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.
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.
Can you believe Charming Academy first came out 5 years ago? It's hard to believe that much time has passed. Now the series is completed and you've been able to learn the stories of all your favorite characters. Okay, maybe most of your favorite characters. We've laughed together. We've cried together. Some of you have thrown books across the room in fits of anger. Some of you have written me beautiful notes about how Charming Academy has touched your life. In some way or other, if you're reading this right now Charming Academy has probably made some kind of impact and as an author, that makes me positively giddy with excitement.
So, it's time to celebrate. I've got a lot of really fun activities planned. One has already started. If you've been following my Facebook page, you have hopefully seen the daily trivia game. If you haven't been, what are you waiting for? But here's a list of all the wonderful things going on this month:
Charming Academy Daily Trivia
Each day on my Facebook I will post a trivia question. Some will be really easy (like, Where is Lucian from?) and others will be far more challenging. All of the answers can be found in Charming Academy, which is free on Smashwords, Kindle, and other eBook distributors. I will be keeping track of how many questions you answer and how many you get right. Each question you get right will give you a point. The person with the most points will win. If we have multiple people tied, I will draw a random winner for the Charming Academy Fan Pack. Each of the others will receive a free eBook of their choice. On September 1st, I will announce the winner. What is in the fan pack? There will be a special, signed copy of Charming Academy with illustrations/doodles. (This is as close to the original notebook I started Charming Academy in as you're likely to get.) There will also be a Charming Academy mug, hand-painted horse with fairy tale themes, bookmarks and a letter from me.
Fan Art Contest
I love being creative and I know several of you do as well. I will be having a fan art contest starting right now until the day of the party (more details coming). That still gives you a few weeks to get something together. Now, I like to be creative in the visual arts, but not everyone is so here are the "arts" you can submit:
The rules are pretty simple. Your art has to be in some way inspired by one of the Charming Academy books. It doesn't have to be the first book, but must be one of the books in the series. This also does not have to be a piece that you created after the contest started. Do you have something you drew last year? Go ahead and submit it! I would love to see your art. Remember that there are young people who visit my website and read my books, so keep your entries clean. Entries with profanity, nudity, hateful/racist, or otherwise inappropriate content will be disqualified and will not be featured on the website or my Facebook page. Submissions will be judged based on creativity, quality and resemblance to the series. Winner will receive a print copy of Charming Academy.
Last year I did this and it went fairly well, although there was some confusion with going back and forth between the website and Facebook. So this year I've made it much easier. Go to the Facebook party and nominate your school in the poll. Then share it with all your friends and family and ask them to vote. You may nominate any public, private, or charter school. Home-school co-ops are also welcome to participate. You can also vote for more than one school. The school with the most votes will win a print copy of Charming Academy as well as a day of author visits via Skype or Google Hangout. I had a great time visiting with Snow Springs Elementary last year and look forward to seeing who will win this year! Voting will close on August 18th with the Facebook party. If you nominate your school, please be sure to contact them and let them know about their nomination so they can participate.
Charming Academy Birthday Masquerade
This will be the party of the month. I have some authors joining me to celebrate five years of Charming Academy. This will be where I announce the winners of the School Contest and the Fan Art Contest. There will be games, prizes, and lots of fun. So be sure to join the party and invite your friends. Just to encourage some invites, I'm going to do a random drawing for a $10 Amazon giftcard. Let me know how many people you invite and for every 10 people you invite, I will give you an entry in the giveaway.
If you've been with me since the very first edition of Charming Academy, then you might remember Donovan. He was one of my favorite characters, but I had to make the painful decision to cut him from the novel. A couple of you have asked if he would ever come back. I can now tell you that yes, Donovan will be coming to my blog every Friday throughout the month of August to tell his tale. I know you're all excited for The Sheriff and Mrs. Jannsen to begin, but I thought for this month you might like to hear Donovan's story. I will also be conducting character interviews every Tuesday and Thursday (except today since I have this post). So be watching and ready to ask questions for your favorite characters. Have a character you're dying to hear from? Be sure to comment below and we'll see if he/she can visit for a day.
I hope you're looking forward to a month of fun. It's crazy to think that it's been five years already. I've certainly learned a lot in that time and gained many new readers. I love your comments on my blogs and Facebook. Your emails and notes mean so much to me. Let's have an awesome August and enjoy some happy endings and great beginnings!
Jessica L. Elliott
Author, artist, mom and super-genius