. He didn’t have to tell Evie to be careful. When he looked down at her face, he could tell she was already thinking the same thing.
“Why do you think we’ve been called to see the baby?” said Joshua.
“Maybe so that we can spread the news afterwards. The Lord does many strange things so that He will receive due glory.”
Joshua nodded slowly. “I feel so honoured. I mean, if this is the Messiah...”
“...Which we have just been told he is.”
“Well… we may be the first ones to bow down to him.”
The others pondered this and Evie just shook her head in disbelief. Can this happen? She asked herself. Isn’t this against the laws of time or something. I don’t exist yet, but I’m going to be present at the infamous Nativity Scene. That’s in the Bible! How can I be in the Bible! I wonder if it’ll get rewritten to say there was a girl among the shepherds. Or will I be classed as one of the shepherds? This can’t actually be happening.
“Are you alright, Evelyn,” the Captain said suddenly. They had been walking a while, and she was looking quite tired and had fallen behind the others a little. He fell into step beside her.
“Yes,” she said lightly. “Everything’s alright ‘cause this is just a dream. I’m just dreaming. I must have fallen asleep on the Train. Or even in James’ car on the way to Summer Camp. And the whole ‘Captain-and-Train’ thing is a dream too. The whole lot. That makes more sense actually.”
The Captain merely let the corner of his mouth curl up slightly. Not because he was laughing at her on the inside or anything like that. It was because it had crossed his mind that he was dreaming also. Evie knew how he felt. Then he said, “Are you sure you’re alright?”
She looked up at him and bashfully shook her head. After a pause, she said, “Well, I’m going to be a shepherd. I’m one of the shepherds, in the Bible, I’m one of them.”
The Captain smiled, “I know. Crazy isn’t it.”
“I suppose you do this stuff all the time.”
“Ah-ah, not this,” he shook his head, “This is as amazing for me as it is for you.”
“But shouldn’t I be feeling honoured or something? Privileged and blessed to be chosen?” She dramatised her words a little.
The Captain’s eyes wandered this way and that, “Mmm yes,” he said, “Don’t you?”
“Well, it’s heaps amazing and everything but... oh how do I describe it?... it’ll be like I’m an imposter.”
“I know what you mean. But if this wasn’t in God’s will, I don’t believe it’d be happening. He’s always got everything under control.”
“Na, that’s not really what I meant. I mean... well...”
Just then, the Almighty gave the Captain understanding of what Evelyn meant. “Do you know Jesus? Personally I mean.” he asked.
Without looking up, she shyly shook her head. “Well I do, of course I do,” she said, “But I don’t know... I don’t know everything about him.”
“Neither do I.”
“No, but I mean, I don’t know exactly... why he had to die, and I don’t really understand why he’s so important and stuff.”
The Captain gave a nod and looked ahead at where he was going.
Evie continued, “And like... the way he died, all what happened... or in our case, what’s going to happen... it’s like, well... people in my life keep ramming this story down my throat, but I don’t see how I fit in. Like... what it’s got to do with me.”
“Feels like more of a story than real life?”
She thought, “Yeah, I guess.”
The Captain nodded slowly and pensively. And silently, in his mind he prayed for her.
After a short pause, Evie narrowed her eyes and smiled slightly. “Did you just pray for me?”
He raised his eyebrows and looked back at her innocently.
She laughed, “I’ve got people back at church praying for me. Praying that I accept Jesus for myself and everything. I guess it can’t do me any harm.”
He smiled. “Come on, let’s catch up with the others.”
They quickened their pace and fell into step just behind them.
“Stray one,” Zacchaeus said to Joshua and Joshua immediately knew what to do. He broke away from the small group and went over to one of the sheep that had started to wander off to the right of the flock. He put his arms out wide and sidestepped around it, sometimes clapping his hands together and taking hold of its woolly back, until the sheep trying to be individual, trotted over to join the rest again.
Joshua came back with news. “Hey, just over this crest and east a little are a few lights.”
“That would be Bethlehem,” Zacchaeus said.
“No, they’re nearer than Bethlehem. Looks like there is a house there and an inn.”
“We will see if we can rest there for a short while,” said Zacchaeus.
“They might know something about the baby too. They might be able to assist us.”
Paulo moved closer to the Captain and asked in a hushed voice, “Why are we remaining with these shepherds and looking for a baby? Aren’t we supposed to be working out what brought us here?”
“Patience, Paulo. Just wait and see.”
“Yes, it is an inn,” Zacchaeus said as they’d reached the peak of the hill. “I’m longing to rest my feet, even if it is just for a few minutes.”
Joshua asked if they even had enough money. “An inn is a bit high class for mere shepherds is it not? And we would have to take turns sitting with the sheep outside.”
The Captain reached into one of his many pockets and brought out some pieces of silver. “I’ve got some money here if you need it. But I have a strange feeling they’ll be full.”
“The inn? Full?” said Zacchaeus. “Surely not this inn, so set apart from the city. They’d get very little business out here I would imagine.”
“Sorry, there’s no room,” said the inn-keeper.
Evie quickly covered up a smile with her hand.
“Look, I know we look poor, we are merely shepherds, but we can pay you,” said Zacchaeus. “And it’s only just for a few moments, maybe a refreshment.”
“It’s not that sir, it’s just that we’re all full up, not a room in sight, not a bare space to ‘ang yer sandals, no place to rest yer ‘ead, no room to swing a cat, we’re up to our necks in paying guests! I had to turn away a young lady earlier–great with child she was, and I mean great, just a few hours ago. Do you think I wanted to do that? I’d give you the roof but there’s a man up there with his three wives and his dog. Gave the last room to a foreigner. Tall skinny guy he was.”
“A young lady with a child in her womb?” said Joshua.
“Yes, with her husband I assumed. They desperately needed somewhere. I reckon she could’ve given birth at any minute.”
“Which way did they go?” asked Zacchaeus.
“Well the only thing I could do was to let them stay in my stable ‘round the back. I didn’t ‘ave the heart to send ‘em away.” Then he said, “Oh but I wouldn’t disturb them if I were you, they probably want a bit-a privacy. Where are you going?”
With no more talking, the five shepherds proceeded along the path indicated by the inn-keeper. It stretched along the road for about twenty metres and then wound back and around behind some trees and shrubs. They led the sheep with them wherever they went until they saw a small barn with a dull light glowing from within. And they stopped. There was a soft mild breeze, and the air was silent, well away from the sounds of the small town nearby.
Wow, the Captain thought. Wonder Of Wonders.
“This must be the place,” said Joshua.
“This is what the prophets have spoken of for hundreds of years.”
“Shall we go and see?” said the Captain, and they all approached the stable, forgetting all about the sheep.
When the stable door was tugged open, two people from within looked up at the disturbance. One was a man with dusty robes and a thick brown beard, and the other was a girl leaning over an animal trough filled with straw and cloth–a manger–with a little baby nestled in the middle, asleep. Then they knew, that this was the place.
Neither Evie nor the Captain could believe their eyes and they were struck dumb with nervous excitement.
Then the Captain came up beside Paulo who was at the back of the pack now, and made sure he had a full view of the sleeping bundle. He put his hands in his pockets and said, “Paulo, I’d like to introduce you to my Friend who I’ve been telling you about. The One you wanted to meet. The Beginning and the End. The Comforter and Commander. Creator of all things.”
Paulo stared ahead at a tiny helpless baby, and was bemused and speechless.
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Others in the series so far…
Book 1 – “Moon Man”
Book 2 – “The Birth of Salvation”
Book 3 – “The Sanctuary”
Book 4 – “Furry Friends”