Sorry for my long unexplained absence. I have been busy with some real-life adventures which took me away from my writing. Shortly after having my second baby, my husband and I chose to move across the country to be closer to his family and begin learning the skills for what you might call "backyard homesteading". As interesting as all of that is, I will not be telling those stories here as this blog is dedicated to fantasy stories. The way these lifestyle changes will effect this blog and my writing in general is that I plan to spend much of the year gardening and will probably make writing more of winter project in the future. For now I will wrap up the Quests series in a couple more posts. I'm hoping for another episode at the end of April and the final episode some time in May. After that I will take a break from writing and blogging until the late fall or winter.
Now without further ado, on to Quests!
Read the series prologue here.
Read episode twenty here.
Episode Twenty-one: Dark Wings
Tap, tap, tap! The knocker’s noises led into a wide cave then died away. Oakley slipped inside and whispered, “Lilac, are you alone?”
“Oakley!” Lilac cried. “I heard you were here. The goblin said the guards were going to kill you and then he and the troll went to look for intruders…”
“Shh!” Oakley warned. “I’m all right. We made it passed the guards. Lasa and the others are waiting for us on the mountain.”
He moved closer to the cage and inspected it.
“You’re hurt!” Lilac exclaimed pointing to the scratch on Oakley’s neck.
“It’s nothing,” he said touching it briefly with his left hand. Then he asked, “Where’s the key to this cage?”
“The troll took it with her when she left.”
Oakley tugged at one of the bars with a finger then bent to look at it closer. He looked back at Lilac and spoke slowly, “I might be able to break the gate open, but it’s a bit risky. I’m not sure I can do it without hurting you.”
“I want to get out of here. Now tell me what I need to do.”
“Okay,” said Oakley. “Go to the far side of the cage and hold on as tight as you can.”
Lilac obeyed. Oakley lifted the sword he had taken from the goblin guard and slammed it against the lock. Lilac held on even tighter. Oakley alternated between trying to snap the lock and pry the on gate itself, until he got the cage open.
“Hurry, they might have heard that,” he said as he pulled away the last piece of the ruined door. Lilac shot out of the cage. The two friends hurried out the entrance which led to the outdoors. The fresh mountain air filled their lungs. They breathed in deeply. It was easy to find the path even in the dim moonlight. They hurried along it, stopping when they came to the place where Oakley had left his winged horse.
“Lilac, fly a little higher,” said Oakley. “See if you can spot Lasa and the others but don’t let any enemies see you. I have to find my winged horse then we’ll leave.”
“All right,” said Lilac and flew into the air.
As soon as she was gone Oakley turned and softly called the horse's name. There was no response. The animal must have wandered. Oakley called again more urgently but still there was no sign of the winged horse. Slowly the elf moved onto the rocks near the path, continuing to look for his mount and watching for enemies. He became more worried with every passing minute.
The wind seemed to turn colder as it brushed against his cheek. The sky darkened momentarily. Oakley glanced up and gasped in surprise when he saw huge bat wings blocking the moon. A new fear filled him as his mind registered what it was seeing. The strellogroth dove at him just as he started to run. His foot bumped a jagged place on the rock and he fell. The strellogroth flew toward him, claws extended. Oakley twisted and slashed upward with the sword. He sliced open one of the creature’s claws. The strellogroth let out a high pitched cry which made Oakley’s ears ring. The monster wrenched the sword out of the elf’s hands before he could react.
While the strellogroth was distracted by the sword, Oakley crawled away from its scrabbling claws. He stood, and was about to run again when he heard the sound of something whistling through the air. He ducked as the sword flew over his head and clattered over the rocky edge of the mountain. Another high pitched screech told him the strellogroth was still chasing him. He noticed a small depression in a boulder in front of him. He dropped and rolled into it.
The monster dropped a few feet to be in a better attack position, but Oakley was ready for it. He gathered up bits of loose rock and hurled them at the creature’s face yelling, “Get back you big bat!”
He was too frightened to care who else heard him. With a few mighty beats of its wings the strellogroth flew higher to avoid the stones Oakley was throwing. Oakley waited a few minutes, listening for the beast's return but he heard nothing. Slowly and cautiously, he came out of his hiding place. When nothing happened, he picked his way across the rocks.
He was halfway to the path when he heard the noise of wind rushing under giant wings. He froze in fear, but the sound continued to grow. He dropped to all fours slamming his hands against the hard stone. Huge bat-like wings passed inches above his head before the monster returned to the air. It was clearly toying with him. Oakley pushed himself into a kneeling position.
“Stop!” he screamed at the top of his lungs. “Leave me alone!”
Out of the corner of his eye Oakley saw the strellogroth turn to circle back toward him. Something about the way the creature moved made it clear that it had become serious. It was coming in for the kill. Oakley scrambled to his feet as panic made his heart beat faster. The strellogroth slammed into his back, knocking him to the ground. He screamed as wave of pain shot through him. As the monster attempted to wrap its claws around him, Oakley reached out blindly, grasping for something to keep him sane. His hand closed around a jagged rock and his mind snapped back into focus. He twisted and stabbed the rock into its leg. The creature gave a sharp noise that was almost a scream and pulled back to dislodge the makeshift weapon. The strellogroth charged him and slashed his chest with its claws, leaving a set of deep scratches. Before he could even attempt to retaliate, the beast pushed him backwards and pinned him to the ground. The monster’s great wings seemed to block out all light. It opened her mouth showing large fangs. Oakley realized he was hyperventilating. This was it, the strellogroth would kill him now. He hoped that his quest had been successful and the others had escaped. He shut his eyes and prayed it would end quickly.
Thwack! This new sound rang through the darkness and was followed by a sharp voice.
“Let him go, bat-brain!”
Lasa, it was Faralasa’s voice! There was another thwack, and the strellogroth shrieked. Oakley opened his eyes to see Lasa hovering near the great bat’s head. She brought down her stolen goblin sword once more on the monster’s already bleeding ear. The strellogroth forgot Oakley. It took to the air to battle Faralasa. Oakley dragged himself away from the fight.
“Over here!” someone hissed.
Oakley turned to see the fairies crouching on the rocky slope above him. Removing the tattered remains of his party shirt, he used it to bind his bloody chest. He then pulled himself into a hiding place beside the fairies, grunting as the effort caused pain to spread from the wounds.
“You made it,” he whispered turning to Lilac. “I was afraid it might have got you.”
“I found Lasa and the others before it came,” Lilac replied. “We heard you scream came back to help.”
Oakley nodded and turned to watch as strellogroth and airwalker circled each other. Faralasa somersaulted to avoid the monster’s snapping jaws, then sliced off the strellogroth’s bleeding left ear. The strellogroth screeched and flapped its wings wildly in front of it.
Lilac flew a little higher then suddenly shouted, “Lasa, there’s a group of elvin warriors below us.”
“Is Beritta with them?” asked Faralasa while still slashing at the strellogroth.
“I can’t… wait yes! She's at their head riding Mist!”
Oakley turned in time to see a number of goblin and troll warriors pour out the front gate of the underground city.
“Beritta, look out!” he shouted.
He jumped to his feet, intending to launched himself into the path between the elvin princess and the enemy warriors, but a wave of pain and dizziness washed over him, forcing him to his knees.
Continue to episode twenty-two.