Sorry for the delay between posts. I got busy with a few things the past few weeks but hopefully I can get back on track with the series now. At any rate here is the new Quests episode.
Read the series prologue.
Read episode six.
Episode Seven: Of Winged Horses and Hobgoblins
A few days later the elders informed Beritta and Faralasa that they would be helping the animal tenders round-up winged horses. In a state of great excitement, the girls joined the animal tenders in making preparations near a set of stables and corrals at the base of the great hills to the west of the lakes.
Beritta found Oakley among the group and whispered, “Thanks.”
“For what?” he asked.
“Oh, come on!” she smiled. “I know that the elders didn’t think of sending us on this quest on their own. You’ve done us a big favor.”
“It was nothing, really,” he said, looking down in embarrassment.
“Sure it was,” she insisted. “I’ve been nothing but nasty to you and yet you’ve helped me.”
“Well, just be sure you do your part catching a winged horse or two so that I won’t regret this!” said Oakley with a smirk.
Beritta laughed as she turned to rejoin Faralasa.
“Were you just talking to Oakley?” Lasa asked as though she couldn’t believe her own eyes.
“Yes, why?” said Beritta.
“You hardly spoke two words to each other the last time I was with you both.”
“So, I didn’t know you were on friendly terms.”
Beritta shrugged. “Things can change.”
Lasa glanced at Oakley.
“So what happened?” she asked.
“What makes you think something happened?”
Lasa looked back at her with an expression which seemed to say, be serious!
“The only thing that happened is that we decided not to be complete enemies anymore,” Beritta replied.
Lasa stared at her for a minute. She was glad that Oakley and Beritta were finally friends; she only wished they would fill her in on the details.
The group set out in the late morning. After a few hours they came to some cliffs at the base of the Emerald Mountains on which they expected to find the winged horses. A few of the elves in the group were part of an elite rank called Airwalkers. The Airwalkers were even lighter weight than ordinary elves. They guarded the air from any creatures that were a threat there. The Airwalkers went up the cliffs ahead of the others and attached ropes for the rest to climb.
When she heard the call, “Ready!” from the top of the cliff, Beritta moved forward, tied a rope around her middle and climbed. The cliff face was covered in small niches making it easy to climb. Even in smooth places Beritta had little trouble, for she used the rope to pull herself higher. On either side of her Oakley and Faralasa also made the dizzying journey. At the top, they pulled themselves over the edge with a little help from the Airwalkers then untied the ropes from around their waists. As she tossed the rope down for the next elf to use Beritta leaned over to see how far she had climbed. She was surprised how long a drop it was. The climb was so easy it seemed short. The elves at the bottom looked only a few inches tall as if they were wingless pixies.
Once everyone made it to the top, the group separated in order to better search the rocky crags for winged horses. Beritta hugged looming stones and scrambled over boulders for hours, always on the lookout for animal movement. At last a tall thin man climbed past her and found one of the group leaders.
Beritta overheard him announce, “There’s a herd further down the hillside. Come on, I’ll lead you to them.”
The leader waved Beritta and other nearby elves forward and sent an Airwalker to spread the word to the rest of the group. The winged horses grazed in a small grassy bowl protected by tall arms of yellow-grey limestone. The herd contained horses of many colors and markings all with powerful feathered wings folded along their backs. Beritta removed a small bag of equipment from her back and fished through it until she found a rope made of a thin gold wire. Golden rope was the only thing with which anyone could catch a winged horse and make it obey. Forming a loop in the rope and placing a finger on each side of the slipknot and one on top of it to hold it in place, Beritta crept slowly toward the creatures along with the rest of the elves.
When they were near enough, all the elves jumped up at the same time and cast their ropes. Beritta twirled the rope once then released it at the head of a brown horse. The rope fell over the animal’s neck and went taught as he struggled against it. Beritta dug her heels into the ground, and pulled with all her strength to keep him from escaping. Then came the hard part; she had to calm the frightened animal, and jump onto his back, all the while keeping a hand on the golden rope. If she took her hand off the rope she would most likely lose control of the winged horse, which would bolt, and the elves would probably never see him again. Also, she had to jump carefully so that she would land between the wings with her legs resting against the joint where the wings met the shoulder.
Speaking in soothing tones, she moved slowly closer to her winged horse. At first he flatted his ears and shied from her touch, but after a few minutes she came close enough to touch him. Taking a deep breath Beritta grabbed hold of the loop around the horse’s neck, flung the end of the rope over his shoulder and jumped. Controlling herself with the hand on the rope, Beritta managed to land in the perfect spot atop the animal’s back. She glanced at the rest of the group and saw that Oakley was also mounted.
Movement in the corner of her eye caused Beritta turn in time to see Lasa jump, landing on the wing of her horse. The beast panicked, tried to fly away and knocked Faralasa to the ground in the process. Now free of the guiding hand on the gold rope, the horse tried to escape, but didn’t get far. One of the Airwalkers saw it take off and grabbed the rope at its neck as it flew past him.
“Are you okay?” Beritta asked, urging her winged horse over to Faralasa and pulling her friend up behind her.
“I’ll probably get a nasty bruise,” Lasa replied, “but otherwise I’ll be fine.”
At a signal from the group leader the elves urged the winged horses forward, soaring high over the crags of the foothills then gliding above smooth plains which rippled as the wind rushed over the grass. When they reached the city, they descended to log corrals where they dismounted, leaving the horses in the charge of the animal trainers. The trainers led the animals into long huts which served as stables.
One morning shortly after the round-up Oakley announced to the girls that he was finally going to be a trainer.
“They need more people to train the new winged horses,” he explained. “I’m going to help the older trainers until I get the hang of it. Still, it shouldn’t be long before I’ll be training on my own.”
“That’s great!” said Lasa.
“Yeah, congratulations!” said Beritta.
She wished the elders would give her a job that suited her as well as Oakley’s new job suited him. Her restlessness had returned. Later that day she found Lasa and said to her, “I’m bored. Let’s find something fun to do. I was thinking we could…”
Lasa cut her off.
“I don’t want to play pranks anymore,” she said. “They get us in trouble. You heard the elders, if they catch us making trouble again they won’t send us on quests.”
“Well, all right,” said Beritta. “We can find something else to do.”
“Like what?” asked Lasa. “Do you really have any new ideas? All your most recent ones have gotten us into trouble.”
Beritta stared at her, stunned.
“When you have a good idea that won’t get us in trouble let me know. I’ll join you if it seems all right,” said Lasa.
As she walked away, Beritta muttered, “Fine, I’ll go by myself.”
She headed to the stables and slipped inside. Oakley had been working in a nearby corral and saw her enter. He followed her.
“Hello, Beritta,” he said. “What are you doing?”
“Oh, I thought I would go for a ride on one of the winged horses before my father makes me return to the meetings,” she said as she took one of the golden ropes down from its peg.
She walked farther into the barn and opened the door to the stall of a dapple grey winged horse. As she slipped the rope around his neck Oakley said, “Don’t take him. That’s Cloud; he’s so wild even the master trainer can’t control him!”
“I want to ride him,” said Beritta stubbornly.
“Well then wait until he’s trained and take one of the others for now.”
“I’m a good rider, it will be fine.”
She led Cloud toward the doors of the barn. Oakley followed still protesting.
“Beritta, I’ve seen you ride. I don’t doubt you’re skill. It’s just that wild animals can be unpredictable.”
Once they were outside the stables Beritta turned to face Oakley.
“You worry too much,” she said smiling. “I’ll be fine.”
Then she swung herself onto Cloud’s back and gave him a command to make him fly. Oakley stood watching as the winged horse and his rider became a tiny speck in the distance.
“You did the best you could,” said a voice behind him.
Oakley turned to see the master trainer standing behind him.
“You saw that?” he asked.
The old elf nodded.
“You tried to reason with her,” said the trainer. “It’s out of your hands now. Sometimes an elf has to make a few wrong decisions before she discovers the right way to do things.”
Oakley sighed. “I wish Beritta would start doing things right.”
“She will,” said the master trainer. “Just give her a little time. Now I have to report to the king his daughter’s foolishness.”
At first the flight was smooth and the going easy. As time went on, however,
Cloud became restless and stopped listening to Beritta’s commands. She continued to give them, which only aggravated Cloud more. He bucked in an attempt to throw her. When Beritta managed to stay on his back, Cloud made a dive toward the ground. He pulled up at the last minute, causing Beritta to lose her balance and slide off his back. Though she was not very far above the earth, the force of the fall knocked the wind out of her. She lay there watching as Cloud flew away in triumph. A voice called her attention to her surroundings.
“That looks like fun, can I try it?”
Beritta sat up and turned to face the speaker. He was a short green skinned man with beady black eyes and bright orange hair. He was grinning at her in a friendly manner, making his sharp fangs look out of place. Beritta knew at once that he was a hobgoblin, a creature similar to a regular goblin, only less cruel. Also, hobgoblins sometimes came out in daylight, whereas regular goblins did not because sunlight hurt their eyes.
“Who are you?” Beritta asked.
“I’m Glibbin,” said the hobgoblin.
“Well, it was nice to meet you Glibbin. My name’s Beritta and right now I’m kind of lost. Do you know the way to the lake city of the elves?”
Glibbin scratched his head. “I think I should know where that is,” he said.
“Then can you give me directions on how to get there from here? It’s really important that I get back.”
“Maybe you should try retracing your steps,” Glibbin suggested.
“I fell out of the sky, remember?”
“Oh yeah. Well maybe if you jump back into the sky you can get to where you need to go.”
He did not seem to be a very bright hobgoblin. Beritta hoped he really did know the way to the lake city and had just enough sense to tell her how to get there.
“Why don’t you just give me directions,” she said.
“Okay, let me think about this,” Glibbin replied scratching his head again. Finally he looked up at her and said, “Walk straight until you come to the tree. Then go right until you come to the hidden pit the goblins dug. Go left/then/right/then/right/again, then/left/and/left/and/left/and/left/again. One more right and I think you’ll be there by then.”
“How can anyone follow those directions?” asked Beritta in frustration. “I’m supposed to turn at tree. What tree? There are a lot of trees around here. And how am I supposed to find a pit if it’s hidden? Besides, I might fall in before I know it’s there. You listed the turns far too fast for me to understand. How many times am I supposed to turn left? I’ve never heard a set of more confusing directions in my life! If you don’t know how to get to the lake city is you could just say so.”
“I do know how to get there,” Glibbin argued. “You go straight until you come to the tree…”
“Thanks for your help,” said Beritta, interrupting him, “but I think I’ll find my own way to the city.”
“My way is quicker!” cried Glibbin. “I can prove it!”
“I don’t need you to prove anything,” said Beritta who was losing patience fast.
“How about we race?” Glibbin suggested. “You go your way, I go mine and we see who gets there first.”
“I don’t want to race…” Beritta began but Glibbin wasn’t listening.
“Ready, set, GO!” he yelled and dashed away.
“Good riddance!” Beritta murmured.
She set off in the direction she hoped would lead her toward the city. As she got her bearings she realized she was on the plains just south of the city where she had greeted the last ambassador. After wandering for hours Beritta found some landmarks she recognized and stumbled onto the path which led to the capital. When she reached the southern gap and the path leading to the lakes, Beritta found that something had caused a disturbance there. As she came closer Beritta saw several guards and her father talking.
“Where have you been?” her father demanded.
“I…” Beritta began but he interrupted her.
“The master trainer says you took one of the wild winged horses out for a joy ride. How did that go?”
“He, ...um,… got a little out of control,” Beritta mumbled.
“You lost a winged horse, didn’t you?” cried the king. “I cannot believe you could be so irresponsible!”
“I’m sorry,” said Beritta. “It won’t happen again.”
After her father had forbidden her to ride winged horses until further notice he added, “Now perhaps you can explain why a hobgoblin, who seems to lack any kind of intelligence, was found jumping up and down on the path shouting, ‘I win, I beat Beritta’.”
Beritta’s jaw dropped open. She turned to see Glibbin standing with the guards.
When he saw her he shouted, “I win, Beritta! I told you my way was faster.”
“Glibbin, I didn’t expect to see you again so soon,” said Beritta.
“You forgot we were racing, didn’t you?” Glibbin asked. “I forget things all the time.”
The king and guards looked at Beritta expectantly so she told them how she had met Glibbin. There was a brief silence after she finished speaking.
Finally her father said, “Well, since you two seem to be such good friends perhaps you would like to show Glibbin around the capital, Beritta.”
Before Beritta could say anything Glibbin gave a joyful yell and grabbed her hand, dragging her down the path toward the lake.
“Are you mad?” asked one of the guards. “How can you let that brainless hobgoblin into the city, especially with her?”
“I think it will do them both good,” replied the king. “He needs a friend and she needs to be responsible for someone.”
After Glibbin had frightened a group of small children, nearly knocked over a woman carrying a basket of nuts and fallen off a rope ladder to a tree house, Beritta introduced him to Faralasa who then helped her keep track of him.
“So your father wanted you to show him around?” Lasa asked. “Do you know why?”
“Not really,” Beritta admitted.
“I think it must be his way of punishing you for losing Cloud,” Lasa stated.
“Maybe,” agreed Beritta.
Just then Glibbin cried, “Look it’s another hobgoblin!”
He was looking at his own reflection in the southern lake. Glibbin waved.
“Look, he’s waving at me!”
He leaned closer to the water to get a better look and slipped.
“Help, help I’m drowning!” Glibbin yelled.
Beritta and Lasa ran to the edge of the water only to discover that nothing larger than a beetle could drown there.
“Glibbin, stand up. You’re not drowning,” said Beritta.
She pulled him to his feet.
“Oh yeah,” said Faralasa. “Your father must be punishing you!”
Beritta eventually had to rejoin the meeting of High Elves so she asked Faralasa to keep an eye on Glibbin. It was not an easy task. Lasa spent most of the day running around the capital trying to keep the hobgoblin out of trouble.
The next morning Beritta was late for the meeting because she couldn’t find Glibbin. Lasa joined her in searching the city for him.
“Maybe he decided to leave,” suggested Lasa in a hopeful voice.
“Maybe,” said Beritta, “but we should make sure he’s not making trouble somewhere before we assume that.”
A few minutes later they found him in the branches of one of the pine trees.
“What are you doing up there?” Beritta demanded.
“I’m stuck!” wailed Glibbin. “I can’t get down.”
“You can if you try!” Beritta replied.
Faralasa rolled her eyes.
“You get to the meeting before your father gets angry,” she said, “I’ll take care of Glibbin.”
She swung herself into the branches of the tree and reached out to help the hobgoblin.
“Thanks Lasa, I owe you for this,” said Beritta.
“You bet you do!”
Beritta hurried to the place where the High Elves were gathered. When she arrived, her father said, “It’s about time you joined us.”
Beritta was about to explain when she noticed a small brown haired fairy with purple butterfly wings sitting among the elves. The fairy gazed up at her with curiosity in her tiny brown eyes.
“Beritta, this is Lilac,” said the king. “She is a messenger from Fairy Wood. There has been some trouble in the fairy kingdom lately. Lilac has been sent to ask for our help. It seems we may be sending you an important quest to Fairy Wood. Sit down while Lilac explains.”
Continue to episode eight.