Even as the morning sun began to rise, the forest was still thick with darkness. Ella was on my heels as I made my way back to my makeshift camp. I hoped Comet would still be there, as he had quickly become the one creature I could rely on fully.
The stubborn horse was still there as we entered. Unfortunately, the same could not be said for the ghostly form known as Ella’s father. “My Lord?” My eyes darted around the camp. “I have returned with your daughter as requested.”
Ella, for her part, seemed slightly amused. “John, are you sure you did not break me out on your own?”
“I swear to you my lady I didn’t.” She kept her cat-like grin going. “Your father requested me to do this job. If only he’d just show himself…”
Comet pounded his hooves into the ground. The horse seemed anxious about something and Ella went over to soothe him. “There there my friend, everything will be okay.”
I joined the two of them, also stroking his mane. “Nothing here will hurt you, I promise.”
Our words did nothing for him, as he seemed to stay agitated. He pulled away from us and began heading deeper into the uncharted section of the forest. “Comet, where are you going?”
“You talk to your horse like a human?”
This was rich coming from the girl who spoke to mice the same way. “Comet and I have a bound, one formed from surviving in this wretched place.”
“I do not think he is listening to you.”
Sure enough, the horse was trotting off into the dark. I wasn’t about to let him get himself killed, so I ran to catch up. “Get back here you oaf!”
Even when I caught up, he wouldn’t stop going. Resigned to this, I stepped alongside of him, hoping the fool knew what he was doing. Ella’s footsteps caught up to us, as it looked like she would be coming too.
The three of us navigated the thick growth of shrubs, vines, and branches. Comet seemed to have a destination in mind and kept the pace up. Ella and I followed in his wake, as his body and hooves kept the path semi-clear for us. I was beginning to think we were desperately lost when sunshine broke through the canopy.
We entered a small cove in the sea of trees. The warmth from the sun felt amazing on the skin, even if the light blinded me at first. In the center of this little slice of paradise was a pond with crystal clear, cool water. I couldn’t help myself, I plunged my head in, drinking as much of it as I could.
As I brought my head up, I was expecting to be scolded for my inappropriate behavior. However, the proper blonde lady joined me, her head just as ungraciously breaking the surface of the pond as mine.
“I am glad to see the two of you made it.”
That voice, it was my Lord! I couldn’t quite see him in the bright light, but I dropped to one knee. Ella looked around in a state of confusion, trying to pinpoint the sound of the voice. “Father, is that really you?”
A shimmer in the light gave away his location, yet it was still almost impossible to put a shape to him. “Yes my daughter, it is me. I am so glad John was able to free you from that witch.”
Ella ran towards him, but passed right through, falling to the other side. I was still deep in a bow, so she couldn’t see the small smile that had formed. “I did as you commanded sir.”
His voice addressed me. “Did anyone see you while you were in the castle?”
A lie formed in my mind. “No, just a few mice who helped me locate Ella.”
“Good, good. Tremaine by now will know of Ella’s release, but will have no idea where the intruder came from.” He mumbled a few other words, but they were too low to be heard.
Pulling herself up, “Father, how is this possible? How are you still on this earth?”
“The time for that explanation is not today. We have much more important matters to discuss.”
I was eager for my next assignment after the success I just had. “What is our next move my Lord?” As I finished my question, I felt Ella sit down beside me. Relaxing, I took a seat too.
“This will be our new camp, one that hopefully soon will have more soldiers to it.” Again he mumbled something. Returning to us, “First I need you two properly armed.”
“Should I have stolen weapons during my infiltration of the castle my Lord?”
“No John, you did everything perfectly.” His formed appeared closer to us. “To the east is a very dangerous place, The Cliffs of Dover. In the second cave you will pass is a cache of weapons my father hid just in case of troubling times.”
I rubbed my hands together excitedly. “Are we to fetch the weapons?”
Ella wasn’t nearly as excited as me. “You honestly do not want us to face that creature do you?”
Creature? Before I could ask, my Lord gave us our task. “If you wish to take down Tremaine, you must learn to face true danger. Beat back the Gryndel and claim what is yours.”
*Come back next Monday for #6 – The Cliffs of Dover
You can find all my published work at http://www.amazon.com/author/jeremycroston!