Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Fan Fiction Contest

Note from the Judges: "Really liked this cleverly written poem!"

Reflection of a Fool

By: Courtney E. Dunesbury

Reflected at a glance
but lacked the courage
to take a chance
and see
that the fool
was me
Played the part in stride
from head to toe
yet hiding inside
that the fool
was me
Juggling words around
weaving stories
playing games
I uttered not a sound
that the fool
was me
Jests before royals and men
from land
to ocean sea
and have been one of them
yet denied
that the fool
was me
Revealed by your eyes
pain of truth
of what I was inside
in them
no surprise
you could see
that the fool
was me

Monday, October 29, 2012

Fan Fiction Contest

Note from the Judges: "A lovely story, poignant, sweet, and sad. . . . I really appreciated the attention to detail here."

A Prologue of Prologues
By: Heather Greenwood

The late morning sun spilled in from the tall windows of the room and fell on the Queen’s loom. Una watched her mother stitch intricate patterns into her latest tapestry. She liked to please her mother with her presence but embroidery completely bored her so she feigned interest. Besides, if she watched any more closely she might see how her mother’s hands trembled and that made her uncomfortable.
The sun glanced off the Queen’s ring and caught Una’s eye. The opal set within the golden band smoldered, holding a fire unmatched by any other stones of its kind. “Mother,” she said. “Wherever did you get that ring?”
The Queen sat back from her embroidery and splayed her fingers to behold it. “My mother gave this to me. It is very old. My great grandmother told me the story of it once.” She smiled at her daughter. “She told me that after the ring had been passed down for decades in the Prince of Velania’s family, he gave it to her as a wedding gift. A priceless treasure, I’m led to believe.”
“Oh. That’s… romantic.” To be sure, the story was sweet – but even Nurse had a beautiful ring with the same story, and that somehow seemed to sap all the real romance out of it.
The Queen laughed. “I know you don’t really think so. But that’s not the only thing. What makes it special and priceless, Una, is that this ring is said to be the product of the Twelve Year –"
“Mama!” a plaintive voice wailed, and into the room trudged little Felix, feet dragging and shoulders slouched – the very picture of dejection. “Father promised to take me down to Ramgrip today to see the soldiers. He even told me to wake up at dawn so we would get there early enough, and now he’s gone and locked himself up in his study again –”
Una’s mouth gaped. “Really, Felix,” she interrupted. She planted herself protectively in front of her mother’s chair. “Here Mother and I were having a civilized conversation and you take the liberty to barge in with your fickle woes!” That was a good one, Una thought to herself. “Didn’t Nurse tell you that Mother is too ill to be wasting her energy on squabbles and the like?” she continued. “You’re told to report to Nurse if you have any offenses to be taken care of. Besides, General Argus himself is here and he and Father have business to attend to.
Felix looked distraught and his sorry posture sagged even more. The Queen’s jaw dropped. “I will tolerate no such thing!” she exclaimed. “Una, get Nurse this instant. I won’t have her taking over my rightful place as Mother.”
“But, Mother…”
Felix tore off down the hall. The Queen began the struggle of standing to go after him, but Una stopped her before she could do what she was forbidden: leave her chair. “I’ll get him, Mother,” she said.
Felix sprinted down the garden tiers toward Goldstone Wood, and broke into the line of great trees for the first time. He tore through the thick and wild growth, his frustration igniting as thorny brambles and tangled undergrowth snagged his feet and forced him to slow down. He grunted and complained, grabbing onto trees and dragging himself forward. His anger fueled him on, but by the time his energy was spent he could still see back through the trees and into the gardens. He saw Una running – no, skipping – after him. The spectacle renewed his resolve to get away. He did not want his sister to come after him! He had hoped to go missing for long enough that one of his parents would actually come looking. He trudged along. There was still time to hide before Una saw him. And he would hide here until one of his parents came themselves.
The woods became darker as they thickened. Felix told himself he wasn’t afraid. He was brave, and he would prove it to his father. Maybe then he would notice him. But he was afraid and soon every twig that snapped underfoot made him jump with fright. He paused for a moment in order to compose himself. The dead silence that ensued soon gave way to a faint sound – was it a voice? He looked behind him and saw nothing but the trees. They were now too thick to see through into the garden. Straining his ears, he thought the sound came from somewhere ahead of him. Did he dare discover the source? Of course he dared! He was brave. He picked up a fallen tree limb for a weapon and advanced.
The trees began to thin again as he neared a small clearing. He stopped just inside the shadow of the overhanging trees, and blinked. Before him on the far side of a trickling stream was what appeared to be a council of cats. They sat neatly in a circle on the bank. Noses twitched and ears flicked attentively towards a shadow from which came a plumy golden tail. Nothing else could be seen of their leader, who remained concealed in the shade.
Felix flung up his arms, holding his branch on high, and ran forward. “Hey, beasts! Get outta here!” The cats, startled, looked back at him with alarmed eyes. “Leave! Scat!” he bellowed. They remained where they were and turned back to their leader for direction. “Bleck,” Felix spat, dropping the branch. “I hate cats.”
From behind came a voice he recognized. “Oh, Felix…” his sister sang in that annoying, prim tone of hers.
Another smaller, quieter voice urged, “We must alert the Master! Quickly!” Caterwauls and yowls filled the air as the cats raced into the woods beyond, away from the clearing.
Una strolled out into the clearing from the path that Felix had left. She promptly grabbed her little brother’s arm and dragged him backwards into the woods. “Mother wants you,” she announced. “And Father will be angry when he finds out you’ve been in the Wood.”
“Let me go!” yelled Felix, pulling back ferociously. “They can come get me themselves!”
“Come on, Felix!”
Una could not believe herself as she grappled with him. She was much too old for such squabbles, and besides, her skirts might get soiled. She let go.
Felix flew back. He tried to recover his feet, failed, and crashed into the stream.
“Una!” Felix blubbered indignantly, flailing around in the brown water.
Covering her mouth, she tried and failed to conceal hysterical laughter. “Oh! Felix!” she howled. “Look at yourself!” He glared at her, rage coloring his face red. “You’re absolutely covered in mud!”
Una!” he practically screamed. “You stinking –” He cut himself off and lifted his hands out of the water. Mud oozed in between his fingers. His expression transformed from rage into bliss as he beheld the most sought out treasure of boyhood. “Awww, yes!” he exclaimed.
Wonderful. Mother will love this. Una rolled her eyes in disgust and focused her attention on her surroundings. She gasped. The beauty of it immediately caused her heart to sprout wings and soar. Twirling, she spread her arms out and craned her neck to look up. The sky gleamed like blue sapphires through the leaves of the tall trees. “How beautiful!” She gushed. “How perfectly captivating!” Then she saw the bridge. “Oh!” She stepped on the planks. The bridge stretched flat across the stream. It was old, but made of strong, healthy wood – no doubt made from the trees surrounding them. Sunlight filtered through the leaves and bathed it in ethereal light, and birdsong filled Una’s ears. How she wished she had her notebook! This was altogether the perfect spot to gather inspiration.
She turned to Felix and clasped her hands. “I must thank you for running away, Felix. Imagine us going out whole lives without ever finding this! It will be our own special place,” she said, deciding to share – only because Felix liked the mud so much.
“Felix! Una!” The children looked up, startled. “Children!” It was Mother. Felix’s heart sank with guilt. He knew that she would never let them come back to the Wood.
“Here, Mother,” Felix said feebly.
Una momentarily panicked. “What is she doing out of her chair?”
Within a couple moments the Queen came through the trees, from the trail of broken branches that Felix created on his escape. Exasperated and uneasy, she said, “Come now, children.”
“But, Mama…”
“No, Felix. Come.” She directed a commanding look at him, and began to laugh. He sat waist deep in muddy stream water. “Oh Felix, what have you done?”
He pointed up at Una. Mud ran down his arm and dripped from his elbow. “It was her!”
“Una,” the Queen remonstrated, but Una’s attention was already focused on her. Her mother swayed ever so slightly on her feet.
She approached her and held out a hand. “Mother, please sit. You can sit with me, on the bridge.”
“No. We are leaving this forest at once. Your father will be upset if he finds that we have all run off. And he may punish the attendants despite my pardon.”
“Can’t we stay and play just a little while?” Felix whined.
No,” the Queen said firmly.
“Mother!” Una cried, troubled by the paleness of her mother’s face. “Please sit down!” she pleaded. The Queen released a breath and went to the bridge and sat. After a moment of stillness, she drew her feet closer and tried to take off her shoes. Her fingers fumbled with the simple task. “Mother, please,” said Una, face drawn with concern. Felix watched on, enthralled, at the rare sight of his sister assisting another person. She helped with the buckles and pulled off the Queen’s stockings so she could dangle her feet over the bridge. Putting her arm around Una, the Queen drew her closer.
“Come, Felix,” the Queen beckoned. “Sit with us.” He scrambled onto the bridge and sat himself down on her other side. Neither he nor she cared about the mud that stained their clothes. “Oh, this is a lovely place, despite all the stories,” she breathed. “A special place. Perfect, in fact, for the likes of you two.” She looked at her children. “I love you two very much.” She caressed Felix’s hair. “And so does your father.” 
Felix curled himself into a little ball and bawled into his mother’s skirts.
The Queen’s face fell into sympathetic wrinkles. “Oh, Felix, what’s wrong?”
Una sniffled, and did not say a word as her shoulders shook with silent tears.
Suddenly the Queen knew what the matter was. Una never cried, and if she did, it had to be about something big. Something caught in her throat, and her own eyes filled. Her arms drew her children closer and held them tight.
Felix spoke in a small voice. “I thought… when you get sick you’re supposed to get better. When you take your medicine.” He looked up at her. “Haven’t you been taking it?”
The Queen could not look at him, though she smiled sadly through her tears. “I know. I have, Felix. But I do not think…” Oh, how could she say this to him! How was she supposed to prepare them? The burden was too much to bear.
Una cringed at her mother’s sudden sob. The Queen pressed her hand to her mouth, trying to hold it back. “Mother, you’re frightening me.”
“I am sorry,” she gasped. She took in several deep breaths, and calmed a bit. Looking up the stream, she seemed to speak to herself. “When my grandmother was sick, she was so very at peace. She spoke to me about… passing.” She swallowed, and her voice quieted. “And about other things. I remember what she said. But I fear… it is too late.”
She bowed her head, and a moment of great tension and grief filled terror of what was to come overcame the hearts of those three.
Something made the Queen turn her attention sharply to the trees beyond the bridge. Her eyes darted and focused on something unseen, and she became completely quiet as if trying to catch a word on the wind. She peered into the wood with expectancy, seeming to take in with understanding whatever was being communicated to her. Then, relaxing, the lines that her children had grown so used to seeing faded somewhat. She touched her mouth again, but when she withdrew her hand her smile was serene, though her eyes still brimming with tears. “Then it is not too late.” She turned back to her perplexed and frightened children. They were reassured, but at the same time further confused. “It is time to go back home. Dry your eyes,” she said, dabbing her own and passing the handkerchief around. “Felix, rinse off as best as you can.”
After washing their faces and composing themselves, Una and Felix walked back to the trees on the near side of the stream. The girl turned back and found that the Queen remained barefooted on the bridge, facing the trees beyond. “Mother?”
“Go on, Una. Take Felix home.”
Una stood still, watching her.
Her mother looked over her shoulder at her and smiled. “Hurry along, then. Go to your father.”
“She told us to leave, but she stayed,” Felix informed his father. He tried not to sound too much like he was telling on his own mama.
“And she was acting strange,” Una added. “But not really in a bad way.”
The King frowned. The lines on his face revealed deep worry. “Well I can’t imagine what you two were doing there in the first place.”
The children flinched at his harsh tone but remained silent.
His heart raced in his chest as King Fidel ran down the gardens. What was she thinking? What had the children been thinking, leaving her alone, sickly and weak? And the attendants! They would not even enter that accursed wood for the royal family.
As he reached Goldstone Wood, he panicked, unsure of where he should start. The Wood so vast and the trees so alike made it a puzzle. He stood frozen. Then he saw where the branches were broken off, amongst the otherwise untouched wood. Onward he ran.
The Queen kneeled in the midst of the trees. She saw only flickers of glory, and she heard only a quiet voice. She trembled in the dark of the Wood and strained her ears to hear. “Do you remember when I revealed myself to you?”
“I remember. My grandmother spoke of you.”
“Yet you denied me.”
The Queen’s breath caught in her throat and she quavered all over. She could say nothing. Her mind clambered to find an excuse, and found many; but upon opening her mouth, none seemed worthy of presenting to this... man? Spirit?
She remembered, again, what her grandmother had said long ago, as she lay on her deathbed. “He is a King of kings,” she had said, as she gripped her granddaughter’s hand. “And that he would love, and care for, a creature such as myself –”
“Grandmother,” she had said. “You are a Lady. Of course it is right that you should be recognized and cared for!”
Tears had filled the old lady’s eyes as she shook her head. “No, my girl,” she had said, her voice thick. “I have been ever so wicked to this King. But he loves, my girl, and wants me to walk with him, even through death…”
“No, grandmother,” she had said, her voice harsh. “You are good. You will not die.” And in her heart, she refused to believe a word her dear grandmother said from then on. She even refused to acknowledge her eventual passing.
The Queen now bowed her head. “I am sorry.”
The King strode through the Wood, hardly slowing as branches grabbed at his clothes. His imagination tormented him as he fought through the trees.
“Do you count the cost? This is your road to salvation, and there is only a short time.”
The Queen nodded. “And my family?”
“I have loved them as I have loved you for all this time, since the beginning of time. I will take care of them."
The King stepped out from the trees and onto the bank. He briefly took in the small, trickling stream, and the wooden bridge that stretched over it.
The Queen stepped barefoot out of the far side of the Wood. Fidel's heart thudded with relief and he burst forward across the bridge and caught her up in his arms. With one hand he felt her forehead. “My dear, you are not well,” he said, but she laughed softly, taking his hand in her own. He raised his eyebrows and looked down at her face. Pale, and with a sickly flush about the cheeks. Yet, there was something different about the corners of the eyes and lips. They were soft, and hardly drawn at all in any sort of discomfort or worry.
 By the next morning, the Queen was sitting up and embroidering again. Una could tell by the slowness of her hands and the squinting of her eyes that the Queen’s mind dwelled intently on something else.
“It’s too bad we won’t be able to go to the Wood anymore, Mother,” Una sighed, and waited expectantly for the Queen’s response. No response came. “Mother.”
“Oh,” the Queen said, finally seeming to notice her daughter’s presence and recalling what she said. “Una, please don’t hint. There’s no need to be indirect.” She set her needle down and turned her attention to her daughter.
Embarrassed, Una tried again. “Couldn’t we play in the Wood, Mother? It will keep Felix busy for once, and I just know it will do wonders for my writing!”
Just then her father walked in. “Yes, Una, you and Felix may play there.” She clapped her hands and turned to give him a smile, but noticed how unhappy he looked about the subject. “However you must always give me word when you are planning to go, you must not go when it is dark and you may not remain there for more than an hour at a time. Understood?”
Una’s temper flared with indignation. To report to him whenever they wanted to go out? And only remain for an hour at a time? How ridiculous! But to not be able to go at all would be worse, so she nodded her head shortly, not wanting to risk opening her mouth and have something unbidden pop out and destroy all hopes.
Felix stood at the doorway and heard it all. “Yipee!” he shrieked, and tore down the hall towards the doors. “Well, we’re going now,” Una said, and ran off in pursuit. Fidel watched them go, and when the door slammed he turned a tender gaze on his wife. “There. How was that?” he asked gently, with a touch of impatience. “Have I humored you sufficiently?”
She smiled. “Yes. Almost.” Her tone became serious. “But Fidel, I am telling you the truth about yesterday and if you would just listen…”
“Of course. I know. You are right,” the King said shortly. “Yesterday was an interesting day. You seem to have recovered well enough, but you were very weak. Very weak. No doubt your adventure in the Wood left you very fatigued.” His voice dropped. “Of body and mind.”
“Fidel, if you’re thinking I just imagined it all…”
“Perhaps you didn’t,” he broke in sharply. “But we have all heard the stories. The Wood is a dark place that plays tricks on the mind. And I don’t like the children playing there.”
“But –”
“But I will appease you in this. Fear not that I will go back on my word.”
For a moment she seemed to struggle, but then, in her customary way of letting go, the Queen let out a breath. “I thank you, Fidel. The children are very grateful. It will be good for them to have a special place to go to in the coming days.” The eyes looking up at him were sad, yet hopeful.
His smiled, but the corners of his mouth seemed to falter, and the smile never quite reached his eyes. He bent down and kissed her. Swiftly he turned to go, but he felt the hand of the queen brush his. She slid her fingers into his. For a moment, all he felt was the difference in her skin. He knew he could not look into her face for fear that she would see his. “Fidel.” She said. “All will be well. I am sure of it. I wasn’t sure of it before, but now I am.” Without a word, he knelt silently by her side and held her hand.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Fan Fiction Contest

Note from the Judges: "A sweet little piece that describes well the wood between the worlds – it gives the impression that it should be sung, along with accompaniment from a lute or harp."

The Place in Between

By: Hannah-Kate


Where Paths lay hidden

Where time always changes

Where all is unsure

The Place in Between


Where a stride takes you leagues

Without a Path you are lost

Where mysteries haunt

The Place in Between


Where evil torments

And noble knights tread

Where enchantment thrives

The Place in Between


It is Goldstone Wood

It is the Wilderlands

Where the Near meets the Far

The Place in Between


Monday, October 22, 2012

Fan Fiction Contest

Note from the Judges: "I truly enjoyed this original Tale of Goldstone Wood with its new faerie world and characters!"

Of a Mouse, a Bard, and Some Unexpected Developments

By: Caeli Sands 

It was the stillness of the night which spoke of things moving. Water lapped at the slight banks of the stream, tumbling over smooth pebbles and slick bedrock as it skipped away to far lands and distant seas. Yet even the water made no sound. The trees were cold and asleep, creatures of worlds both Near and Far were frozen, waiting. Here, where the stream parted the woods, the whir of things magic and Fae sang an ancient tune whose words were long forgotten, and the wood of the Near World strained to listen, feeling the heartbeat of every throbbing note.

There was a bridge spanning the stream, a bridge forbidden, falling into disrepair, a bridge appearing far less significant than it truly was. On one side of this bridge, the trees were lulled into such a deep slumber that they could not awaken, but on the opposite side, the trees swayed as if dancing; they might break off the chains of age-old dreams at any moment and begin to move.

“One does not commonly throw oneself across the bridges and onto the Paths Unknown.” a voice broke through the golden quiet.

“With my leading, sir knight, you will be quite safe.”

“Yes, well, forgive me if I do not place myself willingly into the hands of a mouse while there are still other options to be had.”

“It is not to your liking then? After all, I could be a dog.”

“Hmm, at least a mouse I can eat should it prove too bothersome to deal with in any other way.”

A tawny-hued feline sat in the middle of the bridge, its tail switching, its blind face glowering down at the gray rodent crouched at its feet. The scarred face of the cat was stern, yet amused as it stared unseeing at its companion. The mouse, for its part, seemed not at all worried by the idea that it might get eaten.

“It is quite a stable path, I assure you, Sir Eanrin.” the mouse added. “I've been there before and the way is clear and tame, though a bit gloomy, I must say.”

“Your assurance fails to reassure.”

“Truly,” the mouse said “where is your sense of adventure, old knight?”

The cat bristled at the term 'old'. “I assume it's safe at home sipping tea and lounging on a couch, as any reasonable person should do. I am not 'old', little morsel, but it is true that I know a good deal more about the worlds both Near and Far than you do. It is never advisable to go looking for adventures; they will find you, given time.”

The mouse nodded and said nothing more until Sir Eanrin at last gave in with a growl. “Where is this bridge, Dichali?”

The mouse appeared perplexed. “Why, I do believe we're standing on it, Sir Bard.”

Eanrin unsheathed his claws in a considering manner. “I am feeling a bit hungry at the moment.”

“Touchy, touchy.” the mouse muttered. “Very well, it's just on the other side of the gardens.”

The cat frowned. “In Orianna, here?”

“No, in Orianna of Bauclaire.” Dichali replied.

“Your sarcasm begins to annoy me.”

From somewhere beyond the bridge came the faint voice of a girl calling. “Monster! Here kitty, kitty!”

Sir Eanrin's ears swiveled to lay flat against his skull. “Which side of the gardens?”

“Not the side where the princess is, if that's what you mean.” Dichali replied amid far-away calls for 'Monster'. “Is something wrong?”

“Wrong on a great many levels.” Eanrin growled. He stood and loped to the Near end of the bridge, slipping off the pathway and into the thin covering of trees. “It's bath time.”

Dichali chuckled. “You are looking a bit dusty, good knight.”

“Stuff it, morsel. You are looking tastier by the minute.”

“I think you are in a bad mood, but here we are anyway.”

Eanrin's ears cocked upright again. “Here, indeed.” The bridge lay in front of them. Not a bridge of ordinary terms perhaps, because this one did not actually cross over water, but was merely a slight stone arch crossing from soil to soil. The manicured bushed and ivies of the gardens of Orianna concealed the bridge from most eyes, and Eanrin suspected it was concealed by other means as well.

Dichali scampered to the center of the bridge. “Coming, or would you prefer the bathtub?”

Eanrin hissed but followed.

Dichali stood up on his hind legs and suddenly not a mouse, but a boy with hair the soft gray of silver. His skin was pale, his hands were soft and thin-fingered. He skipped across the bridge in bare feet and clothed in simple brown trousers and a ragged white shirt which hung loose on his shoulders. Like all the Fae, there was something powerful about him, a mystery which made him look old even as he laughed a boyish laugh and whistled jauntily for the feline behind him to hurry.

Dichali was half-faerie, his mother having been a powerful Fae, and his father a human mortal of Parumvir. Dichali was not full-blooded Faeri as his mother's kind were, but he had yet to grow old as the mortals do—even though he had lived for some hundred-and-fifty years—so some of his mother's ancestry must have been rushing through his veins.

For humankind the Paths of Faeri were confusing at best and deadly otherwise, while, for the Fae themselves, those same Paths were tread with care. Faeri bridges were another matter altogether, for they often served to separate two lands, and what one might find on the other side was an uneasy question. Dichali, through some gift of his strange breeding, walked the Paths and Bridges without fear and never seemed to come up the worse because of it.

Eanrin, on the other hand, was not much given to bouts of nerves; being, after all, a cat. Still, crossing bridges onto Paths Unknown was a business he did not much care for. That being said, he cared for bath day even less. This particular time caused him to be more surly and standoffish than usual.

Bridges and Paths tended to change the way they looked, or exactly where they began, or even where they led, but they rarely appeared when they weren’t expected. Eanrin the Bard had asked Dichali to act as a sort of spy patrol on some of the more unstable Paths, had been pleased with the result, and was thusly bemused that an entire bridge could up and settle in as pretty as you please—let alone under his own nose. It was with a mild sense of trepidation that the Faeri knight now followed the not-quite Faeri boy, to explore the nature and cause of this new extension to the beautiful Orianna Palace gardens.

In the time it took the two to cross the bridge Eanrin himself was no longer a cat, but a scarlet-clad man with fair hair and scars where his eyes once had been. Stepping from the bridge, the two halted at once.

Goldstone and Oriana were left far behind, revealing instead a broad plain of bowing grasses and painted fog. A few scraggly trees dared to store their roots in the thin soil, but the world was flat and wide, its surface unbroken by hill or cliff in any direction. The bridge was lost in sight behind the travelers, swallowed up by a veil of magic.

“Here we are, then.” Dichali said. “Wouldn’t plan a vacation home in these parts, but its not so bad as all that.”

The ground trembled beneath their feet.

Eanrin cocked his head, staring at Dichali with brows raised as if he still had his sight. “You were saying?”

Dichali shrugged. “So the ground gets a bit grumbly now and then. I do too on an empty stomach. Really, there's not much here to report. Leastwise, there won't be 'til someone comes 'round to explore it fully.”

A shadow separated from the fog and slid across the open spaces to meet them. Dichali froze.

The shadow seemed a piece of the fog but denser, its form holding the vague sense of a tall man with a snaking tail and broad horns. “Welcome to you, strangers from lands away and paths unseen.” a voice wafted from the creature.

Sir Eanrin had the presence of mind to offer an elegant court bow. The gesture somehow offered respect while stating indifference. “Peace to you, friend.”

“Where have you come from?” the wraith asked.

The Knight of Farthestshore hesitated even as Dichali threw an open arm in the direction they had come. “From yonder bridge.” he stated, as if there were any bridge in sight.

The wraith moved its head as if searching for the bridge, and then gave a pitiable moan. “Would that I might see it!” it cried in a voice of stone and water.

“Pray, my friend, what exactly is your trouble?” Eanrin asked, ever the chivalrous one, even after a display of what he tended to verbally rebuke as 'pure melodrama and theatrics'.

The sobbing creature gathered itself somewhat. “I am the once-great Isnnodel, King of the Caluvisci Plains, or rather, what is left of them now in these wastes.” it—rather, he—paused. “Who might you be, then, oh travelers?”

“I am Sir Eanrin, this young calamity is called Dichali.”

“I sensed your presence at once, Sir Eanrin, but your companion I perceived not in the first. The feel about him is different than with you. The little one is not Fae, then...” the self-proclaimed king mused. “a magician of some sort?”

Eanrin flicked an ear. He was irritated. “The 'little one' is half-faerie, half-mortal, and is proving to be more trouble than a full-blooded scoundrel of either line. You were saying...?”

“I and my people have not always been the way you see us now.”

“Your people are here?” Dichali asked.  “I admit I cannot see them at all, actually.”

“My people are the Mists.” the king groaned.

Dichali glanced furtively around at the fog surrounding him as if afraid that by moving through it in any direction he might cause some unspeakable offense. “Oh.”

“We were once a powerful people, but then the lady came to us, from the paths unseen like you have. She offered us gifts and we, foolish in our own security, accepted them. But they, each and every one, had a price. Once we finally came out of our stupor it was far too late. She asked for payment and we were obligated to give in, yet we could not satisfy her. In her anger and greed, she vowed we would enjoy not a single pleasure for all of our days. We started to fade and now, as you can see, my people have become nothing but a swirling vapor upon the land. Unable to think, to speak or laugh; they cannot touch, they do not know time as others do. Soon, what is left of my own character will vanish on the wind and I will remain the king of these peoples for eternities to come, though none of us be aware of anything at all.” The king bowed his wraith-like head in sadness after this speech.

“Might we ask who this lady was?” Eanrin questioned, a small knot forming on his brow. “And what she wanted from you?”

“She called herself the Lady Fair, and gave no other name. As for what she asked, it was merely adoring praise and sonnets sung in her name, but we refused, and even those efforts we did go to for her did not serve to satisfy her desires.” Isnnodel answered him.

The knot became a genuine frown. “I see.”

“Do you know her?” Dichali asked.

Eanrin heaved a sigh. “I do.”

“And do you yet know how to vanquish my people?” the king asked.

At this, a strange expression fell over the Faerie knight's face. It might have been dread, or annoyance, or amusement, or resignation or any number of other emotions. Whatever it was, Eanrin chose to keep it to himself. His face cleared and he turned to Dichali. “I know why the bridge is in the garden.” he said.

Dichali's eyes widened. “How?”

Eanrin's answer was not direct. Instead, he turned to the mists surrounding and addressed them with a long-suffering sigh. “Afreitezia? I know you are listening.”

A second figure separated itself from the mists and joined the party of three, its shape solidifying until a beautiful Faerie woman stood before them, her hair long and the colors of sunset, her dress a blue so pale it was gray, and gray slippers so dainty they might well have been made of violet petals. She looked quite young, especially for a Fae, her eyes not holding the ancient wisdom so many did. In point of fact, her entire body language radiated an adolescent petulance and her arms were crossed across her small chest with an air of hauteur.

“Hello, Afreitezia.” Eanrin said.

“Took you long enough.” she said, flouncing like a pert school-girl.

“I'm afraid the messages you leave are both confusing and vague.”

“Congratulations are in order, then.”

Dichali and King Isnnodel looked on, as the argument came fast and furious on both sides.

“Not at all; this is the fifth attempt you've made and by far the silliest.”

“But silly is obviously what catches your attention, my dear knight.”

“If you referring to Lady Gleamdren, you would be wise to reconsider your words.”

“But I have. Millions of times, I have. She's silly. And foppish. And not worth your time.”

Dichali and Isnnodel were growing noticeably dizzy during this exchange.

Eanrin had opened his mouth but was cut off by Afreitezia, who was reaching a state of near hysteria. “It's always Lady Gleamdren this, and Lady Gleamdren that, and oh for the wonders of the attention of Gleamdren! Gleamdren the Fair! Gleamdren the Beauteous! Gleamdrem the Perfect! What about me??!

Even Sir Eanrin was a bit stunned now. “I—”

“You always write songs to her, songs about her, songs about things that are like her, even songs about what she eats!”

“Now, now; I have never once written about what she—”

“What she wears, what her voice sounds like, even that she smells like a fine, crystal dew on morning geraniums!”

“Geraniums are not at all the proper flower. For one thing, the sound of the word is off entirely, and it does not fit her at all in any case.” Eanrin argued, finally getting in an entire two sentences.

“I don't care!” Afreitezia exploded, not very lady-like at all.

Dichali and Isnnodel took a step back each.

“Erm, Eanrin...” Dichali began, as both the contestants appeared to be gathering themselves for another onslaught.

“What now, morsel?” Eanrin asked. He may not have had eyes, but he was more than able to send a convincing glare.

“I just wondered if, perhaps, writing one simple song would not hurt?”

“Simple?!” roared Afreitezia at the same time as Eanrin's shouted “For her?!”

Dichali took another step backwards, Isnnodel following suite. To be sure, this was a delicate subject, and one not often stirred up at all. Seeing two historically calm, levelheaded faeries, often called upon for important courts and at queens' balls, acting and reacting in this state was a shock for all present. They stood there, frozen for an instant, and then Afreitezia started to yell again and Eanrin tried—with some calm and no luck—to reason with her.

And then Dichali turned into a mouse.

This went unnoticed for around three seconds. By the time the fourth second came, Afreitezia had shrieked and leaped backwards, which was quite a sight to see. Truly, a Fae such as herself should have known better than to startle at such a thing, but she was a rather excitable Fae; the sort which all-too often ends up in some nonsensical fairytale where nothing is ever explained and the heroine is wooed by a king who tells her such romantic speech as 'spin straw into gold or die'.

In the ensuing peace, Dichali again spoke. “Afreitezia, will you consent to return our good friend King Isnnodel and his people back to their original form and restore their lands, should Sir Eanrin the Bard dedicate a song to your virtues?”

Afreitezia huffed, having begun to recover from her rodent scare. “Of course. That was the whole entire point.”

Dichali turned to Eanrin.

“No.” the Knight of Farthestshore said., to which Afreitezia looked pettish again—or, at least, even more so than normal—and King Isnnodel moaned. “I cannot, in good conscience...” he trailed off as Isnnodel lamented over him.

“Woe is me!” the king cried. “Woe is my land and my seas and my people! To think we have come to this! We, the proud peoples of Caluvisci, are doomed to remain as but dust! As the wind, the rain, the fog, the dew! Oh, my fair city! Oh my dear forefathers! Woe! Woe!”

He might have carried on for some time like that had Sir Eanrin not drawn in a deep lungful of air and breathed it out again. “One.” he muttered. Dichali was sure he had never seen the knight so dejected and out of sorts; he was hardly himself. King Isnnodel stopped bemoaning his fate and Afreitezia clapped her hands in delight. “But,” Eanrin continued, looking down at Dichali. “Must it be...very good?”

Dichali stole a look in Afreitezia's direction. She was near bouncing on her toes with joy, but there was a furrow of hesitation on her pretty brow. “Yes, I think that would be best for all.”

“Fine, then.” the Bard said, though it was obvious that this was not fine. “Afreitezia, be a good muse and return the king and his people to their normal, histrionic state.”

“A muse!” squealed Afreitezia, as the mists fell from King Isnnodel like a cloak and people began to emerge from the fog. “He called me a muse!”

Eanrin turned a baleful face to Dichali. “I will regret this, I'm sure.”

“Nonsense,” the mouse said. “Everything will work out in the end.”

“In the end, I suppose.” the other returned. “But I'm worried about the not-so-distant future, when we all go home and she starts spouting off this new ballad to anyone and everyone who will lend half an ear to listen. Do you realize how long I have been working to capture Gleamdren's attentions?”

“As long as I can remember.” Dichali answered with a grin.

They left King Isnnodel and his people, then, having no further desire to explore that land and having secured Afreitezia's promise to destroy the bridge that had brought them there.

“Eanrin,” Dichali started, once he and the knight—once again a cat—had crossed the bridge and sat in Orianna's garden. “Look at the sun.”

The sun, it appeared, had not changed at all in the hour or so they had been gone. Eanrin's foul mood worsened. “It has not moved.”


“No time has passed.”

“It doesn’t appear so, does it?”

From somewhere nearby, came a voice calling, “Monster! Where are you, you naughty cat?”

“Well,” Dichali began, rubbing his ears with his front paws in a nervous manner. “Let's look on the bright side, shall we Sir Knight? After all, a composition can easily take your mind of the horrid atrocity of a bath!”

“Quiet,” hissed Eanrin. “I am composing already.”

“Ah, I see," Dichali said. He looked relieved.

“No, I'm afraid you do not.” the cat said. Footsteps sounded nearby. “I am not composing some quaint little ditty for that silly girl.”

“Oh?” the mouse asked, confused.

“Monster! There you are!” More footsteps.

“Rather,” the knight continued in a whisper “it is your funeral dirge.”

“Ah, well...look forward to how that turns out and all, but, I say...think I'll be running along now...”

Princess Una came 'round the corner as the mouse scampered away. “What have you done to get so dirty?” she asked as she scooped her pet into her arms and carted him inside.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Friday Tidbits

Spending Time With Other Friends

I know how it is with best friends. You have that particular bond, that special way of thinking. You enjoy the same things, egg each other on to great adventures. That best friend is just so much fun to hang out with, why would you bother with other friends?

Because other friends make life richer, that's why!

Just because you have that particular bond with one friend doesn't mean those other friendships aren't worth a ton. Besides, a good healthy friendship is never possessive; it's good for both you and your bestie to spend time with other people.

The same is true with your characters.

I know you love your protagonist. I know she's the character you feel the deepest bond to. But you know what, your book will be SO much richer if you spend time getting to know your secondary characters as well.

Now that doesn't mean that every secondary character needs a point of view in your novel. But, just as we talked about with villains last week, those secondary characters--the hero's sidekick, the heroine's best friend, even the rejected Other Woman, or the Unwanted Suitor--they are all the heroes and heroines of their own stories.

For your book to be as rich as it can be, those secondary characters need fleshed-out motivations and goals, the same as your protagonists. Even if those motivations don't end up becoming a major part of the plot, the characters themselves will ring true on the page if you know what their gut motivation is.

So, Cinderella's going to the ball . . . but what does her best friend, the maid from next door think when she sees the glitter of glass slippers and a pumpkin carriage? Is she happy for Cinderella but simultaneously jealous that she doesn't get to go? Is she bitter that she's not pretty enough for fairy godmothers to pay attention to her?

Spend a little time on those secondary characters. Write scenes about them, and explore who they are as people. Then see what new perspective they might give you on your unfolding  plot.

Which of your secondary characters do you think you might need to explore a little more deeply?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Fan Fiction Contest

Note from the Judges: "The style of writing was descriptive, and I was able to well picture the scenes – the contrast of the old woman’s cottage against the dragon’s village was a powerful one."

The Maiden’s Quest

By: Taisia

Adele ran as fast as she could, trying not to look back at the destruction of her once lovely home.  She held her wailing daughter closer to her, attempting to calm her down while struggling to keep out of the reach of the fire.

When Adele reached the safety of woods outside the village she stopped to look and see if anyone had escaped the devastation.  Everything she had ever known was in flames.  She squeezed her eyes shut to stop the tears from streaming down her cheeks.  He’s not dead, he can’t be dead, she thought desperately.  She silently vowed she would come back and look for him once she got her daughter to safety.  She had heard stories of an old lady who lived in the woods, who helped travelers.  She turned back towards the forest and ran further into the shelter of the trees.


Adele had been walking through the forest for a few hours when she saw a small cottage in a large clearing.  It was encompassed by a little picket fence and surrounded by a garden of flowers.  The cottage was covered by climbing roses and to the right of the house stood a blossoming apple tree.  She watched as wisps of smoke from the chimney wafted into the sky.

It must be the old lady’s cottage, she thought as she pushed her long brown hair out of her deep blue eyes.  The smell of fresh bread wafted towards her.  She heard her stomach growl.  Hoping to get something to eat, she walked over to the small white gate, pulled up the rope that kept it in place, and went up the pathway to the front door.  On the door there was a lovely little brass knocker in the shape of a swan.  She rapped on the door.

A kind looking old lady opened it.  She was short and had her wispy silver hair pulled away from her face into a bun.  Her eyes had wrinkles around them from smiling so much.  She looked at Adele and said, “Oh, you poor dear!  You look completely exhausted!  Come in and I’ll make you some tea.”  She bustled back into the house leaving Adele standing at the door.

Adele peeped inside and immediately felt at home.  It was a big, cosy room that had a kitchen on one side and a living room on the other.  It was lit by the light shining through the windows and a fireplace in the kitchen with a pot simmering over it.  The kitchen was full of cupboards and counters.  She stared hungrily at the loaves of fresh bread on a round oak table in the middle of the kitchen.  The table had two quaint little wooden chairs resting around it.  She tore her eyes away from the bread to take in the rest of the house.  There were flowerpots in all the windows, giving the room a bright and cheerful feeling.  In the living room, mahogany bookcases lined the walls stopping only where a window peeked out.  It had a big soft carpet that covered the floor of the whole room.  There was an old leather chair in the far corner and a small table next to it that matched the colour of the bookshelves.  There were two doors on the back wall and a flight of steps leading upstairs.

The old lady was standing next to the table in the kitchen pouring hot water into a round squat teapot.  She glanced up, saw Adele still standing at the door and hurried over to her, carefully guiding her over to the leather chair in the living room.  She pulled up another chair from the kitchen and sat next to Adele.

“While we wait for the tea to steep, you can tell me about yourself,” she hesitated, “Only if you’d like to of course.  I’m Nelia.”

 “I’m Adele.  And this,” she said, motioning with her eyes to the sleeping one-year-old in her arms, “is Ariana.  I’m from the village that is near the forest to the north.  I lived in a cottage on the outskirts with my husband, William.  Last night, as the sun was setting, he heard something strange outside and went to see what it was.  I went with him and saw a massive dragon flying over the village, spitting balls of fire everywhere.  He told me to stay at home until he came back and went to help the people in the village.  But I couldn’t stay, because the flames had spread and our house caught fire.  I ran to the edge of the forest and hid behind one of the trees.  As I looked out I saw the whole village burning.  I hope he’s alright,” she sighed.  “I walked for a while and then saw your house.  Why do you live out here in the forest?  It must take you hours to get to the nearest town.”

Nelia smiled and answered, “I don’t like noisy places.  I prefer to be surrounded by nature.  Living in the middle of a forest is the perfect spot for peace and quiet.  And I don’t really need to go to towns around here very often.  I have all I need right here.”

Nelia rose and walked over to the teapot, lifted the lid, and stirred it with a spoon.  She went over to one of the numerous cupboards, took out two ceramic mugs and placed them on the table.  She poured the tea and handed a mug to Adele.

 “After that ordeal you must be starving!  Would you like something to eat?”  Nelia asked, smiling at her.  “I just baked some bread this morning.”

Adele returned her smile.  “Yes, thank you!  I’m very hungry.  Fresh bread sounds wonderful!”

Nelia bustled over to a drawer in the kitchen, pulled out a bread knife, and cut the bread into thick, fluffy slices.  Adele got up from her comfortable chair, put Ariana down and took her little hand.  Keeping pace with her daughter, she went over to Nelia.

 “May I help?” she asked.

 “No, thank you.  You sit down,” she said as she pulled both of the wooden chairs out from the table.

Adele picked up Ariana, sat her in one of the chairs and then sat down in the other chair. Nelia handed a piece of bread to Ariana and watched her devour it faster than she thought possible for such a small child.  When Ariana had finished she held up a tiny hand and said in a small, unsure voice, “Moe, peaz?”

Nelia smiled down at her adoringly.  “You can talk!  Thank goodness!  You were so quiet I thought you couldn’t,” she said as she handed her more bread.  “You and your daughter can stay here if you’d like, Adele,” she offered.

 “That’s very kind of you,” Adele said, “but I have to go and see if my husband is still alive.”

 “You can’t take the little girl into danger though.”

 “No,” Adele looked down at Ariana and smiled at her.

 “Ariana could stay here with me if you’d like,” Nelia said.  “And I can give you whatever you need for your journey.”

 “Thank you so much,” Adele said gratefully.  “I know you’ll take good care of her.”

 “You get some rest now.  The sun is setting already.  There’s no way you can make your way in the dark.  You can leave tomorrow morning.”

Nelia led Adele and Ariana into one of the rooms on the ground floor.  It was a nice little room.  The only furniture it had was a little truckle bed, a bed-side table, and medium sized dresser.  All of them the same mahogany that she had seen in the kitchen and living room.  Apparently the old lady liked dark wood.  She seemed to have a talent for using a lot of dark furniture, but make it look bright and inviting at the same time.

 “Tomorrow morning you can go to the well at the back of the house and clean up.  You’ll have to go out the front door and around to the back.  I’m going to start packing a basket for your journey,” Nelia said, and she walked out and closed the door behind her.

Adele didn’t want to rest, thinking how much harder it would be to find her husband the longer she waited.  But she knew she had to if she was going to be of any help to him.  She lay down on the bed with Ariana pulled close to her and fell fast asleep.


When Adele woke, the light of the rising sun was streaming through the small window in her bedroom and dancing on the walls.  She looked around her, trying to remember where she was.  Then she remembered the kind old lady that had helped her.  She turned over and looked on the other side of the bed.  Ariana was still sleeping peacefully.

Adele slowly got up doing her best not to wake her daughter and bent down to kiss her goodbye, knowing she probably wouldn’t see her for a very long time.  She went into the main room and saw that Nelia was already up, standing at the table and putting the last things in the basket for her.

Without looking up from her work, Nelia said, “Good morning, Adele.  Did you sleep well?”

 “Yes.  The bed was very comfortable.  Thank you.”

 “You’ll find some soap on the counter over there,” she said, pointing to the corner towards the front of the house.

Adele thanked her again, grabbed the soap, and walked out the front door into the sun.  The sky was a beautiful robin’s egg blue with little, puffy, white clouds flying across it.  She gazed around her at the garden.  It was very well taken care of.  The beds were perfectly weeded and the plants perfectly trimmed.  She walked carefully over the nicely trimmed lawn, around the house to the back.  There were at least four or five chickens running around.  She went over to the well in the corner of the garden and washed the tearstains from her face and the dirt from her hands.  When she got back inside, Nelia had finished her basket of supplies and had breakfast ready for her.

After Adele had finished her delicious breakfast of omelet and fresh bread she looked in on Ariana again.  She was still sound asleep.  Adele closed the door quietly and took the basket and cloak from Nelia.

 “I can’t thank you enough for all you’ve done for my daughter and I.  Please tell Ariana I’ll be back as soon as I can and that I love her very much,” Adele said as she hugged Nelia goodbye.  She marched out the front door and didn’t look back.


Adele finally reached her village.  There were a few smouldering skeletons of homes and shops left, but most of it was ashes.  She walked slowly through the devastation of her home and then further into the village.  She saw something move ahead and quickly darted behind one of the still standing houses.  She peeked out from her cover and saw that it was a woman.  She was wearing a cloak and had the hood pulled up.  Her back was turned to Adele.

 “It’s all right.  You can come out,” the mysterious lady said, speaking loudly enough so Adele could hear her.

 “Who are you?” Adele asked, as she cautiously stepped out of her hiding place and slowly walked towards the dark figure.

When she got close enough the stranger pulled her hood off and turned toward her.  Her beautiful face was framed by waist length silver hair.  She wore a simple green dress under her cloak adorned only with a brown belt and a sword.

 “I am here to help you,” she said.  She had a soft accent different from anything that Adele had ever heard.  “I have been watching over you from afar, but now you need my guidance to find what you lost.”

 “How do I know I can trust you?” Adele asked her suspiciously.

She held up a letter.  Adele scanned it and said, “This is Will’s writing,” she said, astonished, but then her eyes narrowed.  ”You could have forged it.”

 “He asked me to take care of you if anything happened to him.  I’m here to take you to him so you can save him from his captivity.”

 “Did you see where he went?  Is he all right?” she asked, anxiously.

“I did not see where he was taken, but I know where he went.”


“The dragon, as many know him, tries to take as many down with him as he can.  They go to a place far away from here.  That is where you husband is.”

“And you will lead me there?”


“I will trust you.  Please take me to this place,” she begged.  “But first, may I know your name?”

“You may call me Serina,” she said.

“Thank you, Serina,” Adele said.

Serina smiled kindly at her and then turned around and started walking to the south, just along the treeline.

“Come with me,” she said.  “We must hurry.  It is a long journey.”

Adele hurried to catch up with her.  They walked together in silence.

When the sun was high in the sky, Serina stopped and said, “We will rest here and have a light lunch, then we will push on until nightfall.  We have to travel south until we reach the Red Desert.  It is somewhere there we will find the dragon’s lair.”

Serina already had her own food somehow stowed away in the voluminous folds of her dark cloak.  Adele looked into her basket and saw that Nelia had not only packed food and water for her, but also an extra pair of shoes in case she needed them and a bottle of some sort of oil.  Once they had eaten their fill they continued their journey south.


They had been traveling for weeks and had stocked up on food and water in the nearby cities and towns they passed.

Finally, they came to the Red Desert and Adele stared at it in fascination and horror.

“We have to go in there?” she asked pointing at the seemingly endless expanse of hot, steaming sand.

“Yes,” Serina replied.

“Won’t we get lost?”

“We will have the sun, the moon and the stars to guide us,” answered Serina, squinting up at the sky.

So they went into the desert, with only blazing sun as their guide.  After a few hours of persistent walking, they saw a decayed old village that looked dark even in the bright sunlight of the desert.  It was surrounded by an enormous wall that had only one gate.

“That’s it,” Serina said, pointing at it.

As they made their way down the tall dune they had been standing on, Adele noticed movement in the streets.

When they reached the gates of the town, they looked around them cautiously and stepped inside the confines of the wall.  As they walked over the cobblestone streets they thought they could hear whispers and see shapes moving around.  There were definitely people living here, but they didn’t seem too eager to show themselves to these new strangers walking through their domain.

They made it to what they thought was the middle of the town and looked around them.  The dark shapes surrounded them now.  One of the shapes stepped out of the shadows and into the light.  It was a little boy with dark raven hair and green eyes.

“Have you seen a man here recently?” Adele asked.  “He has light brown hair and brown eyes.  He’s tall…” she trailed off.  The little boy was staring at her blankly.

Serina crouched down and looked the boy in the eye.  “Where does your master keep the new ones?” she asked him.  He pointed to a tall dark building and then disappeared into the shadows again.

They went over to the building he had indicated.  Adele stared at it.  It looked like it could fall apart at any second.

“It’s been standing this long, it can wait for a little longer while we go look for your William,” Serina said.

“Do you read minds?” Adele asked.

“No.  Of course not.  I only guessed what you were thinking from the expression of your face.” Serina pushed lightly on the door of the old building and it creaked open.  Inside, there were numerous doors lining a long hallway.  “Why don’t you check doors on the right and I’ll check the ones on the left,” Serina suggested.

So Adele went to the first door on the right and tried the handle.  It opened easily.  She looked inside the room.  Nothing.  She went down the whole line of doors with the same result until she got to the last one.  Inside this room there was a large cage lying in the middle of the floor and in the cage was a man lying unconscious.  Adele ran to him and grabbed his hand.

“Will!” she cried.  “I found him!” she called out.

Serina rushed into the room, pulled a piece of wire out of her cape and started picking the lock.  There was a click and the cage door opened.  They pulled William out and laid him on the floor.

“Good!  You grab his shoulders and I’ll grab his legs.  We’ll be out of here in no time.”

As they made their way through the streets, a huge black shadow passed over them.  Serina looked up.  “The dragon is here!  Hurry!” she said, as she took Will and hoisted him up onto her shoulders.  When they were just outside the village, the dragon landed in front of them and stared at Adele with its massive fiery eyes.

“I thought you might help her,” he said, turning his blazing gaze on Serina.

Serina put Will down and pulled out her sword, all the while keeping her eyes fixed on the dragon.  “I only help people take back the loved ones you steal from them,” she growled.

“They’re mine!” he yelled, spitting a ball of fire at Serina.  “I played the game for them!  Those who try to take what is rightfully mine die.”

Serina jumped aside just in time.  The ball of fire whizzed passed her, barely missing her.  She smiled boldly at him, “Maybe they do.  But these people have never belonged to you.  You just like to think they do.”  Then she whispered to Adele, “You’ll have to take him and run away from here as fast as you can.  I’ll distract him so you can get away.”

“I can’t leave you here!” Adele whispered back.

“I can take care of myself,” Serina said, urgency in her voice.  “Now get out of here!”

“Thank you,” Adele murmured softly.

The dragon laughed wickedly, “You’re making it too obvious, little elf.  You know that neither of you will be able to escape.”

Serina started circling the dragon, looking for an opening for attack and also turning him away from Adele.  “I bet you couldn’t beat me if you tried, you over-grown lizard.”

Serina glanced at Adele.  She was struggling to pick Will up.  Serina turned her gaze back to the dragon.  He was moving closer to her.

“You’ll pay for that insolent remark!” he rumbled angrily.

“I’m sorry, but I don’t have anything on me right now.”

He roared at her and blew a flame of fire at her.  She was too close to dodge it.  Just before the flames enveloped her she looked past him and couldn’t see Adele anywhere.  She smiled at the dragon.  That’s two more people you can’t have, she thought.  Then she felt intense heat surround her and everything turned black.


Adele staggered under her load, going as fast as she could with the extra weight. She didn’t stop until she was outside the desert.  She gently set her husband down and looked over him to see if he was wounded, but she only found a few minor burns.  She reached into her basket and took out her bottle of water and poured it over them.  Then she remembered bottle of oil that Nelia had put in her basket.  She took it out and popped it open.  It smelt like crushed herbs.  She put a couple drops on each of the burns and massaged it in.

“Ah.  That feels good.”

She looked up and saw he was awake.  She cried out happily and hugged him.  “I’m so glad you’re alive!”

“Careful,” he groaned.  “My head feels like a bomb went off inside it.”

Adele pulled away and looked at the bottle that she was still holding.  “I wonder if this might help.”

“You want me to drink that?” he asked, incredulously.

“Of course not,” she said.  “I thought it might help you if I rubbed it on your forehead.”


She rubbed some on his forehead and looked at him expectantly.  “Is that better?”

“What is that stuff?  Is it magic or something?” he asked, amazed.

“I don’t know.  The old lady in the woods gave it to me.”

“I thought she was just a legend.”

“She’s not.  She lives in the nicest little cottage and she’s taking care of Ariana right now.”  She told him how she ran into the woods and found Nelia’s house and how she met Serina and how she sacrificed herself for them.

“Why did she have to die?” Adele sighed sadly.  Tears poured down her cheeks.  “We should go home now,” she sniffed.

They traveled home, thanked Nelia for taking care of Ariana, built a house in the woods, and lived happily ever after.