This started as a short story continuation of another short story which was then followed by another with several more planned out. So I think that this now falls under the novel chapter category. As one final note I really enjoy writing these characters even if they are silly. I think every writer should have something that he/she can write without having to worry about it being considered "great" or not. I think that it takes some of the stress out of writing and puts more of the fun back in.
Heart of the Forest
Dusty Welch and Tindra Embers walked down the same overgrown forest path they had met on. Dusty was once again leading Stallywag, the horse as always making such an easy task as difficult as ever. He paid his trusty mount no more attention than he did the failing light. Tindra was telling him about magic. He smiled as she talked. The young knight had never really had a friend before and his mind was overflowing with the possibilities. Finally he had someone to share his adventures with. Oh, and what adventures they would be! After they had escaped from the dark forest they could travel from town to town, fighting monsters and saving princesses from dragons or-
“Owww! What was that for?” Dusty said, rubbing his shoulder vigorously.
“You weren’t paying attention to what I was saying. You were daydreaming again.” Tindra said in a hurt voice.
That’s ridiculous, Dusty thought, of course I was paying attention. She was telling me about magic and good sorcerers and bad witches, when I started to think about how much fun this adventure was going to be… his eyes went wide as he realized what he had done. He hunched his shoulders as a sheepish look crossed his face. “I’m sorry Tindra. It’s just that I’m so excited. I’m finally going to be on an adventure worthy of a great knight like myself.”
She shook her head with a resigned sigh, managing only partially to keep the smile hidden from her face. “Well I guess I could forgive you just this once if you promise-“
“You said something about an evil witch, I remember that part.” Dusty interrupted in his excitement. “That sounds like the start of a grand adventure.”
Her expression slid into a scowl at her companions words. The look she gave him was so fierce it made Dusty miss a step. He would have stumbled to the ground had he not been holding Stallywag’s reins. “If you had been listening you would know that the witch turned all the good sorcerers and sorceresses into evil witches and warlocks.” She closed her eyes for a moment, taking a deep breath. When she spoke her voice was quiet. “They did terrible things to the people. So terrible that the few of us that survived the witch’s wrath were chased out of the towns and cities. They hunted us into the night, never giving us a moments rest. Those that they caught… I’d rather not talk about.”
All the while she had been talking Dusty’s eyes had gleamed with the thrill of adventure. “All the more reason for us to travel to find this witch and get her to undo her spell.” His voice took on a deeper, more solemn tone. “As a knight I am obligated to defend all the good people of this world.” His face turned skeptical for a moment. “I thought I already told you that when we first met. Hey, I think it was you who wasn’t paying attention!”
Tindra rolled her eyes. “Yes I was paying attention, and no, that is not reason enough to go chasing after this witch. She would turn us into… into rats or frogs or something before we even get close. We would be lucky to just hop away from that encounter.”
“But you’re a sorceress! You said it yourself. You could turn her into a frog or… or… something before she can cast a spell on us.”
The young sorceress sadly shook her head. “My training was never completed. The sorcerer who was training me was captured and thrown into prison.” Her head lowered a fraction in despair. Dusty thought he saw a tear roll off her face “we were the last two. Now there’s only me.”
Dusty’s mouth leaped ahead of him. “Then we’ll rescue him! He’ll complete your training and then we can stop this evil witch.”
“I don’t think it’s that simple.”
“Sure it is. Haven’t you read how these sorts of adventures go?”
“Dusty this isn’t one of your adventures in a book. We cannot just gallop off into the sunset with nothing but promises of glory to guard our backs.”
Dusty laughed heartily as he jumped into the Stallywag’s saddle. “ The glory is in front of us, Tindra, and we won’t have the sun on our faces in this forest.”
Tindra jumped away, startled by his outburst. “What are you doing?”
The knight danced his fine steed in circles around her, the horses trotting hoofs sending up sprays of dirt. “I’m going to rescue your instructor!” he said, pulling his sword from its scabbard, flourishing it over his head. “Now I’m off to-“ he stopped suddenly, his fervor draining out of his body. He turned back to Tindra. “Where did you say this town was?”
The young sorceress laughed. “How did you ever manage to find your way into the forest?”
Dusty looked confused, pointing down the path he began, “I just followed the trail until-“
Tindra cut him off as she leapt into the saddle behind him. she pointed past his head down the path. “He was taken in the town of Honniluk at the edge of the forest. That way.”
Dusty turned his head so he could see her from the corner of his eye. She could see the wide smile that had split his face. “Hold on my lady! Next stop, Honniluk.” He dug his heels into Stallywag’s flanks. The stallion shot forward, galloping down the path.
Before they had made it a hundred feet they were launched into the air, a net of vines erupting from the ground to send the two spinning above the forest path. Dusty yelled out, trying to draw his sword only to find that his arms were caught by the constricting tendrils. Tindra, calmer, at least on the outside, tried to form the fire magic she had used earlier, but the magic was pushed out of her mind by the growing fear of being captured.
Losing hope that they would not be able to extract themselves from the trap, Dusty let his head droop down until he was staring at the slowly spinning ground. “Some adventure this is turning out to be...” He panted quietly.
It was in that moment despair when the voice from his past floated into his thoughts. My son, on your journey’s you will face many perils. Some will require great and noble acts, worthy of valorous song. In others, however, you will have to rely on the knights greatest tool: his mind. Remember, my son, that the blade of the sword is the knights last resort when all else has failed him but sometimes the mind is sharper still. Remember, my son…”
Dusty’s mind cleared as he heard those words. He heard Tindra calling his name.
“Dusty, DUSTY, are you listening?” Her almost panicked voice pleaded.
The knight managed to bring his arm up, gripping her hand; hers gripped back twice as hard. “No need to fear, Tindra. We will just have to use our heads to get out of this mess.”
The young knight shushed her with a squeeze of his hand. “Now I can’t reach my sword so we can’t cut ourselves free”
“There must be another way, I know there is.”
“Oh, yes, I remember. Tindra, can you make some fire to burn through these vines?” Dusty said, catching her eyes as he craned his neck.
Now that she had his attention she grasped his hand even harder, if that was possible, pulling him closer so that he could see along the path. “Dusty, we’re not alone.”
He smiled at her as he gazed up the trail. “Of course we’re not alone, Stallywag is here with us. Now, about that fire-“ Dusty’s sentence cut off when he realized Tindra was indeed not talking about Stallywag.
A little farther up the road stood a small, delicate looking creature. Its golden skin gleamed in the scant rays of sunshine that wound their way down the thick forest canopy. Interesting enough was the fact that this creature seemed to be wearing cloths made out of forest green leaves. Slightly more interesting were the wings that arced gracefully over his head. Dusty gave a start that clicked his mouth shut when the creature hopped into the air. Its wings came to life, propelling the creature towards the entangled threesome.
Wings thrumming, it stopped just before Dusty’s face. It was no bigger than his forearm. Its inquisitive eyes peered intently at the knight. Dusty, not knowing what else to do, put on his bravest smile. “Hello there. My name is Dusty Welch, a knight on a very important adventure and-“
He was cut off when the creature threw out a hand to stop him. It spoke in a high, melodious voice the words that Dusty would dislike hearing for the rest of his life. “What’s a knight?”
Before Dusty could respond Tindra burst out laughing, her mirth making the vine sway. Dusty turned indignantly towards her to glare but addressed the strange creature politely. “Well, a knight is someone who goes on adventures to-“
He was cut off again when the creature fluidly spun in mid-air, flying upside-down at Tindra. “Are you a knight to?”
Her laughter faded when the creature turned its attention to her. The smile stayed on her face. “No, I’m a sorceress. My name is Tindra Embers. We were traveling through this forest on our way to Honniluk when we fell into this trap.”
The creature peered into her eyes for a few long moments, as if weighing what she said held any truth.
Dusty, who was upset about being capture and interrupted twice, wasn’t about to let that silence continue. “Listen here little fairy, we are on a very important quest to-“
For a third time he was interrupted by the creature whipping around to face him. “My name is Crix and I am not a fairy. “ He set his hands on his hips. “I am a forest pixie, you are my prisoners.” He snapped his fingers sending them all to the ground, tied together with a vine. Crix held them like a dog on a leash.
Crix lead his captives off the path, taking them into the dense forest undergrowth. They walked for what seemed like hours, at least that’s what it seemed like in Dusty’s opinion. Constantly required to push branches out of his face, never sure of his footing on the root strewn ground. His mood sank as his irritation mounted. The only thing that kept him from snapping the vines and running off to freedom was the threat of not being able to escape Crix’s magic. That, and the fact that he would be lost silly this deep in the forest. He could only brood, thinking about the message he had received for that voice that he couldn’t quite remember. It didn’t help Dusty’s contemplations that Tindra was chatting away happily with that wretched little creature.
“How many pixies are there in the forest, Crix?”
For his part Crix seemed to be enjoying the talk. “Not many now,” the pixie conceded, his voice losing some of its melody. He quickly regained it as he continued. “Not many, but still enough to capture silly knights and sorceress’s.”
Tindra gave a delightful laugh, “you most certainly did. I doubt anyone could have seen it coming.”
Crix nodded his approval. “Pixies like traps. Traps fool big, dumb humans. Humans steal pixies; use them for dark magic’s.”
“Dark magic’s? that’s terrible, who would do such a thing?”
Crix stopped for a moment, his tiny fists clenched in fury. “We do not know the name, only she has strong magic; stronger than pixies. We try fighting, we lose.” The tension eased out of him as his shoulders dropped . “We were once so many. Now, so few.” He slumped into silence for the rest of their journey.
After what must have been days, Dusty noticed that the forest had changed. The once lush underbrush had been replaced by ancient trees, tall, foreboding trunks with beep roots spreading across and into the ground. The canopy loomed thick overhead, blotting out all but the most determined sunlight. They walked deeper into this new part of the forest, no, this old part of the forest. The oldest part of the entire forest. The air caught in the lungs, thick with old knowledge, pervaded by that tingle that could only be one thing.
Before his eyes Dusty could see the glow of tiny shapes floating through the branches. They flitted through the boughs in all colors of the rainbow and even some that were not. They twirled in elegance, an emotional symphony of physical release so majestic the eye had trouble following. They danced for no better reason than to dance, bringing happiness in a time when so many wept with sorrow.
Dusty took this in, irritation draining out of his body. Here was a place where a man could sit thinking for hours, no, days, maybe even years being completely at peace, safe knowing that nothing could interrupt your private tranquility.
In short, Dusty thought, a perfect place for an adventure. His whirling thoughts grinded to a halt as Crix brought them before the largest tree that Dusty had ever seen. It stretched towards the heavens, massive branches, most as large as some of the elder oak trees they had seen, reached upwards as if holding the entire green, leafy sky above them. Its ancient bark darkened to a deep brown almost black which looked to be as hard as the steel in Dusty’s sword. Huge leaves drooped some of the smaller braches low, their foliage sweeping clear the rich earth of the bracken that gives it such vitality.
So caught up in his observations of the tree that it took a third nudge from Tindra to recapture his attention. Dusty looked over at her to ask what was so important. What he saw was a wide eyed stare; a mixture of wondrous excitement that would make any child seem dull by comparison. Smiling in understanding of what she must be feeling, Dusty turned to look at what marvels had so enthralled his companion.
Sprawled beneath the tree was an arched pavilion, easily high enough to accommodate the height of the prisoners. It seemed to have grown out of the tree, a living extension of antiquity. It gleamed with the collective colors of the pixies, their dance forgotten as they noticed the outsiders approaching. Reds, yellows, pinks, purples, oranges, silvers and more all flashed away the shadows , creating a living painting so beautiful that Dusty did not want to blink his eyes. Amidst the flocking masses stood an enormous throne resolute and immovable within the chaos. It was to the high seat that Crix lead them.
Dusty did not know why, for Crix spoke not a word, but the crowd parted at the sight of him. Both Dusty and Tindra gazed in wonder at these strange, mysterious creatures that seemed to flow together with the coordination of a bee hive. Such was the concentration of Dusty on those deceptively powerful creatures that he didn’t see Tindra stop in front of him. Their resulting collision carried both of them to the forest floor. Because he was still attached to his two captives, Crix was also carried to the ground where they landed together in a heap, to the pixie’s immense displeasure. Rising with half formed insults and apologies, the three were surprised to see that they now stood before the throne.
The being that occupied the throne was little different from the others. He packed the same power into his compact frame, only he seemed to show it more, as if he stood larger than the rest for it, much in the same way that Crix seemed to overcast his fellow pixies now that they all stood or hovered together. His golden aura was deeper than Crix’s, as if he were more aged. Golden two was the crown that slumbered upon his head. Made of elegant leaves interspersed with succulent berries, it was a crown made for beauty not authority. Beneath that masterwork solemn eyes regarded the outsiders; they betrayed no emotion. When he spoke the very forest seemed to bend forward to hear his quiet words.
“Many lives have passed into this world and left since last humans entered domain of pixies.” He leaned forward, hands resting on his knees. “We will not suffer petty strife’s of your race. If you have brought them with you, punishment will be swift. Now, tell me who you are.”
Before they could speak Crix overruled them. “Trespassers, father; outsiders.”
Dusty looked at Crix with unbelieving eyes. “We’re not trespassers.”
“Be quiet, you were where you did not belong, looking, spies of the witch.”
“That’s a lie.” Dusty shouted, silencing the growing murmurs.
The king sat impassive. “My son is above such things.” There was a hint of danger in his voice that Dusty failed to catch.
“You are wrong-“
Tindra’s elbow slammed Into the knights stomach; he exhaled sharply with a cough. Tindra spoke over his fit. “Our apologies great king of the forest for any intrusion or offense we might have made. We bring no problems from the outside world into this most noble wood. We only wished to pass through, nothing more when we happened upon Crix.”
The king’s gaze shifted from her to his son, who was now kneeling down beside his two captives. “Is this true my son?”
Crix raised his head to meet the kings focus. “All travelers are trespassers, father. Traps caught them, I bring them here. They are prisoners.”
The king nodded in thought. “Prisoners they are and will be treated like until we can find the truth of intentions.” A sliver of pain cracked through his eyes when he spoke to the captives. “No longer do we trust outsiders as we once did. Witch has stolen it with the lives of many of my people. Take them to cages while I think on what is to be done.”
Crix grunted before bowing. He took the leash in his hand giving it a tug to get his prisoners moving. He led them out of the pavilion, into a darker part of the forest. Here the trees rose above the ground, suspended on spiderlike roots. Crix walked them through the tangle of trees, looking for cells big enough to admit his prisoners.
Dusty stared wide eyed at their new surroundings. This adventure was turning out even better than he dreamed. He was about to open his mouth to ask Tindra what she thought of their situation when she turned, giving him a scathing look. His half formed smile stumbled into a frown as she gave a not so quiet harrumph before turning her head. Dusty’s brow knitted in thought. Tindra sometimes didn’t say everything that was on her mind. From his limited experience Dusty knew that after a look like that, harsh words would follow; he would have to bring that up with her when they were alone.