I know several of you are looking forward to the beginning of The Sheriff and Mrs. Jannsen, but for the month of August I'll be posting parts of a short story about a long lost Charming Academy character. Donovan was in the very first edition of Charming Academy, but because his story was overshadowed by George and Jacobi, I made the very difficult decision to cut him from the novel. I've always liked Donovan and the fact that his was very much a redemption story. And so here he is again. Each week I'll post one part of his tale.
Donavan walked onto the stage as his name was read. He glanced into the audience. Of course he wasn’t there. He tried to quell the bitterness rising in his throat. His father was upstairs helping Kaelen prepare to leave Charming Academy. What had his cousin ever done for them anyway? He tried to smile as Calista handed him the parchment diploma and a scroll with his quest on it. He tried to look proud of himself, or at least happy to be there. But it was hard. He was the only one of his brothers to make it this far at Charming Academy, and his own father was missing graduation. It was bad enough Mother was missing it, but she at least had a good reason. After all, she’d died when Donovan was just three. She missed a lot of milestones. He glanced into the audience again and saw King Lysander and his wife smiling warmly at him. Well, at least someone was happy for him.
The ceremony continued and he walked out onto the well-kept lawns of Charming Academy. He could hardly believe he’d made it to graduation. Despite his father not being a king, Calista Periwinkle, the headmistress of the school, had allowed his enrollment since his father was a former graduate. He supposed it was, in part, because she was allowing the family a chance at redemption. His father, Maximillion, had failed in his quest and while that led to his best friend getting a happy story, it left him virtually friendless. Ashamed, Maximillion’s family had disowned him and he’d been left to find his own way in the world. The fairies didn’t leave him with nothing though. They granted him a title of nobility and helped him find a good home. It was in Haldersee he’d met Sheila and soon after they were married. They’d been perfectly happy, and Maximillion began to forgive himself for his failure. But his family wouldn’t forgive and wouldn’t forget.
“Donovan, my boy,” a voice called, breaking through his thoughts.
He turned, trying to look happy as his father jogged towards him. “Son, I’m so sorry I missed the ceremony.”
“It’s all right,” Donovan lied.
“No, it isn’t. I should have been there for you,” Maximillion replied. Worry etched his features and drew his brows together. It made him appear older and somehow vulnerable. That bothered Donovan.
“Dad, Kaelen needed you. It’s all right, I understand.”
Maximillion smiled and put his hand on Donovan’s shoulder. “Your mother would be so proud of you. I’m proud of you, of course, but you should know how proud she would be. She loved you very much and I’m sure she was watching for me, even if not in person.”
A real smile lit Donovan’s face. “Thanks, Dad.”
“I suppose I’ll see you again when you successfully complete your quest. Would it be all right if I heard your quest before I go?”
“Sure.” Donovan unrolled the parchment scroll.
To heights untold, in a forest wild
With a family of those as small as a child,
Your princess awaits, but do not be fooled:
Look not for silks, nor mirrors jeweled,
A disguise to undo, a curse to break,
Before you with a kiss, a happy end can make.
“Well, I see they’re still making things as mysterious as ever,” Maximillion commented. “Good luck to you son. I know you can’t come home in the meantime, but I’ll be thinking of you every day until you return. And,” he paused to regain his composure, “no matter the manner of your return, I am and always will be proud of you. I know you can do this. Whatever help my positive thoughts can give you, I hope you’ll always remember that.”
Donovan hugged his father. “I appreciate that. I’ll be back before you know it.” With a wave, he walked to the stables with his hound, Snippet, at his side. As he walked in the warm smell of hay and horses enveloped him. He’d never considered himself a very good horseman, but between Phillipa’s never-ending patience and help from a few friends, he managed. He stopped by his horse’s stall. “Are you ready, Snow Angel?”
The mare nickered, her dappled coat gleaming.
After tacking her up, Donovan led her to the doors. He paused. Phillipa was brushing down one of her horses. “I guess I’m off.”
She turned with a smile. “Good luck, Donovan. I’m sure you’ll create a splendid tale.”
“You wouldn’t have any helpful hints to share, would you?” he asked, half-teasing.
“Follow your heart. Nine out of ten it’ll lead you right.”
He nodded. “Thanks, for everything. I know I wasn’t your easiest student.”
“And yet you weren’t the hardest either. You’ll be a fine Prince Charming. And no one expects you to become a champion hunter when all is said and done. The best we hope for you is a story worthy of remembrance. Now go on, Kimberly is waiting.”
He waved and led his animals to the road leading away from Charming Academy. Snippet sat patiently as Donovan consulted his map. “Heights untold is more than likely a mountain. Rendorlin has the highest mountains in Sanalbereth. So I suppose that would be the best place for us to start looking.”
Snow Angel whinnied and tossed her head.
Laughing, Donovan stroked her neck before putting the map in his saddle bags. “Yes, I know you’re ready. Well, Snippet, it’s time for an adventure.” He clicked his tongue and with a resolute nod of his head bid farewell to Charming Academy, unaware of the pale yellow eyes watching him.
Jessica L. Elliott
Author, artist, mom and super-genius