THE BATTLE FOR TERABITHIA

Disclaimer: I don't own Bridge to Terabithia or its characters.

Chapter 5
Facing Fears

May 13th, 2007

Leslie may have fallen asleep smiling, but she had a hard time sleeping, though. She tossed and turned constantly. She kept hearing a voice in her head. Someone or something was telling her to go to Terabithia as quickly as possible. In her subconscious, Leslie was able to tell that the owner of the voice meant business. She decided she would go across the creek first thing in the morning.

When Leslie woke up, she glanced at Jesse's alarm clock. It was only 6 am, but she didn't feel tired at all. She was surprised about that. Quietly she crawled out of the sleeping bag, making sure not to wake Jesse and May Belle. She got dressed, carefully opened the door and went downstairs. She put on her boots and jacket, opened the front door and stepped outside. Slowly but surely she walked toward the woods, almost as if she was in a trance or something.

She stopped when she arrived at the bridge. She looked at it long and closely. The bridge began to change again. Soon it was golden again, glowing as the early morning sun cast its rays upon it. Leslie admired the sight for a few moments, and then started to walk across.

As Leslie entered Terabithia, she felt the familiar feeling of adventure and excitement flow throughout her body. She looked around at the trees. Every time the wind picked up, she breathed in the fresh morning air, and felt herself relax. Soon she made her way to the tree house. As she fixed her eyes on it, memories filled her mind. She recalled how she and Jesse first discovered Terabithia.

"Prisoners of the Dark Master, hear me! We have come to free you! Do you hear us? Show me that you hear us!"

Leslie thought about what she had said that day. "I guess I've let you down, huh?" she said sadly to the treetops. "He's still out there. We still have to defeat him."

Snap!

She jumped and turned around. "What was that?" she wondered. She looked everywhere, but she saw nothing.

"Who's there?" she said a bit louder.

She heard the sound of a nearby bush waving its leaves. As she looked at the bush, she heard something else. It sounded like something was hissing.

Something appeared from behind the bush. Leslie gasped in shock and covered her mouth with her hands. It was something she had never expected or even wanted to see. It was a big –indeed, really big– incarnation of her greatest fear. Even after it came completely from behind the bush, she felt helpless. She couldn't even move. Her legs weren't taking any orders from her.

Before her stood a giant, grayish-black lizard, which resembled a Komodo dragon. Its length was about three meters, including the tail. As it stood on all four legs, it reached a height of almost one meter. It was truly a giant. The animal had very black eyes, five toes with long claws on each foot and a tongue like a snake would have. A row of sharp spikes covered its back. Its scaly skin looked impenetrable, as if it was armor.

The creature screeched at Leslie who was still in so much panic that she couldn't even think properly. Then the lizard produced a sound, which sounded like a whale wailing. Suddenly three squogres appeared from the bushes too and jumped next to the lizard. Leslie's fear grew even stronger as all the beasts snarled in such a threatening way.

The squogres leaped at Leslie, knocking her down. Quickly they moved from top of her and put their legs on her hands, keeping her from getting up. The lizard also moved forward and when it reached her, it put its front legs on her legs. Leslie had never felt so helpless. Her experience of a month ago was nothing compared to her current situation. She was in panic, four creatures were holding her tightly, her heart was pounding and she was hyperventilating. She tried to get enough air to cry for help, but when she was about to do that, something caught her attention. She looked over the lizard and saw something or someone forming in front of her.

"Oh, no! Please, no!" she cried in horror as she heard an evil laughter.

Meanwhile, in the Aarons house, Jesse and May Belle came downstairs for breakfast. The rest of the family was already at the table eating. Mary placed two bowls of cereal in front of Jesse and May Belle. At that moment something clicked on Jesse's mind.

"Where's Leslie? I haven't seen her at all this morning."

"Probably she realized her mistake and dumped you", Brenda laughed, and Ellie joined in.

He couldn't believe what he was seeing. They weren't the same compassionate big sisters they still had been just a few days ago. Now they acted like Leslie had never gone missing.

"What did you say, Brenda?"

"Are you deaf?" Ellie answered for her sister. "That blonde must have realized how boring you really are."

"Ellie, stop it", Mary said from behind the counter.

"Oh, Mom, please! I know what you said when Jess first brought her here, but judging from your tone I can say you weren't particularly pleased either."

Jesse then remembered that time. When he and Leslie exited the house, he had heard his mother telling Brenda and Ellie to be glad that he finally had a friend.

"Shut up!" he yelled and stood up, slamming the table hard with both of his hands. Naturally, everyone in the kitchen was surprised by his actions.

"Watch your language, son!" Jack shouted.

"Didn't you hear what my big sisters just said? I…"

He stopped his speech. The pupils in his eyes grew bigger as he was starting to have a vision. In his head he saw a faint picture of Terabithia, then Leslie lying helplessly on the ground, crying for him. Soon the vision ended.

Jesse was still standing still, breathing quite heavily. As he became aware of his surroundings again, he looked around. Everyone in the room was staring at him, wondering what was going on.

"I know where she is", he suddenly blurted out. "I know where Leslie is!"

"Well, where?" his mother asked.

Jesse didn't answer her question though. He just took May Belle by the hand and said: "We gotta go now. Quickly!"

May Belle had no time to react to his statement as he ran to the front door with her. "Jess, where are you going?" Mary yelled.

"It's Sunday, we need to go to church soon!" Jack continued for her.

Jesse turned his head quickly and yelled back: "We're going into the woods. We'll be right back, I promise!" Then he opened the door and they stepped out. He started to run towards the woods while May Belle tried to keep up with him.

"Are we going to Terabithia?" she yelled.

"Yes! We need to save Leslie! She's in trouble!"

"Did you…see her?" May Belle panted out.

"Yeah!"

Meanwhile in the forest, Leslie stared in fear at the figure that had just appeared in front of her. In the middle of all the sound made by the rattling keys she managed to say: "What do you want?"

"Oh, I thought you knew", the Dark Master answered. "You see, I need you, Queen."

"Oh really? What for?" Leslie spat out.

"You are one of the rulers of this kingdom. You hold some of the precious energy that keeps it going."

"What are you talking about?" Leslie said, even though she had a pretty good idea what the dark creature meant.

The Dark Master let out an evil chuckle. "Dear Queen, you are holding it inside you", he said, pointing at her.

Leslie gasped in horror as the Dark Master walked right next to her and knelt down. "And now, it is time to have that energy."

The Dark Master raised his right arm into the air, and it started to glow. The squogres and the lizard eased their hold, but before Leslie got a chance to get away, several tree roots appeared from the ground as if they had a life of their own and wrapped themselves around her. It was all now clear to Leslie. The Dark Master was going to drain her life energy. She tried to get away, but to no avail. The roots were holding her down. As she saw the evil smile of her worst opponent, she closed her eyes, praying that someone would save her.

Her prayers were answered.

Just when the Dark Master was going to strike Leslie, something hit him on his hand. The Dark Master yelled in slight pain, stood up and inspected the surroundings. Slowly he walked away from his prisoner, looking around before turning to look at the tree house. "Who is there?!" he shouted, but didn't get an answer.

He looked around again. He hissed at the sight of nothing appearing. "If there is someone out there…you had better show yourselves!"

"With pleasure."

Everyone, including the squogres, turned to look at the direction where the sound had come from. Suddenly, all they could see was a bright flash of light. Everyone had to close their eyes in order to not get blind. Soon there was another flash, and another and another…

Slowly the flashes vanished. When the Dark Master looked forward, he moved back a little. He saw something he didn't expect to see. Or at least that's what it seemed like.

Jesse and May Belle, the King and Princess of Terabithia, walked out of the shadows and stopped a few feet away from their enemy. Leslie was relieved to see her friends finally coming to save her. And so were Jesse and May Belle to see her. Also, they were surprised to see a new kind of creature, the huge lizard. Jesse realized quickly that it had to be an incarnation of Leslie's fear of reptiles.

May Belle was also frightened. She had never seen the greatest menace of Terabithia, and now she was examining the Dark Master's appearance.

"Release our Queen!"

Everyone looked up. Gregorius was hovering above the King and Princess. The rest of the Terabithian warriors quickly flew behind their leader and prepared to attack.

All that the Dark Master did, however, was chuckle. "I cannot believe this. Do you seriously believe that a bunch of insects are able to stand up to me? How pathetic! King Jesse, you really have not grown any smarter, have you?"

Jesse became very frustrated. The Dark Master turned at May Belle. "And what do we have here? You are the new Princess, I hear. Hah! You know, I take back my earlier statement. This is pathetic!"

Both Jesse and May Belle were really angry now. "Hey! Don't talk to my sister like that!" Jesse shouted.

"Who are you to tell me what to do? You and your puny bug friends. You have no chance against me!" He started to charge at Jesse and May Belle.

Jesse raised his right hand calmly and said: "Not so fast. Wait for it."

At that moment the ground quaked a little while there was also a thumping sound. Everyone was surprised except Jesse, May Belle and the warriors. Then there was another quake, and several more followed it. The sound seemed to be coming closer at each quake. Jesse fixed his eyes on the tree house, and everybody else followed his action.

The source of the quakes was soon in sight. The giant troll, with the face of eight-grader Janice Avery, appeared from behind the tree house. She looked down and snarled at the squogres and the lizard. The evil creatures got very scared of seeing an adversary far bigger than them and ran behind their master. "Unbelievable!" he said in disgust.

"Attack!" Gregorius shouted and the noble warriors flew towards their enemies. They started to fly around the Dark Master and his minions, distracting them. The troll reached down and ripped the tree roots off of Leslie with her strong hand. Leslie smiled and thanked the troll before running up to Jesse and May Belle. She pulled them into a short embrace and after that they all turned to look at their enemies.

When Gregorius saw that their Queen was safe again, he ordered the warriors to retreat. The insect creatures flew away, and the evil ones stopped shooing them away. When the Dark Master saw what was in front of him, he felt a sense of uncertainty flowing through him. The giant troll, the Terabithian warriors, the King, the Queen, and the Princess: they all stood there, defending their "castle".

"Give it up!" Gregorius said.

The Dark Master simply laughed slightly. "Never. I will never surrender to you." Then he fixed his eyes on Leslie. "You were lucky this time, Queen. Enjoy your happiness…while it lasts."

Then he raised his right arm into the air and, after casting an evil smile upon the rulers of Terabithia, waved it in front of him, casting a thick cloud of black smoke. After a few seconds, the smoke vanished, and the evil creatures were all gone. Everyone stood perfectly still for a few seconds, making sure the enemies had retreated.

Jesse walked up to the Terabithian warriors and faced Gregorius. "Thank you very much for your assistance. You may now return to your homes in the treetop provinces."

"Yes, my King", Gregorius replied and ordered the warriors to fly back to the treetops.

After the warriors' departure, Jesse turned to face the troll. "Thank you very much, Janice. You sure helped a lot."

"You're welcome", the troll answered smilingly with her deep voice and then walked away.

Jesse, Leslie and May Belle stood in silence for a few moments, watching the troll go into the depths of the forest. Leslie, who had put her hands on May Belle's shoulders, broke the silence and said: "So you actually call 'her' Janice now, eh?"

"Of course", Jesse answered. "What else would I call her?"

Leslie nodded. There was another moment of silence. The rulers of Terabithia examined their surroundings carefully. They all closed their eyes and breathed in the fresh morning air. The wind picked up and it sent shivers running through their bodies. Jesse and Leslie thought about the same thing: the time when they discovered the kingdom. They felt all the excitement as they did when they became best friends.

All of a sudden they started to hear something through the wind. It was that rattling sound again. The rulers opened their eyes and looked at each other. "I bet he's getting restless", Leslie said. Jesse and May Belle nodded in agreement.

After a while, the trio decided to climb into the tree house. They sat on the porch, with Jesse between Leslie and May Belle, like it would be in a real castle. The rulers stared into the distance, all of them wondering about different things. Once again Leslie broke the silence by asking: "How did you plan that whole counterattack thing?"

Jesse cleared his throat. "Well, we were having breakfast when I had this vision in my head. I saw that you were in danger." He paused for a short moment, looking at Leslie. "We immediately dashed into Terabithia, and once we had crossed the bridge, I called for Gregorius, the leader of the Terabithian warriors. I told him to raise his army, and also I asked him to send a message to the tro… I mean, Janice. So, that's how it went, really."

"I see", Leslie said. "What about those flashes of light? What were they?"

"Oh, I planned the surprise attack with Gregorius. He said that he could create a diversion by ordering some of the warriors to use their shields… You know, those that knights always carry… Anyway, they would use the shields to reflect the sunlight in the right angle, so there would be enough light to make one cover their eyes. That diversion gave us enough time to get prepared and then appear right in front of the enemy's eyes."

Leslie was amazed. "Wow, Jess, I'm impressed. You're certainly becoming a worthy king." She gave him the biggest smile she could give.

Jesse raised an eyebrow. "'Becoming'? Wasn't I a worthy king when we first started to come here?" he asked sarcastically.

Leslie punched him playfully on the shoulder. "Oh, you know what I mean." All three laughed for a moment. "What do you think we should do about this situation?" Leslie asked.

Jesse and May Belle kept thinking and thinking. "I think we need to visit that graveyard."

Leslie shivered. "The really dark one where you found me?"

"Graveyard? What graveyard?" May Belle asked.

"Oh yeah, I hadn't told you yet", Jesse acknowledged. "My Princess, in Terabithia there are also very dark places. This graveyard is one of them. According to Gregorius, all the evil creatures are buried there, and also everyone that have been killed by an evil one."

May Belle gasped at her brother's revelation. She looked Leslie. "You were actually buried?"

"No, Princess. But it seemed like I was going to get buried soon. But luckily, the King rescued me", Leslie said tearfully and put her hand on Jesse's shoulder. Jesse patted her hand. "Do we really have to go there?"

"Yes, I think so, my Queen." Then Jesse remembered what day it was. "But we shall attend to that later. Now, we need to go and pay our respects to the ones above us."

Then he stood up and made his way down from their "castle". Leslie and May Belle stood up too and followed him. When they started to walk to the bridge, May Belle asked Leslie what Jesse had meant. She was still a bit too young to understand all the "royal talk". Leslie giggled and answered: "May Belle, I think he meant that we need to go to church. Is it Sunday?"

Realization came upon May Belle's face. "Oh! Yeah, it is."

Leslie nodded and continued: "And when he said "the ones above us", I think he was referring to God and Jesus. Do you think I'm right?"

"Oh yes, of course! Yeah, you're right, Leslie."

"Thanks." As they crossed the bridge, Leslie realized something. "Oh, no!"

"What is it, Les?" Jesse asked.

"If we're going to church, I'll have to wear a dress. And I don't have any!"

"Don't worry. I'm sure Mom can give you one of my big sisters' old dresses."

"Okay."

"I just hope Brenda and Ellie don't mind…"

"Hey! The King doesn't sound so sure now, does he?" Leslie said with a cunning smile on her face. Jesse took the hint and started to run back to the house as quickly as he could, and Leslie chased him, threatening to tickle him.

May Belle tried to follow them but she wasn't as fast as them. "Wait! Wait!" she tried to yell over and over again, but in vain.