Sorry for the lack of post in March, I got busy planning an Easter trip which was awesome in case you were wondering. I will be posting this episode for April as well as the next in May. In June I will be having a baby and plan to see how I'm feeling and how much editing I can really get done with a newborn before deciding whether to proceed with the story or take a little time off. At any rate I may not post a new episode in June. In the meantime please enjoy the next two episodes.
Read the series prologue here.
Read episode seventeen here.
Episode Eighteen: Disastrous News
Beritta, Oakley and Mist reached the elvin capital by sunset, just before the midsummer festival began. They entered the city from the south, skirting the edge of the Sapphire Lake, where the colors of the west were reflected in dark blue water. A small bat flew over their heads, moving across the lake to begin hunting for the night. Lights winked at the trio from among the trees and soft voices drifted on the cool breeze.
Beritta and Oakley changed into party clothes. Beritta wore a dress of silver and white while Oakley wore a shirt of purple silk, embroidered with gold. Once they were thus attired, they joined the celebrations taking place in the meadows between the Sapphire Lake and the Emerald Lake. Pale lanterns were strung from tree to tree, and here and there tables had been laden with the finest delicacies. Musicians played haunting melodies and everywhere elves wandered, laughing, talking and dancing.
“I’m going to find the elders,” Beritta told Oakley over the noise. “The sooner I talk to them the sooner we can get back to Fairy Wood and start our attack.”
“What do you want me to do?” Oakley asked.
“Just enjoy yourself while you have the chance!”
Beritta moved off and Oakley joined the party. He tried to enjoy the festival as Beritta had directed, but he had always liked the quiet peace of the woodlands and the company of animals over that of people. Before long, he was overwhelmed by the celebration and moved onto the nearby hillside for a few minutes of quiet.
On the hills sound seemed strangely muted after the noise of the party. There were only the sounds of the wind blowing through the trees and small animals moving in the undergrowth. A slight cloud cover moved in, partially obscuring the moon and making even its pale glow seem faint. Oakley sat on a rock, drinking it in. He felt a strange anticipation, as though the world were waiting for something to happen. He couldn’t shake the thought that he too was waiting, though he couldn’t say whether what he was waiting for was good or bad.
Oakley stood, trying to shake this strange feeling. He was about to head back to the meadows when out of the corner of his eye he saw something fly toward him from his right. It landed on the rock where he had been sitting. He turned to see a scaly-skinned sprite girl panting as though she had flown very far very fast.
“Lilly?” Oakley called as he recognizing her. “What are you doing here? Did something happen?”
Lilly let out a cold laugh.
“Yes something happened,” she replied once she caught her breath. “Several members of our group were captured by goblin and troll soldiers. Wispen found the army, but then a troll caught him. Lilac, Reuben and I tried to free him but…” she sobbed. Oakley waited until she calmed down enough to continue. “Lasa tried to help, but they got her too. They said something about taking us to an underground city. I managed to escape and flew here as fast as I could to find help.”
“Did they say what would happen to you once you were inside the city?” asked Oakley kneeling so that he could look into Lilly’s eyes.
“No,” Lilly replied meeting his eyes with a helpless expression. “The only thing I heard was that a troll wanted to keep Lilac as a pet.”
Oakley wrinkled his brow in confusion. “That’s weird. They didn’t say anything about the others?”
Lilly shook her head.
Oakley stood and ran a hand over his face. He didn’t want to say so, but it didn’t seem likely that the goblins and trolls would keep their prisoners alive very long. He paced, thinking about this. If the goblins and trolls wanted to kill the fairies and Lasa they surely could have done it, so why hadn’t they? What point was there in taking them to the city? Unless they had learned that the princess of Wilderlah was leading the group and had discovered the location of that city. Maybe they took the fairies and Lasa so that Beritta would come to rescue them. She would too, it was her responsibility. The thought filled him with dread. He stopped pacing, thinking fast. He turned back to Lilly who was watching him in silence.
“Fly through the meadows and find the elders,” Oakley told her. “Beritta should be with them. They’ll know what to do.”
Lilly took a deep breath to calm herself and flew off again. Oakley watched her for a minute before turning and running down the hill in a different direction. He knew what he had to do but that didn’t make it easy. The elders must learn about this new development. Still, they would most likely send Beritta to the rescue and if she entered the underground city she would fall into the trap. In order to save his friends, Oakley would have to be fast. He had to get the prisoners out of the enemy city before Beritta reached it. That didn’t give him much time. Beritta would set out for the city as soon as she learned what had happened. There was only one way Oakley could get to the mountains in time to stop this disaster from getting worse. He flung open the door to the stables where the winged horses were housed and walked to the stall of an animal he had recently trained.
“Come on, boy,” he coaxed. “We’ve got a job to do.”
The brown and white paint snorted, but obediently followed the elf out of the barn. Oakley mounted and took off, flying over the festivities in the capital, toward the mountains and almost certain doom.
It was hard for Beritta not to let her anger show. Not only had the elders denied her request to send warriors to attack the underground city, but they had also accused her of recklessness in splitting up the group and then journeying to the capital.
“You must return to Fairy Wood with all haste and rendezvous with your scouting party,” one of the elders lectured. “The sole job of your advance team is to find the location of that Dark army. It is not your place, nor would it benefit our mission to protect the forest to mount an offensive against the Dark city now.”
Beritta opened her mouth to protest but the elder waved his hand dismissively.
“I will not hear another word on this matter. Rest in the city tonight and calm yourself. At dawn you must begin your return journey to Fairy Wood.”
Beritta balled her hands into fists.
A strong gust of wind pushed against her back, setting the dangling lanterns dancing and whipping locks of her hair around her face. The wind carried a mournful, pleading cry to her ears.
“Princess Beritta, are you here?”
Beritta turned along with the elders to see Lilly the sprite hovering in the dim lantern light.
“Lilly!” Beritta cried. “What are you doing here?”
The sprite flew toward the princess and poured out her terrible news while the elders moved closer to hear over the breeze.
When Lilly finished, one of the elders said, “There is only one thing to be done. Princess Beritta must mount a rescue at once.”
“She cannot go alone and she is still in party clothes,” said another elder trying to sound calm. “Beritta, change quickly. We will gather a few warriors to accompany you.”
“Yes, of course,” said Beritta attempting to clear her racing thoughts. “Find Oakley!” she added as she spend toward the royal hut.
It took her only a few minutes to change and grab her weapons. As she dashed back to the meadows she mentally called, “Mist, our friends are in trouble. I have to rescue them. Will you come with me?”
In her mind she heard the unicorn reply, “Of course I’m coming with you!”
“Then I’ll meet you in the meadows,” Beritta concluded.
Mist reached the elders before Beritta did. As the princess skidded to a stop, the group turned to her, concern on their faces.
“Have you gathered the warriors?” asked Beritta.
“They are on their on their way,” the elders assured her. “Princess Beritta, no one can find Oakley. The sprite says she spoke to him before she came to us. No one seems to have seen him since.”
“Light help us! I hope he’s not doing something stupid,” said Beritta in alarm.
Just then the warriors arrived and Beritta’s attention was taken by organizing them. She had just finished giving her orders and was mounting Mist when a stable hand approached her.
“Excuse me, Princess Beritta, but I heard you were looking for Oakley,” he said.
“Yes, have you seen him?” Beritta asked.
“He came to the stables not long ago. I saw him take off on a winged horse. I thought it was strange that he was riding at this time of night. What was even stranger was that he was still in his party clothes. Then I heard you were looking for him so I thought I should tell you.”
Beritta felt her heart speed up a few paces. Oh Oakley, what are you doing? She thought. Out loud she thanked the stable hand and called to the warriors, “Come on, we don’t have time to waste!”
She urged Mist forward at a run, not even checking to be sure the others followed.
Continue to episode nineteen.