Here's the second part of Donovan's tale. Don't forget that tomorrow is the Charming Academy Birthday Masquerade on Facebook. I would love to see all of you there! I'll be there with fun prizes as will several other fantasy authors.
Rendorlin was several days’ journey from Biberseth where Charming Academy was located. Donovan knew those days would be fraught with danger and challenges. At least, that’s what he’d expected. But danger and challenges didn’t come. He stopped one day in a field and let Snow Angel and Snippet play in the tall grass. “Something’s not right,” Donovan murmured as he looked at his map. “It shouldn’t be this easy. Where are the obstacles?” According to his map, he was on-track to reach Rendorlin by the middle of next week. At that point it would be a matter of determining which of the hundreds of mountains Kimberly might be hidden in. Kimberly. He pulled from his pocket a miniature she had given him just before graduation. “It will help you think of me while you’re traveling,” she’d said.
Thinking of her wouldn’t be hard. It might be all he did during the long days in the saddle. He looked once more at the portrait. Dark curls framed a bronzed face with honey-colored eyes twinkling back at him. Her dimpled smile lifted his spirits. He supposed he should be grateful that this leg of his journey was going so easily. It could take years just to travel the mountain ranges in Rendorlin. And that was without obstacles. As he looked in the distance he could see the mountains like jagged teeth jutting toward the sky. He remembered studying this province extensively in orientation classes. The fairies hadn’t used the class to give him hints. All of the boys had studied it with him. Rendorlin was widely accepted to be the wildest province in Sanalbereth. The countryside was fraught with natural barriers and dangerous wildlife. He remembered hearing a boy just younger than him talk about the time his sister had been cornered by a mountain lion. Luckily for her, she’d had a very loyal and brave dog with her who chased the beast away.
Donovan stretched and cleared his thoughts. There would be plenty of time to worry later. For now he needed to go at least another ten miles before calling it a night. Storms were building in the south and he wanted to find shelter before they started. As he started on his way he considered the words of his quest. The unknown heights seemed rather self-explanatory, but the family of those as small as a child puzzled him. There were many races in Sanalbereth that might fit that description. There were dwarves of course, and gnomes. These tended to be friendly, or at least friendly enough. Of the two, dwarves were more refined. They worked often as craftsmen and builders. He’d been told the women made excellent nannies and nursemaids, their hearts being warm and loving. Gardeners and farmers by trade, gnomes were a simpler people. If Kimberly was with a family of dwarves or a family of gnomes, she’d be in safe hands. Even pixies could be worked with, though flighty and forgetful. But if Kimberly was with an imp clan? He shuddered at the thought. Devious tricksters, imps were responsible for more broken fairy tales than even the fire-breathing dragons. Of the two, Donovan would much rather take his chances with a dragon than a clan of imps, and he hadn’t done all that well in his dragon-fighting class. Then again, perhaps a family of pygmy dragons held her captive, in which case he didn’t know at all what he would do. All the fire and strength of a full-grown dragon with a severe case of little man syndrome. And there was never just one of them. Donovan sighed and drove these thoughts from his mind. He couldn’t fail his princess. He wouldn’t fail her.
The road stretched before him, mile after unending mile. He tried to shake the feeling that something wasn’t quite right. While his animals didn’t show any signs of fear, he felt watched. Worse, he sensed something following him. Maybe he’d go fifteen miles rather than ten, just to ease his mind.
As Donovan continued on his way, a tall figure stood shrouded in the darkness of a ruined castle. “When do you think he will reach the mountains?”
“Mere days, my queen,” the yellow-eyed imp replied with a low bow.
“And does he know where his princess awaits?”
“It does not seem so. He did just start his quest, after all.”
“Do not patronize me, Glum,” she snapped. “It is imperative we find the princess before he does. I’ve waited twenty long years for my revenge. I won’t have it spoiled by that boy getting lucky.”
“Of course not, my queen.”
“We’ll see who is fairest when this is over,” she sneered, as though the imp had not answered her.
Jessica L. Elliott
Author, artist, mom and super-genius