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 Post subject: Ever After
PostPosted: Wed Dec 03, 2003 12:52 pm 
This is a fantasy story that I wrote ages ago, then rewrote a few months ago (note this isn't my my nanowrimo story, I won't post that till I've had a chance to edit the stuffing out of it)



This is the first part in a five part series



Ever After

Author: Justin

Plot: A young woman dreams of becoming a knight

Rating: PG-13



Ever After

Book 1



Chapter1

Important news.

An unexpected journey.





Hannah Watson swept the courtyard of her parents house with a vengeance. It was one of the jobs which she hated to do, so she did it thoroughly in the hopes that she wouldn't have to do it again for a long time. That was the plan at least, it just never seemed to work out that way. Hannah was what she liked to think of as diminutive, but everyone else just called her short. She had once overheard someone calling her unconventionally attractive. This had pleased her until it had been pointed out that this was a polite way of saying ugly. Which she guessed she was, especially when compared to her step sisters. Her freckly features and short red hair being quite a contrast to their clear complexions and long golden locks. It had often been said that they were nearly as beautiful as the princess Beatrice herself.



Not that this really mattered to Hannah. Since while her sisters only ambition were to marry nobles and live the rest of their lives in luxury she had the nobler dream of becoming a knight. There were plenty of other women who had become knights so she knew it wasn't impossible, it was just going to be difficult. Having finished the courtyard Hannah stared down at the broom she had been using, thinking she was going to have to get some more bristles for it. About a year ago a bard had come through the village claiming to have seen a group of witches flying on broom sticks just like this one. Of course everyone had laughed at such a ridiculous notion but Hannah had often thought about it, wondering if it was true. After all witches could do anything, or so the stories said, so why not fly? Gazing at the broom she was holding Hannah wished that she could fly away on it, get away from this place and these people.



"Day dreaming again?" A voice asked. Looking up Hannah saw that it was her sister Isabelle.



"No." Hannah said, "I was just..." She stopped when she realised that she didn't have any answer.



"Don't bother." Isabelle said, "There's a royal messenger here and he says he wants to see the whole family."



Hannah followed Isabelle into the house. Isabelle went to join her sister while Hannah stood off to one side. She gave the messenger a brief, uninterested glance. He was quite a short unimpressive man who seemed to think that he ought be treated with respect purely because he wore the royal emblem. Actually Hannah would probably have been a lot more interested if it weren't the fact that since her father was a magistrate there were often royal messengers visiting. Though this was the first time Hannah had been called in to hear the message.



"Well that's everyone." David, her father said. He was a tall man with dark grey hair. He had worked as a town guard before being elected as a magistrate, and despite his advancing years he still looked to be in good shape. The messenger pulled a scroll from a bag and opened it up with a flourish.



"Hear ye, Hear ye." He started "The coming of age party of prince Edward and princess Beatrice is to be held in a weeks time. Everyone is invited to this prestigious event. Attendance is mandatory." He then rolled up the scroll, and giving the family a bow he left.



"Well that was a lot of fuss over nothing." Hannah's brother Daniel said. Apart from having darker hair and being slightly thinner he looked almost exactly like his father.



"Well there are certain forms that must be followed." Hannah's mother, Diana said.



"A royal ball." Simone said.



"I can't wait." Isabelle added.



"Can I go?" Hannah asked.



Her mother gave her a look of annoyance then said, "Well he did say everyone so I guess so. Just try not to show us up like you normally do."



"I won't. I promise." Hannah said.



"Well don't have any work left to do?"



"Right of course." Hannah said as she ran out of the room, nearly tripping over the broom she'd left leaning against the door.



***





Princess Beatrice stood on the balcony of her room gazing out over the royal castle and sighed. She didn't know why but for the last month she had been extremely unhappy and each day this depression just grew worse. She couldn't understand why, after all she was a royal princess and with her pale skin and incredibly long blonde hair she was considered to be the most beautiful woman in the kingdom, yet still she was. Beatrice was interrupted from her thoughts by a knocking at her door. A moment later a maid came in and began changing the sheets. Turning back to the balcony she sighed again. Part of the problem was being cooped up in this castle, always seeing the same old place and people. What she really needed a change of scenery but that was unlikely to happen any time soon. As the maid left Beatrice decided that she would try speaking to her brother again. Last time he had been dismissive of her problems but he had been preoccupied by a noblewoman who lived at the castle. However she had been sent away on a diplomatic mission so this time he might actually listen to her.



***





When Beatrice found her brother he was fencing with a noble man. Seeing his sister he saluted to his opponent then went to talk to her. As he took his fencing mask off it would have become immediately obvious to an uninformed observer that they were both twins.



"So sis. Excited about this ball?" He asked



"I guess." Beatrice answered with a shrug.



"Well it'll be after that that the fun starts." Edmund said, referring to the fact that soon it would have to be decided which of them would rule the kingdom. Looking at Beatrice Edmund said, "Don't tell me you're still depressed."



"It's silly I know. I ought to be happy but I'm just... I don't know."



"Well don't worry I'll make sure you get a nice principality." Edmund said. So you've already decided you're going to be king. Beatrice thought. She realised that Edmund wasn't going to be able to help so she just said, "Thanks." She then returned to her room, feeling worse than she had when she had come here. Edmund then went back to his fencing partner.



***





That night Hannah had a dream about the ball. She was there in an elegant gown of satin and lace while Isabelle and Simone were both wearing rags. She was just dancing with one of the palaces noblemen when a two headed monster suddenly burst into the ball room. Everyone began screaming and running from the ball room as the guards moved to attack it. However it soon began killing them, moving towards the prince and princess, who seemed to be frozen with fear. Running over Hannah grabbed a sword from one of the fallen guards then she quickly cut off both the creatures heads, then stabbed it through the heart for good measure. Running over Princess Beatrice embraced Hannah



"My hero." She shouted before kissing Hannah passionately. Hannah woke up with a start.



"What the..." She said trying to figure the dream out. After a while she gave up, after all dreams were supposed to be weird weren't they? Rolling over she soon went back to sleep.



***





Beatrice was sleeping peacefully when she was woken up by a strange wailing noise. For a while she wasn't sure what had woken her up, when she heard it again. It seemed to be coming from the courtyard outside her window so she went to look out her window to see if she could see anything. However the courtyard was deserted. Climbing back into bed she was surprised to realise she was crying. Though she could understand it. She was lonely and miserable and in a week she would have to go through the farce of deciding who out of her and her brother would rule the kingdom. She didn't want to, in fact she didn't want any of this she just wanted to be away from there. Without even realising what she was doing Beatrice had gotten out of bed and was getting dressed. Once dressed she packed some clothes and some food then she quietly crept out. Both she and her brother often crept out to go to the town so she knew all the ways of getting out the castle without being noticed. She then walked to the nearby town and finding a farmhouse in the outskirts of the town she went into the barn and hiding herself away she went to sleep.



TBC



The next update should be tomorrow

I find it kinda funny, I find it kinda sad
The dreams in which I'm dying are the best I've ever had.
- mad world

Edited by: justin at: 12/14/03 2:44 am


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 Post subject: Re: Ever After
PostPosted: Wed Dec 03, 2003 5:59 pm 
This is incredibly good. I'm very jealous of your plot and the skill with which you've set it up.



The characters are very snappy. I can picture all of them very clearly through their interactions and the narration. They really bring the story to life. I like the conflict too. and the possible romance, and the dream, and, oh hell... I like all of it!



The intro is very good BTW, pulled me right in and wouldn't let go. I also like the humorous curve that the narration takes fro time-to-time.



Hannah is really cool. I learned a lot about her from the narrative, but even more from her dream, and her dialogue.



I've only had a glimpse of the others so far, and I'm eagerly anticipating getting to know some of them better.



Keep it coming, please.



Well done, Justin.



-SQ











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 Post subject: Re: Ever After
PostPosted: Thu Dec 04, 2003 10:15 am 
StrangeQuark: Thanls for the kind words. I'm glad that you're enjoying the story. Though having read Latency I don't know why you say you're jealous of me.



I hope you enjoy the rest



Well you asked for more so here it is :)



Chapter 2

Another message

A chance encounter.





The next day one of the many jobs Hannah had to do was to chop the fire wood. This was another job she hated since her arms always ached after doing it. Gazing over at the pile of logs she had built up Hannah thought the worst thing about having to do most of the work around here wasn't that she always went to bed exhausted. Rather it was that she never seemed to accomplish anything. It didn't matter how well she did a job pretty soon all her hard work would be undone and she would have to do it all over again. As always when she felt like this Hannah reminded herself how lucky she was to have been taken in and that she should be grateful to the Watsons for adopting her, yet surely there were limits to gratitude. There had to be more to life than just cooking and cleaning, or at least Hannah hoped that there was. Having finished cutting the wood Hannah carried some of them into the house. As she did she saw the messenger get on his horse and ride off. At first she was rather annoyed that she hadn't been summoned but then she reasoned that it was probably just something to do with her fathers work and nothing to do with her. Once she had left some of the logs by the fire she got the rest and took them to the storage box in the barn. Once she had done this she was surprised to see her father helping her brother put his armour on. Once it was on Daniel got on his horse and road off.



Walking up to her father Hannah asked, "Where's Daniel going?"



"We just got a message that Princess Beatrice is missing. He's going to help look." Then seeing the look of shock on her face he added, "Don't worry the balls still going to go on. Even if they don't find her by then." He started to turn away.



Hannah hesitated a moment then said,"I could go."



"Of course you will. After all the message was for all of us." David said. He then added absently, "We'll need to get you a new dress though."



"I mean I could go and help look for the princess." Hannah said. She immediately regretted it as she saw her fathers face darken.



"I thought you'd outgrown this nonsense." He said.



"Well, um." Hannah said.



"Go back into the house and don't let me hear anything more about this." David said.



"Yes, sir." Hannah said before running back to the house.



***





Beatrice pushed a branch out of her face cursing angrily. Why had she thought it was a good idea to walk through this forest. She was constantly being hit by branches, tripping over roots, and her hair, which she had always been so proud of, was constantly getting caught in bushes. Actually this whole venture was looking like a bad idea. What little food she had brought with her had gone by mid day and now it was evening and she was very hungry. A couple of hours ago Beatrice had spotted some riders on the road and decided to get off the road to avoid being spotted. She had then decided to cut through the forest. Which is where she was now. She had probably only gone a couple of miles in the last couple of hours and she was thoroughly fed up. In fact she would probably go back to the castle if it weren't for the fact she was lost and had no idea how to get out of the forest. Beatrice pushed through a particularly heavy piece of undergrowth and suddenly found herself in a clearing. This in itself would have been a relief but what was even better was the fact that there was a house in the middle of the clearing. It was rather small and starting to fall into disrepair but it was shelter and the smoke from the chimney and the fresh tracks going to the door suggested that someone lived there. She walked up to the door and knocked on it.



"Just a minute." A voice called. A few seconds later the door was opened by a young woman, who seemed to be about Beatrice's age. She was a pretty, if rather dirty woman, with dark blonde hair and clear blue eyes. She smiled at Beatrice in a friendly fashion and said, "Hello. Are you lost?"



"Why do you say that?" Beatrice asked.



"Because I don't get many visitors. Actually I don't get any."



"Oh well yes I am." Beatrice said, "I don't know how to get out of this forest."



"I could show you." The woman said. She then glanced at the sky and said, "But it's getting late and I don't like to be out after dark."



"Well if you can give me directions." Beatrice said.



"Actually I think it'd be best if you stay here overnight. There are some unpleasant animals in these forests."



"Really I don't want to be a bother." Beatrice said.



"It won't be. I'd like the company."



It occurred to Beatrice that this woman must be rather lonely being out here on her own and she could do with some rest so she said, "Okay then."



The woman moved to let her in saying, "I'm Morgan Maclay."



"Oh I'm Beatrice." Beatrice said wondering if it was worth lying about her name.



"Oh I knew that." Morgan said, answering Beatrice's question.



"Aren't you wondering why I'm here?" Beatrice asked.



"I'm sure you have your reasons and I don't like to pry. Now if you'll excuse me I need to check on the soup." Beatrice nodded and Morgan went over to check on a pot that was sitting on the stove. Beatrice sat down and looked around the room. It was quite nice, a lot nicer than the outside of the building suggested. There was a large wooden table in the middle of the room with some chairs around it. There were a few cupboards around the room and a small wood stove which Morgan was working at. Next to it a pair of rabbits were hanging from the ceiling. The only thing which seemed odd was a shelf which held a set of large leather bound books.



Beatrice was about to ask about these when Morgan turned around and said,"I'm afraid I've only got soup. I was supposed to go to the market yesterday but I'm a bit short of money."



"Oh well I don't mean to deprive you." Beatrice said, feeling a little guilty.



"Really it's okay. I always make too much soup anyway so this means it won't get wasted." She turned back to the pot and said "I guess I'm still used to cooking for my mistress."



"Mistress?" Beatrice said, "You're an apprentice?"



"I was." Morgan answered, "She's dead."



"I'm sorry." Beatrice said.



Morgan nodded then said, "It was almost a year ago but I still miss her."



As Morgan brought the pot over Beatrice said, "Forgive me for asking but whats wrong with them?" She pointed at the two rabbits.



"Oh, they need to hang for another couple of days." Morgan answered, "Actually I think I'm just squeamish. I mean I'm okay with killing them I just have trouble bringing myself to clean them."



"Killing? You kill them yourself?" Beatrice asked looking a little shocked.



"Of course." Morgan said, "They don't come up to my door then die of their own accord."



"I guess not." Beatrice said, "Though That's probably a good thing. After all if they did people might think that you were a witch." Morgan didn't answer this. After a while Beatrice asked "So what were you apprenticing."



"Oh this and that."



"Well if it was cooking then you must have had a good mistress as this is wonderful."



Morgan gave her an embarrassed smile and said, "I'm sure it's not as good as you're used to."



"Well of course not but I meant it was good considering you're not working in the royal kitchens."



"Thank you." Morgan said.



"So why do you live out here all by yourself?" Beatrice asked feeling curious about this young woman.



"I like my privacy." Morgan answered.



"You certainly get that." Beatrice said. She finished off the soup then asked "So do you grow these vegetables yourself?"



"Yes. I've got a small patch out the back. Though I'm not getting as much as I used to." It was starting to grow dark so Morgan got up and began lighting some candles around the room. As she did she said, "Forgive me for saying this but you're not like what I expected."



"What did you expect?" Beatrice asked.



"Um, spoiled. Sorry." Morgan said.



"Don't be. Normally you'd be right. I guess I'm just going through a bad patch."



"I think we all have those." Morgan said as she sat down again.



"Oh I'm sorry." Beatrice said.



"What for?" Morgan asked.



"Well here's me going on about rough patches when you don't even have enough money to go shopping for food."



"It's okay. I manage." Morgan said.



"Well when I get back to the palace I'll have them send you some money."



"I don't need your charity." Morgan said, I little more harshly than she intended.



"Sorry." Beatrice said, not sure what she had said to upset Morgan.



"No, I'm sorry." Morgan said, "I've always been too proud. Hazel often told me it would get me into trouble." She sighed then went on, "I appreciate the offer but really I don't need any help."



"Well okay then." Beatrice said, "I guess you've managed okay on your own so far." Morgan nodded then got up to lock the door. Beatrice was rather surprised the by the number of locks that she had.



Once Morgan had made sure that the door was secure she said, "I'm just going to go and check the windows."



"You're very thorough about security aren't you?" Beatrice said.



"Yes I am." Morgan said as she began checking windows. As she did Beatrice remembered what Morgan had said about there being dangerous animals and couldn't help shivering. If this was the sort of measures that Morgan had to take against them then she was glad she hadn't had to sleep out in the forest.



***





That night Beatrice was woken up by a growling sound outside. It sounded as though it was coming from right outside her window. Beatrice told herself it was probably miles away and just sounded close. Then as the sound moved away she drifted back off to sleep.



Beatrice woke up to a murky light. She guessed it was just after dawn. She had dreamt that she was being chased through the forest by something that she couldn't see but which stayed just behind her. She got up and went to get a drink of water. Beatrice was just about to head back to her room when she remembered the books that she had seen and decided to satisfy her curiosity. Grabbing one of the books she was shocked to see the words Book of Shadows on it. Deciding not to jump to conclusions Beatrice glanced through it. Finding a number of magical symbols though her fears were confirmed. Morgan was a witch.



Without bothering to knock Beatrice threw the door to Morgan's room open. Morgan sat up slightly and blinked at her, obviously only just waking up. Beatrice stormed towards her but Morgan reached into a bag beside her bed and threw a handful of dust at her while chanting softly.



"Replusa mea enemanis." Beatrice felt herself being picked up and thrown against the far wall. She tried to stand up but she just fell down again, then she passed out.



As Morgan woke up fully she realised who she had attacked and quickly getting up she ran over to Beatrice.



Lifting Beatrice's head up she said, "Oh I'm so sorry. I thought you were..." She stopped as Beatrice's eyes opened.



Then as Beatrice realised where she was she shouted, "Witch." She pushed herself out of Morgan's arms and said "You're a bloody witch." Morgan just hung her head and didn't answer. Beatrice walked to the door and tried to open it, but it was locked. She spotted the key a short distance away on a hook and was about grab it when Morgan chanted a few words and the key flew off of it's peg and into her hand. "Give me the key." Beatrice said.



"You can't go out. The creatures might still be about."



"Give me the key!" Beatrice said more forcefully.



"But you'll never find your way out of here without my help. I know I kept stuff from you but I knew you'd react badly."



"Bloody witch. I am going to leave here and when I get back to the palace I am going to see you burn."



Morgan stood up, growing angry herself, "Just like Hazel. She never hurt anyone but that didn't stop the knights from coming for her."



"Of course. She was a witch."



"How dare you!" Morgan shouted, "You don't know her, or me, yet you condemn us both without a thought."



"You attacked me."



"That was a mistake."



"Yes it was. Now are you going to open the door or do I break it down?"



"You can try." Beatrice looked at the door and got the feeling that it was tougher than it looked. Morgan went to sit down. She then started looking through the book Beatrice had gotten down.



"So I guess I'm you're prisoner."



"Till you start behaving reasonably, yes." Just then there was the sound of a horse outside. "Oh my more visitors."



"I thought you didn't get any."



"They're here looking for you. They seem well armed so you should be safe enough with them." Beatrice was going to ask how Morgan knew this but then guessed that it must be some witch thing. There was a knock at the door and Morgan went to it.



"What are you doing?" Beatrice asked.



"I'm letting them in. They can take you back to the palace." Morgan answered in a tone that suggested that this should be obvious. Beatrice thought returning to the palace and her brother and she felt ill. She knew then that she couldn't go back. Not yet.



"I'm not ready to go back to the palace."



"Well make your mind up." There was another knock, "Just a minute." Morgan called "So do you want to go back or not. I thought you'd be happy to get away from me."



"I don't want go back." Beatrice said.



"Well then go into my room and close the door." When Beatrice was out of sight she opened the front door and said, "Can I help you?" There were a pair of knights outside. Both of them wore the colours of the royal guard.



"Do you live here alone?" One of them asked Morgan.



"Yes. Since my mistress died, last year." Morgan said.



"You seem rather young."



"I'm twenty one."



"Oh well we're looking for the princess Beatrice."



"Really, I didn't know she was missing."



"Have you seen anyone near here."



"No you're the first people to be by here for some time."



looking around the knight could believe that no one came by here so he said, "Well then we're sorry to trouble you." They then rode off.



Morgan closed the door and turned to find Beatrice staring at her, "Thanks." Beatrice said, "Though I'm not sure why you helped."



"Well I'm not sure why you wanted to hide. I mean I thought you were all set to get back to the palace to get a fire ready for me."



"I'm sorry about that it was just a shock."



Morgan shrugged and said, "So what will you do?"



"I don't know. I just know I can't go back to the palace. Not yet."



"Well then why don't we have some breakfast then I can lead you out of the forest and you can be on your way."



As Morgan got the breakfast ready Beatrice said, "I behaved terribly."



"Yes, you did."



"Well I'm sorry."



"It's too late." Morgan said with a smile, "I've already forgiven you."



Half an hour later they set out along what Beatrice presumed was a trail, though she wasn't certain. They had been going a short distance when Morgan stopped and closed her eyes.



"Morgan? What's wrong."



Morgan's eyes snapped open and she said, "Wait here." She quickly ran back down the trail. A few moments later she came running back holding her book of shadows and had a bag slung over her shoulder.



"Run." She gasped.



"What is it?"



"Knights."



"What? After me?"



"No me." She then started running down the trail. Beatrice ran after her. They then started to go up a slope then they came out of the trees onto a narrow road. Morgan followed the road to the top of the hill. Looking back over the forest she just said, "Damn."



"What is it?" Beatrice asked as she caught up. Morgan pointed over the forest and Beatrice turned. She then saw it, there was smoke from the direction they had come.



"Oh god. They're burning your house down."



"Yes." She wiped her eyes then said "We better get going. We're rather exposed here."



"Yes." Beatrice said and they set off. After they had been walking a while Morgan motioned that they should rest. They both sat down in the shade and Morgan got a flask out of her bag. After taking a drink she handed it to Beatrice. Taking it Beatrice asked



"Those Knights, who were they?"



"The order of Galeone." Morgan answered, "The same people who killed Hazel."



"But they've been banned from this kingdom." Beatrice protested.



"There are still plenty of nobles who will turn a blind eye to their activities."



"Well I'm going to do something about that." Beatrice said firmly, "After all I was always proud of the fact it was my father who banned them." Standing up Morgan snorted at this. "What?"



"Well your father hardly did this because he was concerned about witches." Morgan said, "After all he didn't stop the persecution of witches did he?"



"No he did it because if they'd been given a chance the knights of Galeone would have burnt every woman in the kingdom."



After about half an hour they were approaching a small town.



"We probably want to avoid here."



"But we need supplies."



"Firstly we can't afford any, secondly you're too recognisable."



"Are you sure. I mean after walking through woods for a few hours I'm not that princessy."



"I recognised you didn't I?" Morgan asked "And I'm virtually a hermit."



"Okay then. But I'm not sure how far we're going to get."



"You're right."



"Can't you use some sort of spell to disguise me?"



"Not without the rest of my books."



"Oh. I'm sorry about that."



"Why the knights being there had nothing to do with you."



"Oh. So what are we going to do?" After travelling round the town a while they found a disused barn.



Going inside it Morgan said, "I'll go into town and try to get some supplies. You better wait here. I'll come back as soon as I can"



"Okay but what about money?"



Morgan searched through her pockets then said, "I've got two copper coins. What about you?"



"I don't carry money."



"But when you were leaving surely you..."



"It was a spur of the moment thing."



"Oh well then I guess I'll have to try to earn some more."



"Okay then. Well I'll meet you this evening."



"Look after these." Morgan said throwing her book and bag to Beatrice. Morgan then walked into the town while Beatrice sat down. Feeling curious Beatrice looked in the bag to find the two rabbits Morgan had had there. She closed the bag up and wondered what she was going to do for the day. After a while she opened Morgan's book up and started reading it.







I find it kinda funny, I find it kinda sad
The dreams in which I'm dying are the best I've ever had.
- mad world



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 Post subject: Re: Ever After
PostPosted: Thu Dec 04, 2003 11:09 am 
Hmm... I'm not sure where to start.



Humor- You have lots of it, sometimes very dry (which I love)



Suspense- Plenty of that too.



Emotion- Different ones, all in abundance.



Plot- Thickening, but not yet murky (a good thing.)



Characters- I learned so much about them through their conversations, reactions, etc. I enjoy them thoroughly. They're flawed, they have history, they have strengths and weaknesses. I care about them. That's always a sign of good character development.



All right, where does Hannah play into this? I like Morgan's last name, BTW. Witches are unpopular? :) Except on the Kitten Board, they usually are. :) Do we have some triangulation going on between the three main characters? Could be interesting.



The Latin is a nice touch. I took 3 years of it in high school ;)



The chase and the suspense all worked very well here. You used a lot of short sentences to speed up the action, very skillful.



It will go without saying from this point forward... I am looking forward to more.



I am jealous of any writer that grabs and holds my attention. I can't stand my own stuff, you see. ;) Thanks for the compliment, Justin.



-SQ



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 Post subject: Re: Ever After
PostPosted: Fri Dec 05, 2003 10:42 am 
StrangeQuark



Quote:
All right, where does Hannah play into this?




Hannah won't start to play a large part in the story for another couple of chapters



Quote:
Witches are unpopular? :)




Yeah they're very unpopular, at least in some places



Quote:
The Latin is a nice touch. I took 3 years of it in high school ;)




Except it isn't actually latin. I just made something up that sounded like it might be latin



Quote:
The chase and the suspense all worked very well here. You used a lot of short sentences to speed up the action, very skillful.




s/skillful/lucky/



Quote:
I am jealous of any writer that grabs and holds my attention. I can't stand my own stuff, you see. ;)




I feel the same way. Um, I mean that I can't stand my own writing, not that I can't stand yours (which is very good)



I guess it's natural for writers to be more criritcal of their own writing than other peoples



Chapter 3

An inconvenient illness.

The beginning of a journey.







Beatrice only managed to get halfway through the book when the small writing began to hurt her eyes. Putting the book down she went to lie down in the hay and went to sleep. When she woke up she was surprised to see that it was dark. She was even more surprised to see that Morgan hadn't returned. At first she thought she had been abandoned but rejected that since Morgan wouldn't leave her book of shadows behind. She then began worrying that something had happened to Morgan. She was just starting to think about going out and looking for Morgan when Morgan got back



"Hello." She said "I'm sorry I was gone so long."



"So how'd it go? Get much money?" Beatrice asked



"Reasonably and I got us a bit of money. I also got us something better. I got us a job."



"I was hoping to get moving pretty soon."



"That's okay. It's with a caravan going to the southern border." Morgan explained.



"So what are you going to be doing?" Beatrice asked.



"We are going to be cooking and cleaning." Morgan answered.



"Right. I thought you were worried about me being recognised." Beatrice said.



"I brought you this." Morgan said, getting a pair of scissors out of her pocket. "And this." She added getting out a pot of black dye.



"You want me to cut and dye my hair?" Beatrice asked.



"Well I'll do it." Morgan said. Looking round she noticed her book of shadows lying open. "You read it." She said, looking at Beatrice accusingly.



"Yeah." Beatrice        said, "I used to have a journal that was a bit like that. Except without all the spells and stuff."



"Well?" Morgan asked.



"Well What?"



"How much did you read?"



"I only got halfway." Beatrice answered "Who taught you to write so small?" Morgan closed the book up and put it back in her bag. "Sorry." Beatrice said, "I didn't think you'd mind."



"Oh there's nothing private in there." Morgan said, thinking she'd have to keep an eye on it from now on. She picked up the scissors and said, "Well then shall we do this?"



"Just how experienced are you at hair cutting?" Beatrice asked.



"Who do you think cuts mine?" Morgan asked.



"Right of course." Morgan set about cutting her hair.



After she'd been cutting a while Beatrice said, "You're cutting it rather short."



"You don't want to be recognised do you?" Morgan said.



"I guess not."



"Don't worry. It'll grow back." Morgan assured her. About half and hour later Morgan stopped saying "There, all done." Beatrice quickly ran to get a mirror.



"Oh goddess." She said.



"It's not that bad, is it?" Morgan asked.



"No, actually you've done a very good job. It's just quite a shock."



"Well we'd better get it dyed." Morgan said. She went and filled up a bucket with water. When she came back she got Beatrice to lean over a second bucket then warned, "This is going to be cold." before pouring the water over Beatrice's head. She then set about applying the dye.



About an hour later, while Morgan got some dinner ready, Beatrice sat looking at herself in a mirror. Her hair, which before had gone most of the way down her back, now just reached to her shoulders and instead of being a pale blonde was now pitch black.



"My brother's going to have a shock when he sees me." She said "Actually he might not even recognise me."



"Well that is the point." Morgan pointed out.



Beatrice put the mirror down then asked, "Why are you doing this?"



"Doing what?" Morgan asked.



"Well, helping me. What's in it for you?"



"You mean besides having a princess in my debt?" Morgan asked.



"Somehow I don't think that's your reason." Beatrice said.



"No." Morgan said "Well what else am I going to do?"



"That's not really an explanation." Beatrice complained.



"Then I'm afraid I don't have an answer. Other than it seems the right thing to do."



"Oh well I guess that'll have to do." Beatrice said. "So how long is dinner going to be?" She added, changing the subject.



"Just a few more minutes." Morgan answered.



***





The next day Morgan and Beatrice got up early to go to the caravan. They were met by a large middle aged man.



"Hello miss Morgan." he said "It's good to see you again."



"Hello Mr Rogers." Morgan said "This is Beatrice."



Beatrice was going to complain when Mr Rogers said, "Ah, I take it you were named after the princess."



"That's right." Beatrice said, with a feeling of relief. She guessed that the disguise must have worked.



"Beatrice this is Mr Rogers. He runs the caravan."



"A pleasure." Beatrice said holding her hand out. He looked at it rather uncertainly and Beatrice suddenly realised she was holding it up as if she were expecting him to kiss it. Quickly grabbing Mr Rogers hand she shook it saying "So where are we staying?"



"Right I'll show you to your caravan." Mr Rogers said.



***





Diana Watson knocked on her daughters door calling



"Hannah are you up? Hannah?" When she got no response she opened the door and went in. She was annoyed to find that Hannah was still in bed. "Hannah, why aren't you up yet?" She asked "There's a lot of work that needs to be done."



"Sorry." Hannah mumbled "I'll just..." As she tried to sit up, but immediately collapsed back into the bed. "One moment." Hannah said. She tried to struggle out of bed but with out much success. Diana walked over and felt her forehead.



"You seem to have a temperature. How are you feeling?"



"I'm feeling sick." Hannah answered



"Well you would choose now to get ill." Diana said.



"Why hasn't the washing been done." Simone asked from the doorway.



"Your sisters feeling ill." Diana answered



"She's probably faking it." Simone said.



"Well we better send for the healer." Diana said. They sent Simone into the town to get the local healer. He confirmed that Hannah was indeed seriously ill and that she shouldn't get out of bed for at least a week.



As Hannah sat eating some soup she noticed Isabelle staring at her from the door to her room.



"Did you want something?" Hannah asked.



"You did this on purpose." Isabelle said.



"Oh yes. I got sick on purpose." Hannah said.



"Well it'd be just like you." Isabelle said. Hannah went back to her soup.



When Isabelle didn't leave Hannah asked, "Just what is it?"



"I bet you'll be better in time for the ball."



"I don't know." Hannah said, "I hope so."



"Well just the remember the only reason you're going is..." Isabelle started.



"That I was invited?" Hannah finished for her. Isabelle snorted in annoyance and left. Glad to be left in peace Hannah finished eating.



***





That afternoon Hannah dreamt that she was walking along a dark tunnel. Looking round she could barely see sunlight coming into an opening behind her. Up ahead there seemed to be a soft glow. Walking towards the light she noticed that the ground seemed to be slightly damp and she almost lost her footing a couple of times.



Suddenly Hannah was standing in a large cavern. There was a glow coming from what seemed to be a pool of water. Walking over to it Hannah looked in but she couldn't see what was causing the water to glow. Kneeling Hannah got a cup out of the backpack she was carrying and filled it with water from the pool. She then drank it.



Hannah woke up with her throat burning. Leaning over she grabbed the cup next to her bed and had a drink. Putting the glass down Hannah quickly grabbed the bucket next to her bed and only just got it into place before being sick.



***





When the caravan stopped to give the horses some water, Beatrice took the opportunity to take in the surroundings. They had stopped at the top of a high hill and since it was a clear day it was possible to see for several miles. Beatrice spent several minutes just gazing at the view. As Morgan came over to her she said



"Wow, this is beautiful. I've never seen anything like this before."



"Never?" Morgan asked "You can't have got out much."



"Well, no I guess not. My brother was always the adventurous one." Beatrice sighed then went on, "I never really left the castle that much."



"No wonder you were unhappy." Morgan said, "You must have been bored silly."



"Well there is that." Beatrice agreed.



"So are you feeling happier now?"



"I'm not really sure." Beatrice answered. She considered it a moment then went on "Actually I think that I am. I definitely feel like I'm doing what I'm supposed to."



"Well that's good."



"So were you an avid explorer?" Beatrice asked.



"Actually no." Morgan answered "In fact I was as bad as you, except rather than having a castle I just had a hovel."



"Now that is sad." Beatrice said.



"I guess so." Morgan said "I guess I was always too busy to think about it. I guess that's why it was so easy to leave. I didn't have anything keeping me there." The caravan had started up again so they quickly followed.



As they did so Beatrice asked Morgan, "Didn't you have any friends back home?"



"No." Morgan answered.



"You must have had some." Beatrice persisted, "At least one."



"I did have one friend. He was the local butcher." Morgan said, "We fell out." she added.



"What happened?" Beatrice asked.



"Well one night when I was going home I saw him being attacked by a wild bore. I used magic to save him and he wouldn't talk to me after that."



"But you'd saved his life." Beatrice protested.



"Yeah and that was the only reason why he didn't turn me in." Morgan said.



***





That night when the caravan stopped Morgan and Beatrice helped get the dinner ready for the drivers.



While they were eating Beatrice asked Morgan, "How long do you think it'll be before we reach - where are we going again?"



"Oakholm." Morgan answered "And it should take us another five days to get there."



"Hey, more food over here." One of the drivers, a short rotund man, shouted.



"I'll do it." Morgan said.



"Thanks." Beatrice said. Morgan grabbed a rabbit off of the fire and put it on a plate and took it over to where the drivers were sitting. She then began quickly carving it up. She couldn't help smiling when she remembered the mess that Beatrice had made when she had tried to carve up a rabbit. The smile faded when it occurred to her that she would most likely have to do a lot of Beatrice's work for her. Well it was a good thing that she was used to a little hard work.



When Morgan went back over to join Beatrice at the fire Beatrice said, "I'm sorry about this."



"About what." Morgan asked.



"Well about the fact you're probably having to do all the work because I'm useless."



"I was just thinking the same thing." Morgan agreed.



"Thanks a lot." Beatrice said.



"Well not about the useless part. Anyway I don't mind. This is all kind of fun."



"It is?" Beatrice asked.



"Yes." Morgan answered, "For one thing it's nice to be away from that forest. It was kind of depressing."



"You mean because of all the monsters?" Beatrice said.



"Yes. And the isolation wasn't any fun."



"I thought you liked being on your own."



"Not really." Morgan said, "I'm going to go to bed. We're probably going to be busy tomorrow."



"Yeah, that's a good idea." Beatrice agreed. They put the fire out, then after clearing up they went to went to their tents and went to sleep.



***





Morgan and Beatrice were woken up early the next morning. As they had their breakfast Beatrice said,         "This is going to take some getting used to."



"Don't worry, you'll adjust." Morgan assured her.



"I hope so." Beatrice said.



"Though I bet sleeping on the ground must be difficult." Morgan said, "Given how sensitive you are."



"What do you mean?" Beatrice asked



"Well aren't you supposed to be able to feel a pee, even if it's under a dozen feather mattresses?" Morgan asked.



"Um, that's just a myth." Beatrice told her, "Though it was rather uncomfortable."



"Supposedly it's good for your back." Morgan told her.



"Then how come my back's aching so much?" Beatrice asked.



***





Once they had eaten breakfast and cleaned up they set off. Since they had just been hired to help with the cooking and cleaning Beatrice and Morgan didn't have anything to do except riding alongside the caravans and keep an eye out for monsters.



"I'm starting to feel glad that I did so much riding." Beatrice said.



"I didn't think you left the castle very much." Morgan said.



"I still went riding." Beatrice said "I just didn't ride very far." About mid morning they reached a small Hamlet.



The Caravan master rode over to them said, "If you want to make yourself useful then you may as well head into that hamlet and pick up some supplies." He then handed Morgan some money and a list of the things they needed.



When he'd ridden on Beatrice asked, "Do we?"



"Do we what?" Morgan asked.



"Want to make ourselves useful." Beatrice clarified.



"Come on." Morgan said as she rode away from the caravans.



As they reached the Hamlet Beatrice said, "They didn't seem to be stopping."



"Why should they?" Morgan asked.



"So that we can meet up with them again." Beatrice said, "Or is this just their way of getting rid of us."



"We know where they're heading. We can catch up easily enough." Morgan told her.



"I guess so." Beatrice said "So where first?"



"Let's go to the butchers." Morgan said, looking at the list.



"If they've got one." Beatrice said looking round the Hamlet. It was basically just a small cluster of buildings with a couple of farms visible in the distance. After asking one of the townspeople they were directed to one of those farm buildings.



It took them quarter of an hour to ride out to the farm. As they entered they spotted a worker.



"We're looking for the owner." Beatrice said to him.



"We're not hiring." the man said.



"Actually we're with the caravan that just went through." Beatrice explained, "We need to buy some supplies."



"Oh well then he's in that building." The man said, pointing out a building before going on. They went to the building, and leaving there horses, went inside. The owner was a pleasant looking balding man. Beatrice explained why they were there.



Looking at the list Beatrice said, "We two brace of rabbits."



"Right away." He went into a store room then came out with the rabbits. Placing them on a counter he said "They're ten gold apiece."



Beatrice was going to accept right away when Morgan, who had been looking at the rabbits rather critically, said, "They're looking a bit off."



"Well they've been hanging a while. But that improves the flavour." He explained.



"We're going to have to remove a lot of the meat." Morgan countered, "Especially from this one."



"Okay then I'll give them to you for eight gold each." Morgan just stared at him without saying anything. "Six?" He offered, a little desperately.



Morgan looked at the rabbits a while longer before saying reluctantly, "Okay then." She took the list off of Beatrice and said, "The next thing we need are a couple of braces of partridges and some horse feed."



"Right away." The owner said.



When they left Beatrice said, "You're pretty good at that. I mean I wouldn't know where to start when it comes to haggling."



"Do you think so?" Morgan asked.



"Yes. Especially since you used to be a hermit." Beatrice answered "Though I guess the fact that you used to live alone and didn't have much money does explain it."



Despite Beatrice's worries they caught up with the caravans in the early afternoon. The driver was rather surprised that Morgan had brought back quite so much money, saying if he'd known he'd have asked her to get another brace of rabbits.





I find it kinda funny, I find it kinda sad
The dreams in which I'm dying are the best I've ever had.
- mad world



Top
  
 
 Post subject: Re: Ever After
PostPosted: Fri Dec 05, 2003 11:15 am 
Wow. That flew by. It really did.



Oh yeah, did I mention the three years of Latin were a long time ago :)



There's such good interaction between the characters here. On a lot of levels. There's the class-disparity, the life-experience, the savvy and the laziness. Morgan and Beatrice make a really good combination, character-wise, without seeming too much like the "odd couple." Very well-constructed characters indeed.



Very fresh, witty, and clever.



Oh yeah, the interactions between Hannah and her sisters (wasn't that a Woody Allen play? *shrugs* ) are very identifiable. Anyone who grew up with siblings could appreciate that.



I've been hooked since the beginning, Justin. :)



Well done.



Top
  
 
 Post subject: Re: Ever After
PostPosted: Sat Dec 06, 2003 3:18 am 
StrangeQuark: Thanks for the comments. I'm glad that you're enjoying the story :)



Chapter 4

Inspection

Attack

A time for stories





The caravan stopped for the night by a copse of trees. Beatrice and Morgan were deciding the best places to set up their tents to avoid the weather when they heard horses approaching. In the distance they could just make out a group of knights approaching.



"Oh hell." Beatrice said. She began looking round for somewhere to hide.



"What are you doing?" Morgan asked.



"I need to hide." Beatrice explained.



"Don't do that." Morgan said, "You'll just make them suspicious."



"What if they recognise me?"



"They've probably never met you right?"



"I guess not." Beatrice admitted.



"So they'll only have pictures to go on. So they probably won't recognise you if they don't look too closely." Morgan reasoned.



"What about if they do?" Beatrice asked



"They won't unless you draw attention to yourself by trying to hide." When the knights reached them they rode up to the owner and started talking to him. They moved a bit closer to overhear the conversation.



"I'm telling you I don't know where the princess is. I'm hardly going to be hiding her." The owner said.



"Maybe not." The head knight said. "But Prince Edmund believe that his sister has gone insane and should could well be dangerous so if you do see her make sure you notify the correct authorities." Beatrice couldn't help gasping when she heard what her brother was saying about her.



One of the knights walked over and asked, "Is something wrong?" Beatrice tried to think of something to say.



Noticing her discomfort Morgan jumped in and said, "She's still just a bit upset about the princess disappearing like this."



"Of course." The knight said. Beatrice felt very uncomfortable as the knight continued regarding them. She had just about convinced herself that he had recognised her when she noticed that he wasn't looking at her but was instead looking at Morgan.



"Is something wrong?" Morgan asked.



"Have we met?" He asked.



"I don't believe so." Morgan answered. The knight was about to question her some more when the captain called over



"Watson, we're finished here."



"Right." The knight said as he walked away.



When the knights had gone Beatrice        Said, "I guess this disguise is working."



"I guess so." Morgan agreed.



***





"And each lay-er was more del-i, del-i..." Hannah read out. In order to overcome the boredom of having to spend all week in bed she had been teaching herself to read. Something she had never had time to do before now. She stopped when there was a knocking at the door.



Putting the book down Hannah said, "Come in."



The door opened and Simone came in with a tray, "Mum said you might want some lunch." She said



"Oh yes. Thanks." Hanna said.



Simone brought the tray over and handed it to Hannah, "It must be nice to waited on like this." Simone said, "I wish I had someone to look after me and bring me lunch. Some people have all the luck." Hannah was only barely able to contain an angry response, remembering all the times that Simone or Isabelle had been sick and she'd had to look after them. Especially since she'd had to do much more than take them lunch.



Instead she picked up her book and asked, "What does this word say?"



"Delicate." Simone said, "And each layer was more delicate than the last."



"Oh, thanks."



"You really are stupid." Simone commented before leaving. Shrugging Hannah went back to her book.



***





The next day they sent for the healer again to see if there was anything he could do to speed up Hannah's recovery. He told them that even though Hannah had improved a lot if she was made to do any work then her health would fail again. He reiterated that she would have to stay in bed to at least the end of the week. When asked if he could prescribe any herbs for Hannah he just said that bed rest was the best medicine.



When he had gone David Watson said, "Damned fool. I don't know why we appointed him."



"It was you who recommended him to the council, dear." Paula said.



"Yes, well I'm starting to regret that. He doesn't seem to know anything about medicine."



"Well I don't care what he says." Paula said "After this week Hannah is getting out of that bed and catching up on all the work she's missed."



"Well it's up to you." David said.



***





"So how long till we reach Oakholm?" Beatrice asked Morgan.



"One day less than when you asked yesterday." Morgan answered.



"Which is?" Beatrice pressed.



"Three days."



"Good." Beatrice said "I wonder what it's like."



"Pretty much like any town I imagine." Morgan said.



"Hey, what's that?" Beatrice asked pointing at a trio of objects flying a distance away. Morgan lifted her hand to shade her eyes while she looked at what Beatrice had pointed out.



After a few seconds she swore, "Shit."



"Morgan!" Beatrice said in a shocked voice. However Morgan had ridden away.



As she rode along the caravan she shouted, "Roth birds! Roth Birds."



When Morgan reached Peters he asked, "What's all the commotion about?"



"We've seen Roth birds. They're flying towards us."



"Shit." Peters swore "Where are they?" Morgan pointed at the birds, which were considerably closer now. "Daniels, Roger get the bows." Peters said. The two men he had spoken to went and grabbed crossbows and loaded them. When the birds were closer they fired. Two of the birds fell to the ground. Daniels tried to reload his crossbow but the bird reached him and began clawing at his face. Roger drew his sword and tried to slash at it but it moved about to quickly. Morgan pulled a knife out from a pocket and holding it up she whispered



"Goddess, guide this blade. I plead to you, let my aim be true." She then threw the knife. It went through the birds neck, taking it's head off. She quickly road over to Daniels who was lifting his hands to his face and said "Don't touch it. You'll only make it worse."



"Goddess it hurts." Daniels complained.



"I know." Morgan said, "But I have some herbs that will help." Daniels once again raised his hand to his face but Morgan grabbed his hand and said "Trust me it'll be okay." she got a cloth and after soaking it with water she began dabbing at Daniels' face.



While she did Peters came over and said, "That was some nice throwing."



"I've had a lot of practice." Morgan told him.



"Just before you threw the knife, you said something." He commented



"It was just something to help me focus." Morgan explained.



"Right." He said. "I'm afraid your knife is useless now." Morgan nodded, she had expected that. Peters then left Morgan to treating Daniels. Once she had finished the caravan set off and Morgan rode back to join Beatrice.



"What were those things? Roth birds I think you called them."



"That's right." Morgan said, "They're nasty things. Their claws are poisonous, and there blood is acidic."



"Nice." Beatrice commented, "Is that man going to be okay."



"He should be. I was able to treat the poison and the cuts should heal given time."



"So where did those things come from?" Beatrice asked.



"Well legend has it there used to be a bird called an Eagle. Something caused them to become infected and most of them died, the ones that survived became Roth Birds."



"Eagles." Beatrice said, "I've never heard of them."



"It's a pretty old Legend. It was Hazel who told it to me."



"Oh, so did she have any idea how they became infected?"        "No, That part of the legends been lost, if anyone ever knew what had happened."



***





When they stopped for the night Morgan went to check on Daniels. As she checked his face and replaced the herbs Peters came over and said



"It's a pity we're going to be a man down."



"I can still do my work." Daniels protested.



"No, you need to rest." Morgan told him.



"Listen to the woman." Peters said, "She obviously knows more about these things than you do." He considered it a moment then said to Morgan, "In fact maybe I should make you a guard."



"I'm not much of a f-fighter." Morgan stammered



"Could have fooled me." Peters said, before leaving.



***





When Morgan had finished checking on Daniels she went to help get the dinner ready. As they ate Beatrice asked Morgan



"So how big is this OakHolm, how many people are there living there?" Morgan shrugged and said



"I'm afraid I really don't know. Though from what I've heard I'd say that it's pretty big."



"Well I just hope we don't get attacked again before we get there."



"Actually I think we've been lucky to have only been attacked the once." Morgan told her.



"What makes you say that?" Beatrice asked.



"Mainly the number of guards we've got coming with us." Beatrice was going to respond but Morgan held her hand up to silence her, clearly listening to what was being said at the other fire.



"So does anyone here know the story of where Roth birds come from?" Peters asked.



"I'd like to hear this." Morgan explained as she turned to face him.



"I thought you knew where they came from." Beatrice said.



"I know one legend, I'd like to hear what other's there are." Morgan said.



Obviously everyone had answered in the negative as Peters went on, "Well then I'll tell you. Story has it they came from the island of Iodor."



"There's nothing there." One of the men said.



Beatrice stood up saying, "Come on I can barely hear." They walked over to the other fire.



Seeing them Peters nodded to Morgan then said, "Maybe now there isn't but legend has it that once a powerful and terrible mage lived there."



"What was his name?" The man who had spoken before said.



"No one knows that." Peters said "It was removed from all memory. Anyway when he was young he got embroiled in a feud with another mage. Eventually they decided to settle their differences in a duel. Now this mage was beaten and the other one put a curse on him trapping him on the island. If he should ever step foot off the island, the curse went, then he would be turned to stone." Peters paused to take a drink then went on, "Eventually the isolation drove him insane." He paused a moment then went on, "Well he was already insane but this drove him totally over the edge. He tried to make himself into a god. He began trying to create life. Of course as we all know only the goddess can do that so his attempts were failures and instead he created all manner of undead creatures, neither truly alive or truly dead. It is said that Roth birds were a result of his experiments."



"What happened to this mage?" Beatrice asked.



"Well according to legend during the mages experiments into magic he created a spell called a firestorm. It created a sheet of flames running along the ground, so hot that it burnt anything it touched and that it baked the ground so that nothing would ever grow there. The legend goes that the mage was consumed in these flames, along with everything else on the island. Which is why it is such a wasteland. It was then that the goddess erased his name from everyone's memories so that no one would be tempted to follow his example." Peters grabbed his mug but was dismayed to find that it was empty. Getting up, Morgan quickly went round to refill it.



As she did One of them stood up and said, "I know a story."



"Go on, Harold." Peters said



"Well this is the story of prince Ivan and his sister Morgan. Anyway the king and queen of the kingdom of Maldania..."



"Maldania, never heard of it." One of the other men said



"Well it's a long way away." Harold said "Anyway the king and queen had a son, who they called Ivan. Now he was a perfect son, strong, handsome and intelligent, yet he was born mute. Despite this his parents loved him and doted on him and he grew into a proud young man. Then when he was fifteen he found out that he was too have a sister. At first he was overjoyed at the news but one day when he was tending to one of the horses a mouse came up and spoke to him. It warned him that his sister would be a terrible witch." Harold paused at this and said to Morgan, "Um, no offense." Morgan just waved away his apology and he went on, "The mouse told him that when his sister grew up she would kill and eat her family. It told him that if he went to the king it would give him voice so that he could ask for a horse. He then had to ride as far away from kingdom as he could. So Ivan went to the king and as it had promised the mouse gave him voice so he could ask for a horse. The king was so overjoyed to hear his son speak that he granted his son's request and let him take any horse that he wanted. He took the finest horse and he left the kingdom..."



"What so he just left," Beatrice said, "knowing that his family were going to be killed?"



"Well, he knew that there was no way that he could save his parents." Harold explained, "So anyway after he had been traveling for three years he came across a stairway leading up into the sky. Climbing it he reached a castle in the sky. There he met a woman called the sun sister. She asked him to stay with her awhile and he soon fell in love with her. However he couldn't stop thinking about his parents. So one day he went out to see and looking down on Maldania he saw that his parents had indeed been killed. When he went back inside the Sun Sister asked him why he was crying, but he just told her that the wind had blown in his eyes and made him cry. The next day he went out again and again when the Sun Sister asked him why he crying he told her that it was wind. And the next day he did it again bu this time the Sun Sister commanded the wind to not blow so she knew he was lying. When she challenged him on this he told her what had happened. She told him that now wasn't the right time but when it was he would return home and with her aide he would avenge his parents."



"So what happened?" Peters asked.



"Well he's still waiting for the right time to take his revenge." Harold explained.



"Well it was a good story but the end could use a little work." Peters said.



Morgan stood up and said to Beatrice, "I'm going to get to bed."



"Yeah, me too." Beatrice said. As they got ready Beatrice noticed that Morgan seemed to be a bit agitated. "Is something wrong?" She asked.



"I had a brother called Ivan." Morgan explained.



"What happened to him?" Beatrice asked.



"He left home just before I was born."



"Wow, that's quite a coincidence."



"Yeah."



"Um, Morgan." Beatrice said hesitantly, "That story, it isn't..."



"I didn't eat my parents." Morgan told her.



"Just checking." Beatrice said.



***





The next morning, while they were eating breakfast, Beatrice asked Morgan, "So how long again till we reach Oakholm?" Morgan, who's mouth was full, answered by holding up two fingers. "Okay either it's two days or I've done something to offend you." Morgan almost choked herself at this.



When she had recovered a bit she said, "Beatrice I wouldn't do that."



"Right well just for the record, if you'd done that back at the castle I'd have had you beheaded." Beatrice told her.



"Really?" Morgan asked.



"Yes."



"Oh well then it's a good thing we're not."



***





The day passed without any incidents. That night when they stopped Morgan and Beatrice joined the main fire. When they'd finished eating Peters stood up and said



"Well who's going to start us off with the stories this time?" To Beatrice's surprise, it was Morgan who stood up and asked, "Does anyone know the story of the saint Leanne?" When everyone shook their heads she went on "Well a long time ago there was a young woman called Yeshe Dawa. She was a daughter of two farmers but when her parents died from the plague she lost the farm. Spending the last of her money on a horse and a sword Yeshe set out to explore the continent. During her travels she was attacked by all manner of monsters yet she slew them all. However the thing that affected her most was the hardship and injustice that she saw all around her. Eventually after travelling for several years Yeshe came upon a monastery and decided to stay there to study. After studying there for years she was made a high priestess and she was held to be the most enlightened woman who had ever lived. One day while Yeshe was meditating a group of priests came to visit her. They told her that in her next life she should ask to be reincarnated as a man for then she would surely gain true enlightenment and be allowed to leave the mortal coil."



"Did she do it?" Harold asked.



"No." Morgan answered, "Yeshe told them that while there were many who sought enlightenment in the male form, there were none who worked for the wellbeing of others in the female form. She then swore that she would always reincarnate as a woman until all suffering had ended and the cycle of life, death and rebirth had become empty. She then set out from the monastery and it is said that before she died Yeshe Dawa saved a million million beings and defeated a million million demons. It was due to these acts that she became known as Saint Leanne-Saviouress, or She who leads across."



***





Later that night when they went to bed Beatrice said, "That was a nice story."



"Thanks. I've always liked it."



"I take it it was Hazel that told it to you."



"Well we didn't have much to do so she did spend a lot of time telling me the old stories. Though I left a bit out of that one."



"Oh, yeah?"



"Well Hazel told me a lot of stories about Leanne. In a lot of them she was supposed to have been a powerful witch."



"And she was made into a saint?" Beatrice asked, not sounding as though she believed it.



"Well it was a long time ago."



"Still..." Beatrice started.



"The persecution of witches is a relatively recent thing. The first cases are just two hundred years ago, in the kingdom of Mithrar."



"That's the one just to the west of us?" Beatrice asked.



Morgan furrows her brow then said, "I think so."



"I only know that because we recently sent a diplomatic mission there."



"Well Hazel was born there. Though the only thing she's ever told me about it was that that was where the order of Galeone was formed. And that she was forced to leave in a hurry after it was discovered she was a witch."



"So how did the persecution spread to this kingdom?" Beatrice asked.



"That wasn't till a hundred years later. It was your great grandfather who started it." Morgan answered.



"Sorry." Beatrice said.



"Why? I don't blame you for something your ancestor did. Anyway it all started at the battle of the Harrod plains."



"I've heard of that. That was against the rebel duke Mornington. He was beaten despite having twice the number of men."



"Yes." Morgan agreed, "It was mainly due to bad luck but he couldn't accept that. Eventually he decided that his defeat had been due to witches. As time went on he became more and more paranoid about witches plotting against him. A couple of years after the battle he outlawed witchcraft. Soon afterwards he invited the order of Galeone into the kingdom."



"Well I promise that I'm going to reverse the damage he did." Beatrice promised.



"Thank you." Morgan said.



***





Later the next day, as it started getting dark Beatrice asked Morgan, "When are we going to stop. I'm getting hungry."



"Look." Morgan said pointing ahead. Straining Beatrice could just about make out some lights in the distance.



"What is that?" Beatrice asked



"Oakholm." Morgan answered.



TBC



The next part will be up later today



I find it kinda funny, I find it kinda sad
The dreams in which I'm dying are the best I've ever had.
- mad world



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 Post subject: Re: Ever After
PostPosted: Sat Dec 06, 2003 10:38 am 
As promised here is the next chapter



Chapter 5

Oakholm

Another Journey Begins





After having being paid by Peters, and being assured they could have a job on his caravan any time they wanted, Morgan and Beatrice went to find a place to stay for the night. They found a small inn where they booked rooms and ordered a meal. While they waited they discussed what they were going to do next.



"I think we should spend tomorrow gathering supplies." Morgan suggested



"Oh, that would definitely be a good idea. Plus I could do with some time to rest." Beatrice agreed



"But I don't think we can afford to stay here too long." Morgan went on.



"So we leave the day after tomorrow."



"Okay." Morgan said "The question is where?"



"Um, I'm not really sure about that." They stopped talked as the innkeeper brought them their food. When he had set the plates down Morgan said



"Thankyou."



"Excuse me but how far are we from the border?" Beatrice asked.



"A days ride." He answered "Now why would you want to know that?"



"We're explorers." Beatrice answered, "We want to see the world."



"Right." He said chuckling, "Explorers." He then left them to their meal.



"Well?" Morgan asked.



"I think I'd like to see another kingdom. I'm going to go across the border." Beatrice said.



"What do you mean I?" Morgan asked, "Are you sick of me already?"



"No, of course not. It's just I didn't think you'd want to come. I mean you could probably find somewhere to stay here." Beatrice said.



"Oh, I'm coming." Morgan said, "You're not the only one who wants to see more of the world."



"Well okay then. I'd like the company." They both ate in silence for a while then Beatrice said, "So what supplies are we going to be getting."



"Well we'll need food for a start." Morgan said.



"I'd kind of guessed that." Beatrice said.



"Also we'll need horses and sleeping material."



"Oh, are we going to have enough money?"



"We should do as long as we don't get to extravagant." Morgan answered.



"Well, then it's a good thing I've gotten used to roughing it over the last week." Beatrice said, "Well I'm afraid you'll have to handle all that sort of stuff."



"Me?" Morgan said, a horrified look on her face.       



"Well yes." Beatrice answered, "You're much better at that sort of thing that I am."



"Yes, but..." Morgan started. She paused then asked "What are you going to be doing?"



"I'll be performing the important task of gathering information."



"Oh, well I guess that'll be important." Morgan conceded, "It's just I don't like doing that sort of thing."



"But you're great at it. I mean the way you had that farmer squirming was brilliant."



"I know but that doesn't mean I like it." Morgan said.



"Oh well if you think I should handle that sort of thing. Just don't be surprised if I spend all our money on magic beans or something." Beatrice said.



"No, I'll do it. After all we need to spend our money carefully."



"Are you saying I can't be careful, when it comes to money?" Beatrice asked.



"Um, well..." Morgan said.



"Because if you are, you're right." Beatrice said, with a smile. "I mean I wasn't exactly raised to be, was I?"



"I guess not." Morgan conceded. "Okay I'll get us supplies while you get us as much information as possible on the kingdom of Krondor and how to get there."



"Agreed." Beatrice said "I might not be good with money, but I am good at getting people to tell me stuff."



***





The next morning Beatrice was sitting brushing her hair when there was a knock at the door.



"Come in." She said. The door opened and Morgan came in. "You know you don't have to knock. This is your room as well."



"I wasn't sure if you were descent." Morgan explained



"I'm always descent." Beatrice said. Then after a moments thought she added "Oh I see what you mean. Probably a good idea." She put the brush down then commented "You were up early."



"Did I wake you?" Morgan asked



"No, I was just a bit surprised you weren't here when I woke up."



"Oh, I like to watch the sunrise." Morgan said.



"Well to each their own." Beatrice said. "So what do you say to breaking fast?"



"That sounds like a good idea." Morgan agreed and they both went downstairs. As they went down Beatrice said "I'll tell you one thing, after spending five nights sleeping on the ground, that bed was a blessing."



***





After eating some breakfast they split up to go about there respective errands. The first place Morgan went was the stables to look at the horses.



She was greeted by a young man who said, "Hello there miss, what can I do for you?"       



"Um, I'm looking for a couple of horses." Morgan replied, starting to wish she'd gotten Beatrice to do this.



"Well you've come to the right place. If you'll come this way I'll show you our stock." As they walked into the main yard he asked, "So how much were you thinking of spending?"



"That all depends on the horses." Morgan answered.



***





Beatrice was just returning to inn when she saw a young woman leading a pair of horses, one brown the other grey. Paying her no mind she started to go past but stopped as the woman said



"Hi." Turning she suddenly realised that it was Morgan.



"Oh, hello." Beatrice said "Sorry, I didn't recognise you. So you got us horses."



"Yeah, I'm just taking them to the stable." Morgan said.



"Were they expensive?" Beatrice asked.



"Not too bad." Morgan answered, "We've still got enough money."



"Oh, good."



"So have you found anything?" Morgan asked



"Just that to get to the kingdom of Krondor we're going to have to cross a mountain range?"



"That could be tricky." Morgan said, thinking maybe she'd gotten the wrong sort of horses.



"Oh it should be okay. Apparently there's a trail going through the mountains that's easy enough to ride. Though apparently you don't want to try to walk it." Beatrice said



"Oh well then it's a good thing I've got us horses." Morgan said, "So what are you going to do now?"



"Well it's getting a bit hot so I was thinking, siesta time."



"Good idea." Morgan agreed. "Actually I was thinking the same thing." They walked back to the inn together and Morgan went to leave their horses in the stables.





Later that afternoon Beatrice went out again to see if she could find any more information.



As she was wondering through the market place a voice said, "hey you." Turning Beatrice saw a youngish boy standing a short distance off.



"Can I help you?" She asked.



"Actually I think that I can help you." He said. "I here you want to know about the kingdom of Krondor."



"Well just things like best way to get there, where to stay, stuff like that."



"Well I could sell you a map, very reasonable price."



"Let's have a look." Beatrice said. The boy handed her a rolled up parchment. Unrolling it she quickly saw that this was in fact a map of the town of Oakholm. "I think you've made a..." She started to say, when out of the corner of her eye she saw someone running away. Reaching down she found that the purse she had been carrying had gone. The boy she had been talking to snatched the map out of her hand and ran after his accomplice. "Hey, stop." Beatrice shouted, running after them. She followed them out of the market place and down an alley. After following them for a few minutes she lost sight of them. Then after looking round for a few moments she realised she was lost. "How am I going to explain this to Morgan." She muttered to herself.



***





When Beatrice got back to the inn Morgan looked up and smiled saying



"I was starting to get worried."



"I got lost." Beatrice said.



"Oh, well I'm glad that I'm not the only one." Morgan said.



"So how did it go today?" Beatrice asked, wanting to put off telling Morgan about what had happened.



"Pretty well. I got everything we need. Though there were some tough negotiators, so I'm afraid I've spent most of the money I had."



"Oh." Beatrice said, suddenly feeling sick.



"It's a good thing I gave you that money. If I hadn't they might have talked me out of that as well." This was too much for Beatrice, who sat down and started crying. "What's wrong?" Morgan asked.



"I was robbed today." Beatrice explained.



"Oh." Morgan said. She sat down next to Beatrice and said "Well there's no need to get upset over it. I've bought everything we need."



"But you said we needed that money, and I lost it." Beatrice said. Morgan put her arm round Beatrice, who rested her head against Morgan's shoulder.



"Firstly you didn't lose it, it was taken from you." Morgan said "Secondly while having the money would have been useful, we'll manage without it."



"I feel like such an idiot." Beatrice said.



"You're not the only person to have ever been robbed." Morgan told her.



"Have you ever been?" Beatrice asked



"Me? Yes, too many times." Morgan said. She was quiet for a few moments then went on "The worst time was about three years ago. Hazel had been saving up for a long time to buy some chickens, so we could have fresh eggs. Anyways I had just turned eighteen and I wanted a chance to go round the market on my own. After several days of pleading Hazel let me go to buy them. I hadn't even reached town when I saw a man who had been injured. I went over to help him up, when suddenly he said 'thanks I'm much better now.' and he ran off. For some reason I checked my purse, to find it had gone."



"What did Hazel say? Was she angry?" Beatrice asked



"Actually no." Morgan answered "I think it might have been easier if she had been, it'd be what I'm..." Morgan stopped and after a moments hesitation she went on "What I'm trying to say is I know how you feel."



"Thanks." Beatrice said as she moved away from Morgan. Morgan pulled a hankie out from her sleeve and handed it to Beatrice.



As Beatrice dried her eyes Morgan said, "Right that's enough of that. Tomorrow will be our last day in this kingdom so instead of worrying about the past we should just think about the adventures that we're going to have."



"Okay then, you're right." Beatrice agreed "No point crying over spilled milk."



"Or lost money." Morgan added.



***





That evening as Morgan and Beatrice sat eating their dinner Morgan said, "So we'll be leaving early tomorrow."



"Not too early, please." Beatrice asked.



"Well okay." Morgan said, "But we definitely be going in the morning."



"Alright then." Beatrice said, "Slave driver."



At the table next to theirs one of the men said, "So they're still going ahead with the ball?"



"Apparently so." The other man answered.



"Doesn't seem right, what with the princess still missing."



"I'd forgotten about the ball." Beatrice said. "I wish I could have gone."



"I'm afraid you're going to miss it." Morgan told her.



"Oh, well I guess you've seen one ball, you've seen them all." Beatrice said.



"So what are they going to do about who runs the kingdom?" The first man to have spoken said.



"Well obviously, Edmund is going to be made King."



"But what about the princess."



"Oh everyone knows she's dead."



"But people are still looking for her."



"Well I admit some brave, or foolhardy souls are still looking for her but everyone with any sense has given up by now."



"They think that I'm dead." Beatrice said.



"Yeah well they were bound to start thinking that eventually." Morgan told her, "Though I'm surprised they've given up so quickly."



"I have to do something. I can't have my brother worrying about me."



"They're nothing you can do, unless you go back."



"I could send a letter." Beatrice said.



"It might not be a good idea." Morgan said.



"Still I have to do it." Beatrice said, "Please."



"Okay then you right out the letter and I'll get it sent off before we leave tomorrow." Morgan told her.



"Thanks." Beatrice said.



***





Hannah sat staring miserably into the fire, a blanket wrapped around her. She had gotten a lot better in the last few days but her parents had decided that she shouldn't risk her health by going to the ball. Hannah knew they were only worried about it delaying her being able to get back to work. No sooner had she thought this and Hannah felt guilty about it. After all she had a home, clothes and was well fed and these were all things which she had to be grateful to the Watsons for. Hannah was still contemplating these things when she was shocked out of her thoughts by a voice saying, "You shall go to the ball."



"What?" Hannah said, "Who said that?" Suddenly a plump middle aged woman appeared in front of Hannah. She had dark grey hair and light blue eyes, though the most noticeable thing about her was the pair of translucent wings that came from her back.



"I did." she said, she waved the wand she was holding and suddenly Hannah felt better.



"Thanks." Hannah said, "Are you my fairy godmother?"



"Who else." The woman said. She waved her wand again and a blue dress appeared. Hannah got up to look at it.



After she had been gazing at it a while she said, "I don't think I need this."



The fairy godmother, who had been smiling happily, gave Hannah a look of despair at this and asked, "Don't you like it?"



"Oh it's lovely." Hannah answered, "It's the most beautiful dress I've ever seen. It's just what I think I really need is armour."



The fairy godmother's face fell even further at this, "Armour?" She said.



"I think chain-mail would be best." Hannah went on.



"You can't wear chain-mail to a ball."



"Oh I'm not going." Hannah said, "I'm going to look for the princess." The fairy godmother waved her wand with considerably less enthusiasm than before and the dress became a set of chain-mail armour.



"Then I guess you won't want a carriage drawn by four white horses or glass slippers."



"Well I just need one horse. Oh and I guess I'll need a sword and a shield." The fairy godmother waved her wand a few more times and there was a neighing from outside, then a sword and a shield and a set of glass slippers appeared. Picking the slippers up Hannah asked, "What are these fore?"



"Well you never know when you'll... Look just take them." The fairy godmother answered.



"Okay then, thanks." Hannah put the chain-mail on then began packing some supplies. As she was doing this she asked the fairy godmother, "You don't think you could leave a note for my parents. It's just my writings not so good." She waved her wand and her a piece of paper appeared.



Hannah picked it up and read, "Gone - to - look - for - the..."



She stopped and looked at her fairy godmother who said, "Princess."



"Prin-cess, right. Love..."



"Hannah."



"Oh, that's me." She put the note down, then as a thought occurred to her she asked "This stuff isn't going to vanish at midnight is it?"



"Don't worry." Her fairy godmother answered, "I make stuff to last."



"Oh, good." Lighting a lantern Hannah put the bag over her shoulder and went out to the horse.



As she rode off her fairy godmother watched after her sadly then said, "Poor dear. I tried to spare you this." She shook her head then said, "Well you always did have to take the difficult path." She then disappeared.



***





Hannah watched the ground carefully as she rode. She knew that even with the lantern, riding in the dark was risky, but she wanted to put as much distance between herself and her home before stopping for the night. She knew that the princess had been gone for about a week now and that if no one else had found her in that time then she didn't stand much of a chance yet despite this she couldn't help a feeling of elation. A feeling that she was doing the thing that she was supposed to be doing.





I find it kinda funny, I find it kinda sad
The dreams in which I'm dying are the best I've ever had.
- mad world



Top
  
 
 Post subject: Re: Ever After
PostPosted: Sat Dec 06, 2003 6:53 pm 
Two installments. Twice the goodness.



I like the gyno-theistic (or would it be gyne-theistic) beliefs of the caravan-folk, possibly reflecting the beliefs of the common folk of the land? I decided that it was status quo in this interesting world. I also like the eagles. Made me believe that this may be the future. A post-cataclysm future of some kind. I also was led to believe that by the tale of the scorched island. I don't really know, or care, if these conclusions are accurate, or have any real significance in the story. They just intrigued me a lot.



Hannah can't read very well. This (I don't know why) just tugs at my heart-strings. I also enjoy the fact that she's breaking the expectation of the FGM (which is hilarious, BTW), and also breaking the expectation of the cultural norm. I also like the fact that she knows not why she's so inclined to do what she feels is the proper thing.



There's a real mystery when it comes to Morgan and her connection to the tale that was told by the fire. Beatrice made the connection for me, but she and I are still unclear as to what the significance of the Morgan/Ivan/Mouse tale is. I'm sure that we'll hear more about that later.



Getting very thick, still not too murky. (always a good thing)



Excellent updates, Justin!



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 Post subject: Re: Ever After
PostPosted: Sun Dec 07, 2003 2:09 am 
StrangeQuark:



Quote:
I like the gyno-theistic (or would it be gyne-theistic) beliefs of the caravan-folk, possibly reflecting the beliefs of the common folk of the land? I




You're right gyno-theism is the norm (amongst humans anyway)



Quote:
I don't really know, or care, if these conclusions are accurate, or have any real significance in the story. They just intrigued me a lot.




I agree. Speculating about the background to a story is always fun. Which is probably why so many people write fan fiction.



Quote:
Excellent updates, Justin!




Thanks :)



Chapter 6

A trip through the mountains.

The problem with sprites.





Hannah was woken up several times during the night. She had always been a light sleeper and now, sleeping outside, this was becoming a severe disadvantage. She was being woken up by every little sound. Finally, when it started to get light, she decided to give up on getting any more sleep and to get up. After feeding her horse Hannah made her way to a nearby stream to wash and get some water. With that done she cleared her stuff up and got her horse ready.



As Hannah rode back to the road she started thinking about how she was going to track down the princess. Just riding about aimlessly didn't seem too likely to work. Also she didn't think asking about would turn up anything. After all the fact that she hadn't been found yet meant that whoever was behind her disappearance had taken measures to prevent her from being recognised. While Hannah was still considering this she saw in the distance a forest. As she got closer she recognised it as the forest of Morrigan. She had heard a lot of stories about this forest and had always been told that she didn't to go there when it was dark. The fact that her horse seemed to want to go there made Hannah very glad that it was going to still be light for a very long time. At first she resisted her horses wishes, trying to force it away from the forest. Then it occurred to her that since it was a magical creature it might have some ability that was allowing it to track the princess, so she let it go where it will.



After an hour of riding through the forest Hannah came to the remains of a house. It had been burnt and all that was left was the outer shell. As Hannah got closer she saw that someone had painted the word 'Witch' on it. Just below there was the emblem of the order of Galeone. Hannah shook her head in annoyance. There were many orders of knights which Hannah looked up to, the order of Galeone were not one of them. Hannah wondered what had happened to the houses owner. There was no signs of a burning so Hannah guessed that she had gotten away. Hannah got off of her horse and wandered round the wreckage, wondering why her horse had brought her here. The house and it's contents had been totally destroyed. After spending an hour looking Hannah started to get worried about get caught in the forest after dark so she mounted her horse and rode out. This proved difficult since it kept wanting to ride back to the house. At first Hannah couldn't explain this, then she decided that the horses magical nature, rather than allowing it to track the princess, was actually drawing it to the house which had supposedly been owned by a witch.



***





Beatrice and Morgan set off from the town of Oakholm about mid morning. They soon found the road which led to the border and followed it at a good pace.



"So do you think we'll reach the border by tonight." Beatrice asked



"We should do." Morgan said.



"Good, so then we'll be in another kingdom tomorrow." Beatrice said.



"Yes we will." Morgan agreed. She reached out to touch the branch of a tree as she rode past it saying "Touch wood."



***





About noon Hannah reached a small town. Not having any money and not wanting to drawn any attention to herself, Hannah skirted round it. As she rode away from the town she was met by a group of five knights. They all wore the insignia of the royal guard and all looked pretty beaten up. They stopped and the lead knight asked Hannah



"Where are you going, dressed up like that?"



"I'm looking for the princess." Hannah answered.



"She's been gone a week, and you're only just setting out now?" The knight asked,



"Well I've been ill." Hannah said, feeling embarrassed.



"Then you better go back. The princess is certainly dead." The knight said.



"Have you seen her body?" Hannah asked.



"No, but I don't need to know she can't still be alive."



"Oh, well in that case I'll keep looking." Hannah said.



"Then I suggest you be careful. There were ten of us when we set out." The knight told her.



"I will." Hannah said. She then moved off the road so that the knights could go past her. When they had gone Hannah had returned to the road and continued on. Thinking about what the knight had said she was surprised that they had given up so soon. Given that it was the princess who was missing she would have thought that they would keep searching till they either found her or were certain that she was dead. Still this meeting with the knights brought back to her mind her earlier debate of how to find the princess. Then the answer came to her. The cave of the Oracles. If the stories were true then she would find the answers she needed there. However the stories she'd heard about the forest surrounding the cave made the ones about the forest of Morrigan seem tame. At first Hannah rejected the idea, knowing that no one who made the attempt had come back, but the idea kept coming back to her. Eventually Hannah decided that she was going to try to reach the cave.



***





About mid afternoon Morgan and Beatrice came into sight of the mountain range.



"So that's the border?" Beatrice asked



"Yeah." Morgan answered



"It looks very high." Beatrice said



"Well as long as you're right about that trail it should be okay." Morgan said



"Well everyone said there was a trail that was easy to cross." Beatrice said. "I just hope we can find it." She added.



As it turned out the trail they were following led straight to a path leading through the mountains. It rose slightly but was pretty wide and seemed to be easy enough to cross.



"We should probably wait till tomorrow before crossing over." Morgan said



"Good idea." Beatrice agreed. They stopped at the base of the mountains and set up their camp.



As Morgan got the fire ready, Beatrice sat thinking. She suddenly sat up with a start and said "I just had a thought."



"Oh, yes." Morgan said, as she put some meat on the fire.



"Well when we get to Krondor, will people speak the same language as us? Will we be able to our money there?"



"Yes to both those questions." Morgan answered.



"You sound very certain, seeing as you claim to know as much about geography as I do."



"Well I might not know much about geography but I do know a bit about history. I know that until a few hundred years ago, this kingdom and the surrounding ones were all part of one larger kingdom."



"Oh, yeah, I think I remember hearing that. There was a civil war about three hundred years ago, which was when the kingdom split up."



"That's what I head as well." Morgan agreed, "So the language shouldn't have changed that much. Also while I was shopping yesterday, I saw coins from different kingdoms."



"So they will accept our money?"



"Yes. Here, take a look at this." Morgan fished through her bag and got out a coin which she threw to Beatrice.



"What's this?" Beatrice asked, looking at the coin.



"It's a Krondorian copper piece."



Beatrice handed the coin back then had to quickly raise her hand to cover a yawn. Looking embarrassed Beatrice said "I didn't realise how tired I was."



"I'm afraid you won't get too much sleep tonight." Morgan told her.



"You mean because of sleeping on the ground again. Actually I think I'm tired enough to put up with that."



"No, actually I meant because one of us should keep watch during the night."



"We should?" Beatrice asked, obviously surprised. "So we're only going to get half a night's sleep."



"How much sleep do you think you'd get worrying about some creature sneaking up on us and eating us in our sleep."



Beatrice blanched at this, then said "I'm don't think I'll get any now."



"Hence the need for a watch." Morgan said.



"Alright, alright." Beatrice said, "Do you mind if I take first watch?"



"No." Morgan said, "Is there a reason?"



"For some reason I find the idea of going to bed late more appealing than having to get up early."



"Oh well, I'd rather have the second watch, so I can watch the sunrise."



"Well then we're both happy."



***





Hannah gazed down at the map she'd drawn in the dirt, a frown of concentration on her face. She had often seen her father's maps while cleaning his study and was now trying to recreate one of them. She was sure that if she continued east then she would come to a river going northeast through the kingdom. From what Hannah could recall from the maps she believed this river would lead her close to the forest that surrounded the cave of the oracles. Once Hannah had the route and any landmarks committed to memory she rubbed out the map and started to get dinner ready.



***





Beatrice gazed out nervously into the night. Morgans words had her worrying that some unmentionable creature would come charging at them at any moment. The fire seemed to be growing dimmer so Beatrice threw some more wood on it. She wondered when it would Morgan's turn to take watch. Glancing up Beatrice was annoyed to see that the moon had barely moved since she'd last checked. In the distance something howled loudly. Beatrice shuddered and moved closer to the fire. Beatrice jumped as she heard a wailing sound. It seemed to be coming from a lot closer than the howls but looking around, Beatrice couldn't see anything. As she heard the sound again she realised this was the same sound that she had heard in the palace. Beatrice glanced around, expecting something to come jumping out of the shadows at any moment. However everything was quiet and soon Beatrice began to calm down a little.



When she woke up Morgan for her watch, Beatrice told her about the howling. Morgan said that it was most likely wolves and assured Beatrice that they rarely attacked humans. Beatrice decided to not tell Morgan about the wailing sound she'd heard.



***





Beatrice and Morgan got up early the next morning and set off across the mountains. The trail they were following rose steadily, but it was shallow enough to be easy to cross. After they'd been travelling for a few miles the wall to the right suddenly dropped away, leaving a quite disconcerting drop. Morgan glanced down and almost fell off her horse.



"Don't look down." She warned Beatrice.



Beatrice did just that then said, "Oh goddess."



"I said don't..."



"Yeah, I know. There's not much chance you'd survive if you fell down there."



"So don't fall."



"Thanks, I hadn't thought of that." Up till this point they'd been riding abreast of each other, but now decided that they should continue in single file, so they could stay further from the edge.



***





By mid afternoon Hannah came to a river. There was a young, sandy haired man standing at the side fishing. Approaching Hannah called, "Hello, is this the river Rother?"



"Of course it is." The man said, giving Hannah a strange look.



"Just checking." Hannah explained, feeling herself blush. Turning, Hannah started riding along the river bank. There seemed to be plenty of fish in the river, so at least she wouldn't go hungry, though she might start to grow tired of fish.



Hannah had been traveling a few miles along the river, when she slipped off her horse into the river. As Hannah climbed out of the water she looked around to see if there were any witnesses. She was relieved to see there was no one around to see her. Then it occurred to Hannah that she hadn't slipped but in fact had been pushed off her horse. However there was no one around to have done this. Hannah heard a giggle from the river and turning she saw the the head of a young woman out in the middle of the river. She giggled again the disappeared under the water. Hannah grabbed a stone and threw it where the head had been, before getting on her horse and starting off again.



Hannah travelled another mile along the river then decided to camp, so that she could get her clothes dried. Before getting her camp set up Hannah quickly checked for any sign of the water sprite but she couldn't see any.



***





Beatrice and Morgan stopped a short time later, when they came to a wider section of the road. As they set up there camp, Morgan said, "I hope that you don't sleep walk."



Beatrice looked rather shocked at this suggestion, "Are you trying to give me nightmares?" She asked. Morgan gave her an apologetic smile then continued making the camp up.



***





Once Hannah had a fire going and her camp set up she went down to the river to do some fishing. Taking her boots off Hannah waded a short distance into the river and looked for some fish. However there didn't seem to be any in the part of the river that she had chosen. Looking about Hannah saw that the other parts of the river were teeming with fish, but her part was deserted. Getting out Hannah moved further up the river, but before she got in she saw that all the fish had left that part of the river. Looking back to where she'd been Hannah saw that there were masses of fish there. When she got back there, all the fish had gone again. It was at this point Hannah started to think that someone was playing with her. Putting her boots back on Hannah made her way back to her camp.



***





Later that night Hannah was woken up as it started raining. She pulled the blanket over her head, but it just began raining harder. Soon Hannah's fire was put out by the rainfall. Just before it went out Hannah was able to determine that the rainfall was entirely in the area around her camp. She heard a familiar giggling sound and could just about make out a silhouette in the middle of the river. Grabbing a stone Hannah threw it at the shape, but it just disappeared into the river. This left Hannah with a dilemma. She needed to stay close to the river, but she didn't know if she could put up with being tormented like this for much longer. Quickly putting on some waterproof clothing she thought about the problem. Eventually Hannah decided that she would have to leave the river. She new that as long as she kept going in a north-easterly direction then she would be travelling parallel to the river. With that she packed up and led her horse away from the river. As soon as she was out of sight of the river the rain stopped. Relieved, Hannah once again made camp. After quickly making up a fire, Hannah Got under the blanket and fell into an exhausted sleep.



***





It was about midnight when Morgan was woken up by a shout from Beatrice, "Morgan, get up"



"What is it?" Morgan asked sleepily, "Is it my watch already."



"There's something outside." Morgan quickly grabbed her spell book and a couple of bags and ran out. In the firelight she could see two pairs of eyes glaring at them.



"Shit." She said.



Beatrice looked at her a moment is surprise, then asked, "What are they."



"Wraith wolfs." Morgan answered, already looking through her spell book.



"What can we do."



"Grab a log from the fire try to keep them..." Suddenly one of the wolfs charged at her. She grabbed a handful of dust from one of the bags and threw it at the dog while chanting. The wolf was thrown backwards into the wall. It quickly got up again, unhurt. Beatrice grabbed a log and used it to keep the wolfs away. Fortunately they seemed afraid of the fire. Finding the spell she was after Morgan got some herb's and more dust from several of the bags and began throwing them in a complex pattern while chanting. A ball of multicoloured light began to form in front of her. When it had formed Morgan pointed at one of the wolfs and a beam of light hit it. It shrieked in pain as the lights flowed over it. after a few seconds it vanished, but so had the light. Morgan began the spell again but the second wolf charged at her and getting past Beatrice, Knocked her to the ground. Grabbing the wolf's throat Morgan struggled desperately to keep it's mouth away from her, while it clawed at her chest. Beatrice hit it as hard as she could and it fell off Morgan, down the side of the cliff.



"Are you okay?" She asked Morgan



"Yes thanks. It didn't manage to bite me." Checking her chest, Morgan was relieved to see that the wolf's claws hadn't penetrated her clothes.



"Do you think it's dead." Beatrice asked, looking nervously down where the wolf had fallen.



"No. Only magic can kill them."



"Well we probably won't see that one again."



"No it'll take a while to climb back up."



"So we just have to worry about the rest of the pack."



"Wraith wolfs don't hunt in packs."



"Oh. Good. Though I remember you also saying that wolves don't attack humans." Beatrice finished, a certain amount of accusation in her voice.



"That's normal wolves." Morgan explained, "These Wraith Wolves are undead creatures, like the Roth Birds."



"Oh, right. Well you better get back to sleep, it'll be your watch soon."



"You know I don't feel much like sleeping right now."



"Me neither." Beatrice agreed.



TBC



Again there will be an update later today



I find it kinda funny, I find it kinda sad
The dreams in which I'm dying are the best I've ever had.
- mad world



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 Post subject: Re: Ever After
PostPosted: Sun Dec 07, 2003 8:50 am 
The water-sprite idea was a very interesting one. I like pranksters in a story. I still wonder if there's more purpose to the sprite than that, but I'm happy to simply believe that this land is full of such interesting creatures.



I like the friendship between Morgan and Beatrice too. It has evolved very naturally, and they still appear to be from vastly different parts (social segments, at least) of the same world. Very well done, IMO, since stories of the princes and the pauper often get a little too chummy in a short time, and you've maintained a believable distance between them, yet they do have a palpable friendship, and yes, even a devotion of sorts.



Your creatures are very impressive. They are scary, they are powerful, and they have vulnerabilities that are believable. I often dislike monsters that are too powerful, or too easily defeated. You've got a great balance going on in this world. That balance brings a rare element of believability to the fanciful universe that you've created.



There isn't much in the way of social interaction, but I don't mind that at all, since the story itself does not need a lot of that for plot propulsion. I'm glad that you haven't chosen to drag the reader through (often meaningless to the plot) dialogue that does little more than paint the setting. I like it when things are to-the-point, and your story definitely is just that. :)



I'm totally wrapped up in this. Great stuff, this. :)



-SQ



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 Post subject: Re: Ever After
PostPosted: Sun Dec 07, 2003 10:32 am 
StrangeQuark: I'm glad youlike the monsters in the story as I was trying to come up with creatures that were a bit differetn from normal fantasy monsters.



Thanks for the kind words :)



Chapter 7

Krondor.

The Cave of the Oracles.





"So this is the kingdom of Krondor." Beatrice said. It was mid afternoon and they had reached the end of the mountain range.



"I thought we had reached Krondor when we entered the mountains?" Morgan asked, a little confused.



"No. I was led to believe that the mountains themselves are a kind of no mans land. In between the two kingdoms."



"Oh well then, welcome to Krondor, your highness." Morgan said, with an extravagant bow. Well as extravagant as is possible from the back of a horse.



Beatrice laughed out loud saying, "I think when we get back I'll give you a job as court jester."



Morgan smiled at this, then said, "Thanks, that's always been a dream of mine."



"Well you should have asked sooner." Beatrice said. Looking round the landscape she said, "This looks just like my kingdom."



"What were you expecting?" Morgan asked, "For the grass to be purple?"



"Well, no. But I wasn't expecting the landscape to be quite so featureless." This last was totally accurate as they were on a flat plain without any landmarks, or even any trees or bushes, in sight. This continued on for several miles as they rode away from the mountains.



***





During the morning and early afternoon Hannah navigated by keeping herself at a position where she could just about make out the reeds which grew along the river. Then at mid afternoon she caught sight of some trees, which she guessed were the forest she was heading towards. They were a long way off but she was able to use them to navigate. Hannah was still some way off when she decided to stop for the night. Hannah thought about trying to catch some fish again. However she didn't want to risk the water sprite again so she instead decided to catch some rabbits. She managed to catch two rabbits and after eating what she could Hannah set about the drying the rest.



Hannah was woken by a flapping sound part way through the night. At first she thought is was the trees but then she saw a large bird like creature approaching. Scrambling out of bed Hannah quickly grabbed her sword. As the creature swooped at her Hannah ducked downwards, swinging her sword upwards. The creature gave a squawk of pain as her sword cut it's belly. The creature turned around then circled Hannah, observing her warily. When it swooped at her again, Hannah again ducked down. This time, though, she kept her eyes on the creature and this time cut it's head off. Rather unnerved by the way the body kept twitching, Hannah thrust her sword into it, to make sure it was dead. She then dragged the body away so as to not attract predators. As she did this Hannah gagged at the smell coming from the body. Once the body was a good distance from her camp Hannah threw the head after it. With this done Hannah grabbed a cloth and wiped her blade of her sword. She was rather shocked when the cloth she had used began smoking, and she quickly threw it away. She watched the cloth as it was rapidly eaten away by the creatures blood. Worried by the blood would have done to her sword, Hannah walked closer to the fire but was relieved to find that it hadn't been affected. Lying down, Hannah tried to get back to sleep.



***





Early the next morning, Morgan and Beatrice got up and got some breakfast. "So are you ready for your first day in a foreign country?" Morgan asked



"I just hope this plain doesn't go on much further." Beatrice said.



"I'm sure we'll reach civilization soon." Morgan assured her.



As they continued on this began to look increasingly unlikely. "Well this is interesting countryside." Beatrice complained, "It makes me glad to have left my kingdom."



"This plain can't go on forever." Morgan pointed out.



"It seems like it already has."



"Wait I think I can see something." Morgan said, gazing out over the plain.



"You mean beside grass." But Morgan had already ridden off. Beatrice quickly followed her. After a while she saw what had attracted Morgan's attention. It was a unicorn. As she approached Morgan got off her horse and walked towards it. The unicorn walked up to her and she was a little surprised when it let her stroke it's head. Then as Beatrice approached it snorted then turned and ran off.



"Was that a..." Beatrice started.



"A unicorn, yes." They were both silent a moment then said simultaneously



"Then you're a..."



"Then you're not a..."



"virgin." They finished.



"No I'm not." Beatrice said a little defensively, "I am twenty one." Beatrice got off her horse and walking over to Morgan went on, "But what about you, I thought you were the same age."



"I am."



"Oh dear." Beatrice said resting her hand on Morgan's arm. "We really are going to have to do something about getting you out of your shell."



"It's not just that."



"Then what else is it?"



"Well I've never really been interested in..." She stopped and shuffled her foot, looking rather nervous.



"Sex?" Beatrice guessed.



"No, um, men."



"Oh." Beatrice said then taking her hand away "Oh!" Morgan just nodded. "Well I'm sure that you'll meet the right, um, woman?" Beatrice guessed.



Morgan nodded again saying, "I hope so."



"Well let's get going."



"Okay then." They remounted and continued on. "Does it bother you?" Morgan asked.



"No. Why should it?"



"Well after the way you reacted to finding out I'm a witch."



"You thought I was rather intolerant."



"Kind of."



"Oh, well have I said I was sorry about that. Because I am. I mean you let me stay at your home, feed me and I attack you with no good reason."



"Really, It's okay."



"Okay then."



***





As they came over the top of a hill, to be greeted by another featureless plain Beatrice said, "I spy with my little eye, something beginning with g."



"Um." Morgan said.



"Grass!" Beatrice said. Then after a few minutes she said, "I spy with my little eye something beginning with M."



Morgan looked around then said, "I don't know."



"More grass." Beatrice said. After a few more minutes she said, "I spy with my little eye, something beginning with E."



"Let me guess." Morgan replied, "Even more grass?"



"You got it." Beatrice said.



"Is there anyway I can get you to stop?" Morgan asked, "Because I'm willing to offer money."



"Well you could tell me a story." Beatrice suggested.



"A story?"



"Yeah. You said Hazel told you quite a lot about Saint Leanne, so about one about her."



"Okay. If it'll get you stop with the I spying." She thought for a while then said, "I know. There's the story of Leanne and the dragon of Grendel."



"Ooh, yes that sounds good." Beatrice enthused.



"Well there was town called Grendel, which was a pretty ordinary town except for the fact they had their own dragon. When he arrived he made a deal with the towns people that he wouldn't eat them all in return for them supplying him with cattle and vast amounts of gold."



"Why is it that dragons are always after gold?" Beatrice interrupted.



"I think it's because of the curse." Morgan answered, "But that's another story."



"Right, sorry." Beatrice said.



"Anyway very quickly the town started to run out of gold and, anyway, they were growing tired of giving it all to a dragon. So they started looking for a hero to kill the dragon, offering them half the dragons hoard."



"Were there many takers?" Beatrice asked.



"Yes but none of them were strong enough to kill it and none of them returned. Then along came a knight called Arundell. As he rode to the Dragons cave he was stopped by Leanne who told him that if continued on to the cave then he would surely die. He just laughed at her warning and continued on. When he reached the cave Arundell threw a rock against the side of the cave to wake it up. Then when the dragon came out he threw his sword away and said that he didn't want to fight the dragon. Rather bemused by this the dragon stopped and asked why he was here then. He answered that many said that this dragon was the greatest that ever lived however he believed that the dragon Ariel was much greater. The dragon roared with anger at this asking what could Ariel do that it couldn't. Arundell answered that Ariel could turn herself in a huge mountain. The dragon immediately did that, becoming a mountain so high, that you couldn't see the top. When it returned to it's true form Arundell said that Ariel could also turn herself into a small cake."



"Let me guess." Beatrice said, "As soon as the dragon did this, Arundell ate it."



"Yes." Morgan said.



"Pretty clever."



"Not really." Morgan said, "Since as soon as he had done this, the dragon resumed it's true form."



"That sounds painful." Beatrice said.



"Yes, well it wasn't pretty." Morgan said, "Which just goes to show that dragons aren't just very strong, they're also very clever. It was about to go back into it's cave when Leanne came out from where she'd been watching. Seeing her he said, 'what do you want? Are you also going to claim that Ariel is a greater dragon than me?'



'No.' Leanne said, 'Since Ariel is dead, while you still live.' Hearing this the dragon wept for it and Ariel had been lovers.



'Who killed her.' It asked.



'The demon KnightBane killed her.' Leanne told it.



'Where is this demon?' The dragon asked, thinking to seek vengeance.



In answer Leanne drew her sword and holding it up she said, 'I slew the demon KnightsBane with this sword.'



'So have you come now to fight me, oh demon slayer?' The dragon asked.



'I don't need to fight you.' Leanne said, as she sheaved her sword. 'For I know your secret.' She picked up a stick and asked, 'Do you know what this is?'



'A stick.' The dragon said.



'No.' Leanne said, 'It is your life. As long as this stick is whole you will live but if I break this stick,' and with that Leanne made as if to break the stick, 'then you will die.'



'What are you going to do with that stick?' The dragon asked, afraid, for dragons are very superstitious creatures."



"Did she break it?" Beatrice asked.



"No she didn't." Morgan answered, "Instead she handed the stick to the dragon. Thanking her it went back into it's cave. It was suddenly overcome with fear that something might happen to it's life stick. So it sealed off all the entrances to it's cave. It then made a pile of all it's coins and curling itself up around the stick it went to sleep. Leanne then cast a spell to reform Arundel then she buried him."



"Wait a moment." Beatrice interrupted, "She brought Arundel back to life, then she buried him?"



"She didn't bring him back to life." Morgan explained, "Only the goddess can do that. She merely put him back together so that she could bury him. She then went down to the town and told them that Arundel had defeated the dragon but that he had died while doing it. She also told them that during the fight the cave had collapsed. After that people started going up to Arundel's grave and it soon became a shrine to the fallen hero."



"But if Leanne told them that Arundel killed the dragon, then how did anyone find out the true story?" Beatrice asked.



"That's because of her sword." Morgan answered.



"Her sword?" Beatrice said.



"Yes. You see just after she had left the monastery Leanne met a woman called Piper. They traveled together for several years until Piper was killed while fighting a demon. This demon trapped Piper's spirit and bound it into her sword. After defeating the demon Leanne took the sword and was able to communicate with Piper's spirit while holding it. Centuries later, long after Leanne had died the sword was discovered by a young knight. Piper told him about everything that Leanne had done and it was him that spread the word of her deeds."



"Wow. So what happened to the sword?" Beatrice asked.



"No one knows that. It was lost when the young knight died."



"That was a great story." Beatrice said, "You should think about becoming a bard."



"I don't know, I don't have much of a singing voice." Morgan said "And I can't play any instruments." They rode in silence for a little while then, suddenly, Beatrice burst out laughing. "What is it?"



"Sorry, I was just struck by the image of this massive dragon trying to protect a little stick."



Morgan smiled and said, "It is quite an image."



***





Hannah reached the forest early in the evening. She didn't like the idea of camping in the forest, so she set up camp just outside. Once the camp was set up Hannah got out the book she'd brought and began trying to read it. She soon became frustrated at the slow progress she was making, and as the light faded, her eyes began to ache. Giving up on reading Hannah began flipping through the book looking at the pictures. She suddenly stopped and turned back a page. There was a picture of a sword there. Hannah quickly pulled her sword out from it's scabbard, and held it next to that page. Looking between them it was soon clear that her sword was the one in the book. Not sure what to make of this discovery Hannah put the book away. She decided that since she had her sword out she might as practice a while. She was still elated about having survived her first fight, but she couldn't shake off the feeling that that was down to luck rather than skill. Hannah knew that if she was going to continue on her chosen path then she would be in a lot more fights than that and she couldn't rely on luck to get through all of them.



***





When Beatrice and Morgan camped that evening, they still hadn't reached the end of the plains. "I'm not sure how much more of this I can take." Beatrice moaned, "Are you sure we're not going round in circles."



"I'm positive." Morgan assured her.



"I'm not sure whether I'm relieved or not."



"This plane can't go on forever." Morgan reasoned.



"You'd think so, wouldn't you."



"I'm sure we'll reach some sort of settlement soon." Morgan said.



"What exactly makes you say that?"



"Wishful thinking, mainly."



"You're making this all up as you go along, aren't you?" Beatrice accused.



"No." Morgan answered, "Not all of it."



"Well I think if we don't see anything soon we should try a different direction."



"If you think it'll help."



"I do."



***





Hannah got up early the next morning and started into the forest. At first She made good progress into the forest but then as the undergrowth grew she began to slow down. She used her sword to cut through it, but was worried about damaging the blade. Suddenly Hannah broke through into a small clearing. There were a pair of bodies lying a short distance away. They hadn't decayed much, so Hannah guessed that they had died recently, they probably had the same idea that she had. Both their stomachs had been cut open, though the worst thing was that their eyes had been pulled out. Staring at the bodies Hannah started to have second thoughts about this whole idea. But then the thought of returning home, having failed was unbearable. With her resolve stiffened Hannah continued into the forest. The going was still slow but at least she didn't see any sign of what had killed the two knights.



***





"Are you sure we shouldn't try a different direction." Beatrice asked.



"I'm worried if we do, then we might start going round in circles."



"Oh. It's just we don't seem to be making any progress. I mean it'd be alright if we could just see one tree." Beatrice shook her head then said, "No wonder we don't do much trade with this kingdom."



"Don't we?" Morgan asked.



"No, I always wondered why."



"Now you know."



***





Hannah was making equally slow progress through the forest. She was forced to hack her way through the undergrowth and constantly stopped to check that she wasn't damaging her sword by doing this. Then the undergrowth began to thin. However Hannah's relief was short lived when she heard a growling from in front of her. Her horse pulled against it's reins. She tried to hold on to them but it pulled away from her and ran away. It was followed by a shape jumping out of the trees towards her. Hannah quickly jumped out of the way, trying to get a good look at it. Though remembering the bird creature from the night before she wasn't sure that she wanted to. The creature stopped and turned towards her. It was vaguely dog like though it had a pair of tentacles coming out of it's side. Hannah held her sword between her and it as she tried to work out what to do. She had the feeling this was the creature that had killed the knights. Then seeing the suckers at the end of it's tentacles she guessed it had used those to remove their eyes. She decided then that whatever happened this thing was not going to get her eyes. The creature moved towards her and Hannah swung her sword at it. The it quickly jumped at her and she had to quickly move her shield in the way of. The weight of the creature knocked her to the ground. Hannah swung her sword up at it and caught one of the creatures tentacles, slicing it off. The creature howled and rolled off of her. Hannah quickly got up and the creature growled angrily at her. She lunged forward and tried to stab the creature but it quickly moved to the side. The creature then jumped at her again and Hannah was forced to roll to the side to avoid it. Getting up she was breathing heavily she knew she would have to beat this thing quickly. She lunged at it again but this time when it dodged she hit it across the head with her shield. While it was stunned she rammed her sword through it's eye. As she pulled her sword out it fell to the ground. Hannah sheathed her sword then leaned against a tree, trying to get her breath back.



"You killed it." A voice said from above. Hannah looked up and saw a very small woman flying around with small translucent wings. She landed on a branch and staring at Hannah she went on, "You must be a mighty warrior."



"Oh yes I am. The whole world trembles at my name." Hannah declared proudly.



"And what is that?"



"What?"



"Your name."



"Oh Hannah Watson. What about you?"



"Oh I don't have a name." The fairy admitted.



"You don't?"



"No I don't need one."



"Oh right."



"I guess you're looking for the cave of the oracles. After all why else would some one come here."



"Yes."



"I'll lead you there." The fairy offered.



"Really?" Hannah said, surprised. After all she had been wondering how she was going to find the cave and couldn't believe she had been this lucky. The fairy just nodded in reply. "Okay but first I have to find my horse." She then set off after the horse while the fairy flew around her head.



Hannah found the horse a short distance away standing in a small clearing. As she took his reins he started following her.



"So can we go to the cave now?" The fairy asked, a little impatiently.



"Of course."



"Right. I'll lead the way."



"Why are you helping?" Hannah asked the fairy.



"Because I like you. You've got red hair."



"Thanks, I think. I like you too."



"Oh you're a lot nicer than the other people who come through here. I'll be sorry when you get killed."



"What?" Hannah gasped, a little shocked.



"Well there's no way you're going to make it to the cave."



"What makes you say that?"



"No one else has."



"Oh. I'm sorry I asked."



"Well you might be the first. You are the mightiest warrior in the world, right?"



"I was kind of exaggerating."



"You're not going to give up are you?"



"Of course not."



"Good." She then flew of a short distance, then stopped to wait for Hannah who followed after her.



A few hours later Hannah spotted what she thought was a cave. She was bloodied, but somehow she was still alive. She stopped and leaned against a tree, panting.



"You certainly are a fast runner." The fairy said, coming up to her, "Especially given how short your legs are." Hannah had been attacked several times on the way to here and while she had managed to kill a couple of them in most cases she had shown the better side of valour and run as fast as she could.



"Is that it?" She asked.



"Oh yes."



"I'm the first to make it here, right?"



"Second." The fairy corrected.



"But..."



"You'll see." The fairy answered. She hovered in front of Hannah's face a moment looking thoughtful then said, "I think all the others failed because they had too much armour."



"Can you have too much?"



"Oh yes. They weighed themselves down so much that they weren't able to flee like frightened rabbits quite as well as you could." She almost sounded disapproving as she said this.



"Well I admit my tactic of running away screaming might not have been the most dignified or heroic approach but it worked, after all I'm the first, sorry, second person to make it here."



"I guess. Well let's get going."



"Okay." They then walked to the cave. Hannah got a torch out of her pack and lit it before entering the cave. She went along a wide passage, which was sloping downwards slightly. The floor of the tunnel was very slippery, and as she walked along she almost lost her footing a couple of times. For some reason, the second time she slipped, Hannah had a feeling that she'd done this before.



Hannah had travelled a couple of hundred meters when she saw a skeleton leaning against the wall. "I take it that that's the first person to get here."



"Yes."



"How did he, or she die?"



"Oh that would be telling."



"But I thought that you liked me. You know with my being a redhead and all."



"Oh I do which is why I don't want to ruin the surprise for you." She flew around Hannah's head a few times then asked, "Is that your real colour?"



"Kind of." Hannah answered as she slowly edged towards the body. She was looking round the walls for any sign of what had killed them. She had the horrible feeling that it was some sort of trap. Probably involving spikes coming out of the walls. As she got close to it she reached out with her sword and prodded it. Nothing happened. She then tapped the floor next to it but again nothing happened. She was just starting to think that it might not be a trap when she heard a chattering sound from further down the corridor. A few seconds later she was able to make out a swarm of beetles at the edge of the torches light "goddess." She said before turning and running.



"I don't think even you can outrun these things." The fairy said. Hannah stopped and dropping her sword and torch she jumped up and grabbed the vines that were running along the roof of the passage way, just as the first of the beetles was about to reach her. She then pulled herself up out of the way of the beetles, which swarmed underneath her. "Now what?" The fairy asked, "How long can you stay up there?"



"You're not helping." Hannah said in annoyance, resisting the urge to swat at the fairy.



"What can I do?" She flew down to one of the beetles and said, "Go away." It's only response was to snap at her. She flew back saying, "Nasty thing." Hannah didn't notice as she was having trouble keeping herself above the beetles. As she did she quickly went over several plans to get away from the beetles. Unfortunately every scenario she considered ended up with the beetles swarming over her and eating her alive. The beetles entirely lined the floor as far as she could see with the flickering light from the torch so there didn't seem to be any way to get past them. Then she heard the sound of someone in heavy armour approaching. "Oh don't say someone else has made it here." The fairy said.



"Look out." Hannah shouted, "Killer beetles."



"What?" A male voice answered, "Is someone down there."



"Killer beetles." Hannah yelled.



"Oh shit." The voice answered. It was followed by the sound of the person running away. Hannah noticed that the beetles below her had gone after the other person so she dropped to the ground and grabbed her torch and sword and ran down the corridor.



"Aren't you going to help that person?"



"I warned him, didn't I?" not slowing down. After a couple of hundred more meters the cave widened and she found herself in a brightly lit cave. In the centre there was a pool of water. Most of the light seemed to be coming from pool.



"Well done." The fairy said, "You're the first to reach here."



"This is it?"



"Yes."



"But where are the oracles." The fairy just answered by pointing at Hannah.



"Me?"



"Yes."



"Oh. So what should I do?"



"How should I know? You're the oracle."



"Right." She walked over to the pool and looked into it. Suddenly Hannah remembered why it was all so familiar, she had dreamed about this. Kneeling down down Hannah got a cup out from her pack and filling it, she took a drink. Suddenly Hannah's throat began burning. Quickly Hannah got a water skin from her bag and took a drink from it. This eased the pain in her throat but she instead started feeling ill. Sinking to the floor Hannah passed out.



When she woke up Hannah asked the fairy, "How long was I out for?"



"Only a few seconds." The fairy answered, "So have you figured it out yet?"



"I'm not sure." Hannah murmured .She thought about the princess and where she was. Suddenly she found herself floating above two woman who were riding across a desolate plain. She wondered why she was seeing them then she realised that one of them was the princess, though she had disguised herself. Then just as suddenly she was back in the cave, and she could hear the chattering sound approaching. There was another passage leading out of the cave and she ran up it. She was running so fast that she almost ran into a man coming down it.



He looked down the passage then said, "Damn, not more of them. Come on." They both ran back up the passage. After a few metres they came out into the forest. The man stopped and said



"I don't think I'm going to be able to get to the cave unless I can find a way to kill those things."



"Why are you stopping?" Hannah asked gazing nervously into the cave.



"Don't worry they don't like sunlight. they won't leave the cave."



"But..."



"Don't worry we're safe here."



"It'll be night soon."



"Oh. Maybe we should put some space between us and them before then but I don't want to give up."



"Don't worry I've been to the cave."



"You have? And you met the oracles."



"Sort of."



"So you know where the princess is?"



"Yes. I'm going for my horse."



"Right I left mine with it." They started walking around the hill. As they did the man said, "It was you who warned me wasn't it?"



"Yeah."



"Thanks. If you hadn't I would have probably come to far into the cave to have been able get away from them."



"Actually I should thank you as they had me kind of cornered when you came and you drew them away."



"Then we saved each other."



"It seems like it. My name's Hannah."



"Maurice." Maurice said. Just then Hannah realised that the fairy wasn't with her and that she hadn't seen her since she had left the cave. She hoped the beetles hadn't hurt her. They soon reached their horses and made their way out of the forest. Neither of them wanted to camp in the forest so they continued on even after it had gotten dark.



Hannah and Maurice set up the camp once they were a couple of miles away from the forest. As he got the fire ready, Maurice asked, "So where is the princess?"



"What?"



"You said you knew where she was."



"Oh, yeah she's across the southern border of the kingdom."



"That's quite a long way off. It'll take a long time to reach it and by then we may be too late."



"But we're the only ones who knows where she is."



"For the moment. I'm not saying that we should give up but I'd hate to get to the south border only to find that she's already returned to the palace."



"Yes, that would be annoying." They both lapsed into silence. After a while Hannah noticed that Maurice was staring at her. "Is something wrong?"



"I was just wondering what you are doing out here."



"I'm looking for the princess like you."



"But why. You hardly seem the type to be off adventuring."



"What's that supposed to mean?"



"You don't look like the sort of person who would be able to hold their own in a fight."



"You're just saying that because I'm a woman."



"Not at all. I have met several woman who were excellent fighters, you're just not one of them."



"I made it through that forest didn't I?"



"Yes. Which was largely down to luck I expect."



"Well, um, I've always thought that luck plays a part in any fight."



"Of course. So how many creatures did you kill in there?"



"Um, three."



"You only met three? Then you really were lucky."



"Actually I met, I think, about ten."



"And you only killed three. What, did you run away from the others?"



"Yes."



"Well I guess even if you aren't too great a fighter, you at least show some sense. Though if you were really sensible you wouldn't be out here in the first place."



"Hey, if I wasn't out here then you'd be beetle food."



"Perhaps."



"And anyway I reckon I could beat you in a fight."



"You're joking."



"I am not."



"Well then I accept your challenge." He stood up and grabbed his sword.



"Oh." Hannah said, regretting her choice of words, though she was too angry to think about backing down. So instead she stood up and grabbed her own sword. They traded a few blows, not able to get past the others guard. Then Maurice twisted his sword round Hannah's and knocked it out of her hand. He then raised his sword up to her throat. "Or perhaps not." She said.



"So you admit defeat."



"Yes." When he didn't move she said, "You can move your sword now." He pulled his sword away and put it back in it's sheath, while Hannah went to collect hers. "Okay so maybe there's still room for improvement."



"That's a major understatement. Still there is some potential there, it's just unlikely that you'll live long enough to fulfil it." He crouched down and stared into the fire for a few moments before saying "We're both going after the princess right?"



"Yes." Hannah answered not sure what his point was.



"So we might as well travel together."



"Definitely. Two heads are better than one."



"Well then I might as well train you a little, if only to stop you waving your sword around like it was a feather duster."



"Really?"



"Yes. As you reminded me you did save my life, I might as well pay you back by ensuring you don't get killed in your first serious fight."



Hannah thought about pointing out that the life saving had been mutual but instead just said, "Thanks. I'd appreciate it."



"Let's look at your sword." Hannah handed it to him.



"Well it looks decent enough, Actually it's pretty well made." He held it out and said, "The balance is good. Where did you get it?"



"Would you believe my fairy god mother?"



He stared at her intently for a few moments then said, "What, was she out of glass slippers?"



"Um, actually I got some of those too."



"Oh." He handed the sword back and said, "Well I suggest we get started tomorrow."



"Okay then, and thanks again."



***





"I really think we should try another direction." Beatrice said again. "I mean, I bet we've gone past five villages by now."



"I'm sure we haven't." Morgan said, though she wasn't certain of this.



"Well maybe we should try going another way." Beatrice tried again.



"Wait, I think there's something up ahead."



"You tried that already."



"No, look." Morgan said, pointing ahead.



Peering ahead, Beatrice thought she saw smoke. Putting her heels to her horse she said, "Come on."



Catching up with her Morgan asked, "What are you doing?"



"I'm not spending another night out here if we can stay in an inn." Beatrice answered. They reached the town just as it was growing dark. After being admitted by the guard they asked about where they could find a cheap inn. The guard directed them to a place called 'The Hidden Princess.'



"A rather ironic name, don't you think?" Beatrice said, with a wry smile. Morgan nodded then after removing a few coins from money her bag, Morgan handed it to Beatrice. "What's this for?"



"So you can get us rooms, and something to eat."



"Are you sure?" Beatrice asked, Morgan nodded. "What are you going to be doing?"



"I'll get our horses put away in the stable." Morgan answered.



"Oh right. Well I'll try to not lose it this time." Beatrice said before walking into the inn. She went up to the bar and asked for a room and some food. As he handed her a key, the innkeeper said "You're not from around these parts are you?"



"No, we're from the north." Beatrice answered.



The innkeeper looked rather doubtful at this, saying "There's nothing to the north."



"I know." Beatrice said, "What is up with that?"



"That's just the way it is." The innkeeper answered grumpily, "So you're saying you crossed over the great plains?"



"I guess that I am."



"Very few people have managed that. Most end up going round in circles till the desolation drives them insane. It's said that even compasses don't work there."



"Oh. Well my friend has a very good sense of direction."



"That must be handy. Well I'll have one of the girls bring your food to your table."



Thanking him, Beatrice went to the table. A couple of minutes later Morgan came into the bar. Standing Beatrice waved to her, and Morgan came over. As she sat down Beatrice said, "I've ordered some food." Morgan nodded at this. Beatrice        put the change she'd got on the table, saying, "I'm afraid that's all that's left." There was a silver piece and several coppers.



"That's more than I was expecting." Morgan admitted, "This place really must be cheap." She put the coins in her money bag saying, "We should be able to pick up some more supplies tomorrow."



Beatrice told Morgan what the innkeeper had said about the great plains, finishing, "So I guess it was a good thing that you came along."



"I guess it was." Morgan agreed.



"Not that I'm not glad you came for other reasons." Beatrice added, with a smile.



"Thanks. I'm glad I did too, even though to start off with it was only because my house had been burned down."



"Well I guess it's like my dad always said, you don't close a door without opening a window."



"Don't you?" Morgan asked, with a puzzled look on her face.



"Well maybe it's not entirely accurate but I think the sentiments correct."



Morgan nodded then asked, "So where to from here?"



"I'm not sure. I think we ought to find out about the surrounding area because I don't want to spend any more time riding through featureless plains."



"I guess it was a little dull."



"A slight understatement." Just then a waitress came up with their food. After placing the food on the table she stood a moment staring at them. "Is something wrong?" Beatrice asked.



"I was just wondering which one of you is the witch." The waitress said.



Morgan choked on her food, while Beatrice said, "Which of us is what?"



"Duncan said you made it across the great plain. Now the only way the two of you could have done that is if one of you is a witch. So which one?"



"That'd be me." Morgan said, hesitantly.



"Why so shy?" The waitress asked.



"Where I come from witches aren't looked on kindly." Morgan explained.



"Oh well you won't find any such problems here. We're very unprejudiced people." The waitress then went off to serve someone else.



"Well that's good news." Beatrice said, happily.



"Yes, if it's true."



"Why shouldn't it be?"



"I don't know I guess that I'm just being paranoid. But one thing that Hazel drilled into me was tell no one."



"You told me."



"No I didn't. You found out by going through my books, which I have to say is a very rude thing for a guest to do."



"So I did. Well I was curious." Beatrice thought a moment then added in a petulant voice, "Anyway I am a princess."



"So you can do what you like?"



"Yes."



"Oh."



TBC



I find it kinda funny, I find it kinda sad
The dreams in which I'm dying are the best I've ever had.
- mad world



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 Post subject: Re: Ever After
PostPosted: Sun Dec 07, 2003 12:54 pm 
Delurking to say that this is great writing.:bow I am really loving the characters and the world that you've created. I am envious of your talent. I guess it's an understatement to say that I'm hooked. I'll be impatiently looking forward to your long and daily updates. So, please keep them coming. Delays will be pointedly frowned upon.:D



I'm not really good with writing feedback, hence the lurking, but please know that I'm now one of your avid readers.











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 Post subject: Re: Ever After
PostPosted: Mon Dec 08, 2003 5:23 am 
Ladies and gentlemen... the Beetles.



Loved the beetles and the fairy, and Maurice. You weren't kidding about coming up with imaginative monsters. Very well done.



So maybe witches are not so unwelcome in the south. I share Morgan's reservation on the matter.



Unicorns can detect female 'virtue.' Interesting. Very clever way to bring up the question about Morgan's preference.



Hannah is a lot like Sir Robin. She's a bit more likable, though. -When danger reared its ugly head, she bravely turned her tail and fled.- (That song's been going through my head for an hour now :) ) Hey, it works for her, right? She's really a darling character. I have sympathy for her, maybe even a little pity, but above all-- respect. She is very courageous, but more so intelligent. Discretion is the better part of valor.



Looking forward to more.



Excellent, Justin!!!!



-SQ



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 Post subject: Re: Ever After
PostPosted: Mon Dec 08, 2003 10:24 am 
DayDreamer: Thanks, I'm glad you're enjoying the story. There's nothing wrong with your feedback. Comments like "This is great writing" are always greatly appreciated (of course comments like "this is rubbish why don't you crawl back into the hole you came from and die" are less so). I wouldn't want to make you all frowny so the next part is below.



Strange Quark: I'm glad you're liking Hannah. To be honest she was loosely based on a a character from the book War and Peace. I mean the idea of her being an orphan who's treated like a slave then called ungrateful when she shows any independence. In this part she gets to say the thing that I always wanted that character to.



Chapter 8

Pursuit.

Two's company.







Maurice got Hannah up early the next morning. She was rather dismayed to see that it was still dark. After all she was used to getting up early, but not this early. When she complained about this to Maurice he just said, "We're going to need to ride most of the day, if we're going to have much of a chance of catching up with the princess." He studies Hannah for a few moments then asked, "That is if you are serious about wanting to find her."



"Oh, yes I am."



"Well then you better get ready to set off, I'm not waiting for you." He then turned to check his horse, while Hannah quickly packed everything up. When she was ready they set off, "We should probably ride south to the river Rother, then follow that to the border."



"Um, I'm not sure about that." Hannah said.



"Why not?" Maurice asked, turning towards her.



Fidgeting a little under his gaze, Hannah answered, "Well there was this water sprite that gave me a bit of trouble earlier."



"It's probably gone by now." Maurice reasoned.



"I guess." Hannah said with a shrug.



"Even if it hasn't, I have a charm that will get rid of it."



"Oh well then, that's alright." Hannah said. They headed towards the river.



When they reached the river Maurice looked about, then said, "I can't see any sign of your water sprite."



"Oh, well as you say, it's probably moved on."



"Then I won't need to use this." He held up a chain with a small black lump of rock on the end.



"What's that?" Hannah asked, gazing at it.



"It's the charm I mentioned. Perfect for getting rid of water sprites, or any form of elemental spirit."



"Wow, that must be useful. How did you get it?" Hannah asked.



Maurice gazed at the charm for a few seconds, seemingly not hearing Hannah. Finally he said, "It's not a particularly interesting story." With that he put the charm away and turned back to the road ahead. Hannah wanted to ask him some more about the charm, but the pace he was setting meant she had to concentrate too much on just keeping up to be able to.



***





After getting up Beatrice        went out see what information she could find about the surrounding area, while Morgan went to do some shopping. Given the shortage of funds, she knew she would only be able to get the cheapest provisions. After counting her money again, Morgan decided to get some marching rations. It wouldn't be nice, but it would last them a long time and would be very cheap. After coming to this decision Morgan slipped the silver piece into the heel of her boot, in order to save it for an emergency, and went into the nearest shop. As She entered, Morgan had to brace herself. She still found it amazing that someone as shy as her was so good at haggling.



When Morgan left the shop she was burdened by two reasonably large bags of marching rations. However she had spent the last of their copper coins in order to get it. Meaning the silver piece in her boot was the last of their money. Morgan was just starting to head back to the inn when she sensed something was wrong. After focusing on the sensation for a couple of seconds she realised that there were people coming from the north, coming after the princess.



Bursting into their room, Morgan was relieved to see Beatrice there. "Good you're here." She gasped.



"I'm just packing." Beatrice explained.



"Even better." Morgan said, "We need to leave now."



"What? Why?" Beatrice asked, puzzled.



"There are people coming after you."



"Well, what's the hurry? They still have to get over the great plain."



Morgan shook her head, "They're almost over it."



"How?"



"They're using dogs, to track your scent."



"How did they know where to look for me."



"I don't know." Morgan said, not sounding very convincing.        "Yes you do." Beatrice pressed.



"Okay, I do. I didn't like to say it."



"The letter." Beatrice guessed. Morgan just nodded as she began to pack up her purchases. Beatrice sat down, a look of defeat on her face.



"What's wrong?" Morgan asked.



"Well what's the point. They're going to catch me aren't they?"



"They haven't caught you yet, have they?"



"But if they have tracker dogs then it's only a matter of time."



"Not necessarily." Morgan said, moving round to stand in front of Beatrice, "There are ways to put off dogs."



"But..." Beatrice argued.



"You can't give up now, after we've come so far."



"Alright, I won't. If only to stop you from going on."



"Good." The got their horses as quickly as possible and made their way through to the south exit.



"Do you really think we can get away?" Beatrice asked.



"Well it's going to be harder to track your scent through the town, with all the people. Also this isn't Arenthor."



"I did actually know that."



"What I mean is that the people here aren't going to be happy about the Arenthor royal guard marching into the town with a load of tracking dogs."



"You're right." Beatrice agreed, "There's probably a load of red tape they'll have to go through before they can begin looking for me."



"All of which will buy us time. So did you manage to find anything about the local area?"



"I did better than that. I got us a map?"



"Wow, how did you manage that?" Morgan asked.



"There's no need to sound quite so surprised." Beatrice complained.



"Sorry, it's just people normally expect money for that sort of thing. You didn't steal it did you?"



"What? Of course not. Actually, you know the waitress who guessed you were a witch?"



"Yeah."



"Well she bought it for me, as long as I promised that we'd visit the inn on the way back."



"That was generous." Morgan said, "Just for agreeing to go again."



"Well I might have promised for you to cast a couple of spells on the inn."



"Such as?"



"Well just spells to help strengthen the structure, and keep away thieves, that sort of stuff. You can do that?"



"Yes I can. Well let's have a look at that map." Morgan said. Beatrice handed Morgan the map who looked at it for a few seconds before rolling it up and saying, "Come on, this way." She rode off at a seemingly random direction. After a few minutes the reached a river bank. Morgan then surprised Beatrice by riding into the middle of the river.



"What are you doing?" Beatrice asked.



"If we ride along the river then they won't be able to track our scent." Morgan explained.



"But won't they just know to follow the river."



"Maybe, but it should slow them down. Unless you're worried about getting a little wet."



"Alright I'm coming." Beatrice rode out after Morgan and then continued along the middle of the river. "How far away are they?"



"I don't know." Morgan admitted



"But I thought that you could sense them?"



"I could but it's gone. It does that."



"That's rather inconsistent."



"Yes it is."



"Well I just hope that they're not too close." Beatrice grumbled.



"Oh they're not." Morgan assured her.



"How do you know that." Beatrice said, "They could be just over that hill." Beatrice pointed over at a hill which was a short distance away.



"But then we'd be able to hear the dogs barking." Morgan pointed out.



"Oh yeah, good point." Beatrice said, feeling a little embarrassed.



After they'd been following the river for half an hour Morgan said, "I've got an idea, follow me." She rode to the river bank then got off her horse. Beatrice did likewise, hoping that Morgan knew what she was doing. Morgan led them to a small copse of trees then circled round them a couple of times.



"What are we doing?" Beatrice asked.



"Just making a false trail." Morgan explained. They then headed back to the river.



As they got back on their horses and rode out into the river Beatrice said, "So they'll follow that trail off round those trees?"



"Hopefully yes."



"They'll figure out what we did eventually."



"I know but hopefully it'll slow them down."



"Have you done this sort of thing before, because you don't seem like the fugitive type."



"No, why?"



"Well you seem very good at it."



"Well Hazel taught me a lot of this stuff, she thought it might come in handy, what with my being a witch."



"Oh, in case you're ever being hunted by knights." Morgan just nodded to this, "I guess she never thought you'd be using it to help a runaway princess."



"No, Hazel was a reasonable psychic but I doubt if she ever foresaw me being in this situation."



"Well it's still something of a surprise to me as well."



***





Hannah and Maurice stopped for the night just after it had gotten dark. As they fed the horses Hannah said, "That was certainly a long day."



"Maybe but it was necessary." Maurice said, "Though we seem to have made good progress."



Hannah tried, unsuccessfully, to stifle a yawn then said, "I suppose we did."



"I was going to suggest doing some training tonight, but if you're too tired?"



"What, no. I'm not tired at all." Hannah protested, stifling another yawn.



"Well, we'll only be able to spend about an hour on it."



After they'd been sparring a while they stopped to rest a moment. As they did Maurice said, "I wonder where the princess is at the moment."



"Oh they're about two days ride from the border." Hanna answered, she closed her eyes a moment then went on "South, south west."



Maurice stared at her in shock a moment then said, "You mean you can sense where the princess is?"



"Oh yes. I seem to have developed a link to her."



"Well that'll come in handy, now shall we continue?"



***





After they'd been riding along the river all morning, Morgan and Beatrice started towards a small town that was marked on the map. Since they wanted to put as much distance as possible from their pursuers they continued well after it was dark. When they did stop they were so tired that they went to bed straight after having a quick meal.



***





Beatrice woke up the next morning just as it was starting to get light. As she got dressed, she was a little surprised to see that Morgan wasn't there. Deciding not to worry too much, Beatrice finished getting dressed, then started lighting the fire. A few minutes later Beatrice jumped when a voice said, "Good morning."



Looking up Beatrice saw Morgan a short distance off. "Don't sneak up on me like that." Beatrice complained, "You almost gave me heart failure."



"Sorry." Morgan said, with an apologetic smile.



"So where did you disappear off to?"



"I got us water." Morgan said, holding up a water bottles.



"Oh good." Beatrice threw a few more sticks on the fire.



Sitting down Morgan said, "I think we should stop at that town we saw on the map."



"Have we got enough money?"



"We've got one silver piece. However you gave me an idea when you said about how you got the map. I thought I could offer to do some magic for the owner in exchange for room and board."



"You wouldn't mind doing that?" Beatrice asked.



"Not if it means sleeping in a bed for a night."



"I'll definitely go along with that." Beatrice hesitated a moment then said, "Last night I woke up and I thought I heard someone screaming."



"Sorry." Morgan said, looking embarrassed, "I didn't want to disturb you."



"That was you?" Morgan nodded, "What's up?"



"Nothing. It was just bad dreams."



"Oh, well if you want to talk about it."



"Not really, but thanks for the offer."



"Well okay, How long till we reach this town."



"I'm not certain but it should be around mid afternoon."



"Good, though I have to say this area is a lot less barren than the other one."



"Yes, it's a lot nicer." Morgan hesitated a moment then said "There's something we need to talk about."



"What's that?"



"Well, where we're going. I mean we've being going where the wind blew us up till now, but now we're being followed and we'll get caught if we keep doing it."



"Oh." Beatrice said. She thought about it a while then said, "I wish I could help you but really I don't know. I mean I left the palace basically on a spur. I guess it was only the fact that I was lucky enough to find you that meant that I didn't either get found or give up and go back within a day of leaving. Since then I have just been going where fate's taken me." She finished her drink then suggested, "Shall we finish this on the way?"



Morgan nodded saying, "That's a good idea." They packed their things up and started off again.



"So where was I?" Beatrice asked.



"Going where the fates take you." Morgan offered.



"Right yes. Well for as long as I can remember I've been unhappy. Eventually I knew that I had to get away from the palace if I was to ever know any happiness. I guess I never really planned much beyond that."



"Um..." Morgan seemed to be about to say something, but stopped herself.



"What is it?" Beatrice asked her.



"Well have you considered the possibility that you're being manipulated somehow?"       



"I hadn't until now. Do you think that's what's happening?"



"I don't know. It's just a possibility, that someone is using your feeling of unhappiness to get you where they want you."



"So do you think that I should go back?" Beatrice said.



"No. I mean I don't know that is what's happening and even if it is, they could always try again. Wouldn't you like to find out exactly whose doing this?"



"I guess that would be wise." Beatrice agreed. She thought about it a bit then said more forcefully, "Yes I would like to find out who's behind this, if only so I can tell them what I think of them."



Morgan nodded in agreement, then said, "Unfortunately that doesn't help with where to go."



"Sorry, but I really have no idea."



"Well we'll discuss it more when we reach this town."



"Good idea."



***





As predicted they arrived at the town by about mid day. They then set about finding a suitable inn. After inquiring with the town guard they were directed to an inn called 'The Happy Sailor.'



"So let me get this straight. You want room and board at this inn, and in return you're going to cast certain spells on the inn." The innkeeper said, once they'd explained it to him.



"That's right." Beatrice said.



"What sort of spells? Something to make people drink more?"



"I couldn't do that." Morgan said, "But something to stop the stop the frame from rotting, or to keep thieves away."



"Not much for room and board." The innkeeper said, thoughtfully.



"Well then how about..." Morgan started, then hesitated a moment.



"Did you know that several of these beams are about to collapse." Beatrice interrupted.



"Well some of them could do with replacing."



"I could do something about that." Morgan offered.



"Alright then, I guess it'll be worth it to save having to replace those beams."



While Morgan worked on getting various ointments ready Beatrice asked, "So what were you going to offer to do?"



"I have no idea." Morgan said, "So it's a good thing you noticed those beams."



"Happy to help." Beatrice said.



"How did you know about them, anyway?"



"Lucky guess."



Morgan pointed at one of the bowls she'd prepared saying, "We'll need to paint this on the beams."



"You mean now?"



"It'd be best to do it before the place gets to crowded."



"But how do we know he won't go back on the deal?"



"How does he know we won't undo the spells?"



"Could you?"



Morgan shook her head then said, "But I'm not going to tell him that." They both went into the common room and began dabbing the ointment on all of the beams holding up the next floor. Once they'd finished Morgan went into the middle of the room and chanted a few words. The patches of ointment glowed for a second, then the glow spread to the whole beams, then faded.



"Wow, so was that it?" Beatrice asked.



"Yeah, those beams will stay up for a hundred and one years."



"Right, now to deal with any would be thieves."



"One moment." Morgan went up to the innkeeper and asked, "The order of Galeone don't operate in this kingdom do they?"



"Don't worry, they're not welcome here." Morgan nodded then grabbed the second bowl of ointment.



As Morgan worked Beatrice asked,"What was that about?"



"What would you think if you saw this?" Morgan asked pointing at the pentacle she'd painted.



"Well that a witch had been here, I'd be right too."



"Indeed. Basically if a member of the order of Galeone saw this they'd try to burn everyone staying at the inn."



"Are they really that extreme?"



"They've put whole villages to the torch before."



"Wait a moment, I've just remembered something. It was after they burnt the village of Humbersea that they were banned from my kingdom." Morgan just nodded, "Hey, I did learn something during classes." Beatrice went on happily.



Later that evening they discussed what they were going to do. However neither of them could decide where to go from here. Eventually Beatrice said, "I think we should just continue on the way we're going." She pointed at the map and said, "There's a town further along this road."



"Okay then, Morgan agreed."



***





When Maurice and Hannah stopped for the night, Maurice said, "We should reach Oakholm some time tomorrow."       



"Oh well that's good. We should have caught up with the princess soon enough."



"After we get to Oakholm, it's still a days ride to the border, then two days across the mountains."



"Oh. So we've still got a long way to go."



"Do you still have the link to the princess?"



"Yeah, they're that way." Hannah answered pointing.



"You keep saying they."



"Yeah, there's a woman with the princess."



"Maybe that's the person who kidnapped her."



"I don't think so. She didn't look like the sort." Maurice didn't answer this, instead just drawing his sword.



***





That night Beatrice dreamt that she was walking up a mountain trail. She felt as if she'd been climbing it for hours. Then, just as she thought this trail would never end, she came to a large tower. At first Beatrice thought that it was made of glass but, as she drew closer and realised how cold it was, she realised that it was made out of ice.



Beatrice woke up with a start. In the distance she could hear an all too familiar wailing sound. Morgan was moaning in her sleep. Getting up Beatrice went over and said, "Morgan, wake up." Giving Morgan a shove. Morgan just rolled over and moaned again. Beatrice shoved her again, harder and said, "Morgan wake up."



Morgan's eyes snapped open and she gasped, "But I am Morgan."



Beatrice put her arms round Morgan to comfort her saying, "It's okay, it was just a bad dream."



"What? Where?" Morgan muttered as she tried to figure out where she was. Then as she woke up more fully she said, "Sorry, I didn't mean to wake you."



"It's okay, I was already awake."



"Is something wrong?"



"No. In fact I think I know where we're going."



"You do? Where?"



"Well firstly we need to get across the border to the east."



"Okay, then where."



"Actually I'm not too sure of that but I do know that we're heading towards a tower made out of ice."



"Really, that sounds..." She thought for a moment then finished "cold."



"I guess but I have to go there."



"Okay but, um, how do you know this?"



"I kind of had a dream about that tower."



"You did?" Beatrice just nodded, "Well that does sort of lend credence to the you're being manipulated theory."



"Really? Well I suppose it does, yet I still have to go, even if it is just to find out who is doing this. Well I'll let you get back to sleep." She thought about telling Morgan about the wailing sound she kept hearing, but decided against. There was something about the sound that scared her to the core of her being.



***





The map indicated that there wouldn't be much grass in the area they would be heading into. So, the next morning, Morgan went out to buy some horse feed, in case they couldn't just let the horses graze. While Morgan stood in the shop waiting to be served the woman in front of her said, "I heard another squad came back with nearly half their numbers missing."



"They just don't seem to be able to reopen the border." The shopkeeper agreed, "But the duke keeps sending men."



"Throwing their lives away, if you ask me. Have you heard the rumours."



"You mean the ones about the dragon?"



"Yes."



"Excuse me, did you say dragon?" Morgan asked her. The woman being served just gave her a sharp look to indicate that it was a private conversation, "Sorry, I didn't mean to intrude." Gazing down at the floor, Morgan wondered if she should just leave.



"Pay no mind to Marcy." The owner said, "She's always been the grumpy sort."



"I'm not grumpy, I just don't like people listening in on my conversations."



"She could hardly help overhearing, and you can't expect a person to not react when we're discussing dragons."



"I suppose not." Macy took her purchases and left.



When the owner turned to Morgan she said, "Okay then what can I do for you?" Morgan asked for some horse feed. As The owner got it she said, "I wouldn't pay too much attention to all this talk of dragons."



"Then, if you don't mind me asking, what is the cause of the problems?"



"Oh it's most likely barbarians trying to cut off our trade routes."



"Oh, well thank you very much." Morgan said, before leaving the shop. Outside she noticed a beggar sitting by the side of the road. Morgan only had a couple of coppers left after buying the feed. Deciding it wasn't going to be much use anyway, Morgan threw them into the beggars bowl with a shrug.



"Thank you mistress." The beggar said, and Morgan was surprised to note that it was a woman, "May the goddess smile on you."



***





Morgan and Beatrice had gotten a couple of miles out of town when it suddenly began pouring with rain. They tried to continued on, but they could barely see ahead and eventually decided to camp for the day. Tying the horses up they quickly set the tent up. They then started trying to get themselves dried off.



"I wish we could have a fire." Beatrice complained.



"Okay if you don't mind the tent filling with smoke."



"Maybe we could cut a hole in the roof to let the smoke out." Before Morgan could respond she added, "Which would, let the rain in. Okay not the brightest of ideas." She looked outside and said, "I wonder how long this is going to last."



"I don't know. There is one good thing about this."



"What's that?"



"It'll make it harder for anyone to track you. Even after the rains stopped."



"I guess that is good. It's just I want to get going."



"Don't worry, we'll get to this ice tower."



"I know, but now I know where I'm going I'm impatient to get there."



***





Maurice and Hannah rode into Oakholm just as they were starting to light the street lamps. Hannah took the horses to the stable, while Maurice sorted out their rooms. She was just taking the saddle and bridle off of her horse when a voice said, "Hannah, what are you doing here?"



Hannah turned to find her step brother there, "Daniel?"



"Yes."



"I'm looking for the princess, like you."



"You must be joking."



"No."



"Then you've got to go back home right now. God knows what mum and dad must be thinking."



"I'm not going back." Hannah said forcefully.



"You ungrateful cow." Daniel said angrily.



"What?"



"Mum and dad didn't have to take you in. But they did and this is how you repay them?"



Starting to grow angry herself now Hannah said, "Damn you. Ever since they adopted me I have done everything your parents wanted. I've been a virtual slave to them and now that I'm doing something that I want, I'm suddenly ungrateful..." She was cut off by Maurice asking



"Hannah what's taking so long, and who is this?"



"He's my brother."



"Step brother." Daniel said, "And I'm taking her home."



"Do you wan to go home?" Maurice asked Hannah.



"No." She answered.



"Well then." Maurice said to Daniel, "I think you should leave."



"What? Not without Hannah."



"Look Daniel, just go." Hannah said .



"No." Daniel said starting to draw his sword, only to find Morice's sword pointing at his throat. "Fine, get yourself killed." He then slunk out.



"Thanks," Hannah said.



"Well I couldn't let him drag you off just when you're starting to get good."



"Well I'm grateful" Then as they were heading to the inn she asked, "Do you really think I'm getting good?"



"Yes, given how little time we've had. Like I said you've got potential"



Hannah smiled at him and said, "Thanks." It then occurred to him that in her own way Hannah was the most beautiful woman he had ever met. Coughing slightly he indicated that they should go in.



***





Staring down at the dinner they'd prepared, Beatrice sighed and said, "We definitely need to get some more money." The rain had finally stopped just as it had started to get dark so they hadn't been able to make any progress, but at least they'd been able to set up a fire.



"What's wrong?" Morgan asked,



"I don't think I can live on this stuff much longer."



"Fortunately you won't have to." Morgan told her.



"I take it it's because we're almost out of food."



"I'm afraid so. We've got enough for another two days, then marching rations for three more days."



"Where has it all gone?"



"Someone's been eating too much, hasn't she?"



"Me? I'm skin and bones. You're the one who keeps having extra servings." Beatrice poked at the fire a couple of times, then asked, "How far is it to the border."



Morgan got the map out and after studying it a moment said, "I think about four days ride."



"And from there we don't know how far it is to the ice tower."



"I could try some hunting." Morgan suggested, "But I'm not sure there's much to catch out here."



"This place is even more desolate than that great plain." Beatrice complained



"At least there's a few tree's to break up the skyline." Morgan pointed out. She suddenly got up and began going through the bags.



"What's up?"



"Have you seen a hemp bag with a small eagle on it?"



"Maybe it's on one of the horses?" Beatrice suggested, "I'll go and check." She went over to the horses, but there was no sign of the bag. "Not there."



"Well we know why we're so short of food." Morgan said, "We left a bag behind."



"Are you sure?" Beatrice asked.



"It's not here. The last time I can remember having it was when we were camped on the mountain."



"You mean when we were attacked by the wraith wolves?" Morgan nodded, "So what was in it?"



"A lot of the stuff I bought at Oakholm. Several sides of dried rabbit meat and a couple of bags of vegetables."



"Oh, that would have come in handy." Beatrice said.



"Sorry."



"Why? It's as much my fault as it is yours." Beatrice laughed and said, "Well a fine couple of adventurers we're making."



"I'm sure all the great explorers had problems like these. Does this mean you regret leaving the palace?"



"Not at all." Beatrice answered without hesitation.



"Anyway, is there anyway you could magic up some food?"        "If I could do that, I would have done so by now."



"Right, I guess so. Your magic doesn't seem to be much use."



"Right, we haven't avoided being caught because of it and it was no use against the wraith wolves or getting across the great plain."



"Okay, I get the point."



"We should reach the next town the day after tomorrow. Maybe I could trade my magic for some money there."



"I don't like you doing all the work." Beatrice protested.



"Then what do you suggest?"



"Well we could both get some sort of work. I mean I was getting quite good at cooking and cleaning wasn't I?"



"Yes. Okay, though it'll mean staying a day there."



"I can last another day. So what is this town called?"



"I don't know the name isn't showing on the map."



"Must be an important town."





I find it kinda funny, I find it kinda sad
The dreams in which I'm dying are the best I've ever had.
- mad world



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 Post subject: Re: Ever After
PostPosted: Mon Dec 08, 2003 10:58 am 
At last, we have a destination, or so it would seem. I seriously think that you could have keep the journey going forever without a goal. It's just been such a fascinating trek.



Very good Hannah development, Maurice development, Beatrice development, and Morgan development going on in this particular chapter.



And Maurice with the mysterious charm that has a rather uninteresting story attached to it. Brilliant! The story of the charm is lame, but the fact that he won't share it because (he says at least) it's boring, makes it the exact opposite. Both for the charm and the character. Now they're both ten times as interesting. Well done.



The tower of ice. Very interesting image with a lot of mystery around it. Looking forward to learning all about it.



-SQ



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 Post subject: Re: Ever After
PostPosted: Tue Dec 09, 2003 11:00 am 
StrangeQuark: You make some good points. You're right about the charm. Maurice could have gone on an epic quest to get it or he might have won it in a crooked game of cards but either way the fact that he won't talk about it does make it seem more intriguing (and saves me having to come up with a back story as well :D )



I appreciate your feedback, though shouldn't you be working on your own story :boot



To be honest I'm a little nervous about thischapter, the title should give you an idea why



Chapter 9

The festival of souls.

Rape.





"So that's the border?" Hannah asked looking at the distant mountain range. Even at this distance they looked rather daunting.



"Yes. We should be there this evening. Then it'll take us two days to get across. What do you know about the other side?"



"There is another side?" Hannah responded.



"Right. Well I've been across before. Remember I told you about the plains. I've gotten lost there myself. Almost went mad before I managed to find my way across."



"Oh."



"I'm telling you this as it's vital you still have this link to the princess."



"Oh it's still there. They're still moving east."



"Right. Well let's get going."



When they reached the mountains they camped at about the same spot as Beatrice, though with the number of people who had been through that camp had been obliterated. As there was still a little light, Hannah went to do some fishing at a nearby stream.



It was about pitch black when she came back to the camp. Looking up Maurice said, "I was beginning to think that you'd fallen in."



"I lost track of time."



"Any luck?"



"You could say that." Hannah said, holding up the fish she'd caught. There was five, reasonably large ones there.



"And here was me thinking you wouldn't catch anything. Exactly how did you manage this?"



"Oh it's just a matter of using the right bait." Hannah said. As Hannah started preparing there food Maurice took care of the horses. She had just got the fire going when she heard a howling sound. "Are there wolves in the mountains?"



"Those aren't wolves. They're wraith wolves."



"That doesn't sound good."



"No. I suggest we hold off on your training while we go through the mountains."



"Okay."



***





When Morgan and Beatrice got to the town, which turned out to be called Haven, they went straight to the cheapest inn. Not having any money they had to offer their horses as collateral in order to get a room. Fortunately there was a festival on the next day so it was easy for them to find work. They got a job working at a stall on the market.



"So what do think this festival of souls is all about?" Beatrice asked, after serving a customer.



"I think it's something to do with honouring the dead." Morgan guessed.



"I worked that out myself. Maybe the owner can tell us." She looked around then asked, "Where is the owner?"



"I think she said something about going to talk to one of the other shopkeepers."



"She's very trusting. What's to stop us running off with the money?"



"I guess we just have honest faces."



"Maybe but it's been my experience that honest faces are usually attached to dishonest people."



Morgan stared at Beatrice a moment then said, "I never realised you were such a cynic."



"Maybe you should have paid more attention." Beatrice shot back.



Morgan shrugged then said, "Well anyway, The people from the nearby stalls have been keeping an eye on us all day."



"Don't they trust us?" Beatrice said. Morgan decided it was best to not respond to that and instead turned to serve a customer.



***





That evening as they walked away from the stall Beatrice said, "I really enjoyed that."



"Me too." Morgan agreed, "I mean I didn't think I would but it was fun."



"Maybe we should stay another day."



"If you want to."



Beatrice thought about it a moment then said, "No I'd rather get moving again." When they got back to the inn they gave the innkeeper the money for the two nights stay and for the food. "So I take we can have our horses back?" Beatrice said.



"Ah well the thing is, I didn't think that you'd be able to get the money so I sold them." The innkeeper said, looking rather worried.



"You what?"



"This man came by with a very good offer and those were the only horses I had."



"So you sold them. Well I guess you can replace them." Beatrice said, angrily.



"Well I would but as I said I don't have any other horses. Now if you're willing to wait a week I'm sure I'll be able to."



"We really don't have a week."



"Well I really don't know what to..." He stopped as Morgan started laughing, "What?"



"Yes very funny." she said, "But don't you think you're taking the joke a little far?"



"Joke?" Beatrice said, shocked.



"Yes well I should have known better than to try to trick a witch." He didn't notice Morgan flinch at this.



"Joke." Beatrice said again.



"Well you can take your horses as soon as you're ready to leave." He then went to serve another customer.



"Great." Beatrice said, "An innkeeper who thinks he has a sense of humour."



"It could have been worse."



"How?"



"He could have actually sold them."



"Alright that would have been worse."



***





That night Hannah and Maurice again stopped at the same spot that Morgan and Beatrice had. "It looks like someone, stopped here about a week ago." Maurice said, looking around.



"Yeah." Hannah agreed, "And I think they left a bag behind." She added holding up a sack, "Do you think it was the princess?"



"Well it's possible." He knelt down and examined a section of ground.



"What's up?"



"One of the people who was camped here used magic. Since we can assume it wasn't the princess, that would suggest the woman travelling with her is a witch." He stood up then went on, "Well that explains how she's managed to coerce the princess to go with her." Hannah didn't argue with this, but she wasn't so certain. Whenever she connected with the princess she didn't get the impression that she was acting against her will. Also when Hannah had seen the princess she had seemed happy enough. As they ate Maurice stared intently at Hannah. After a while she noticed this and asked, "Is there something wrong?"



"No. It's just... Well it's just you're a very attractive woman."



Hannah glanced down and blushing said, "No I'm not."



"Yes you are." He hesitated again then went on "I don't really know how to say this."



Realising what he was going to say Hannah said, "It might be best if you didn't"



"What?"



"Look, I like you, a lot and I've enjoyed travelling with you..."



"But..."



"But I think it'd be best if we just stayed friends."



"Friends? That's all you want?"



Hannah nodded and said, "I'm sorry, It's just that... I'm sorry."



"Fine. Well I'm sorry if I embarrassed you."



"No I..." She stopped when she realised she didn't really know what she was going to say. So she said "It's been a long day. I'm going to bed. Wake me up when it's my turn to take watch." She went to her tent while Maurice sat brooding over what had happened.



Some time later Hannah was woken up by someone entering her tent. "Maurice?" She asked "Is it time for my turn." He just knelt down beside her. "Maurice, what's wrong?" Leaning forward he kissed her. Hannah pushed him away then asked, "What are you doing?"



"You know that you want this." He said starting to undo his top. With one hand Hannah tried to push him away while with the other she reached into her pack. Maurice grabbed her hand and pushed it up over her head, then he used the other to hold her to the ground. "You've been leading me on since we met."



"No I..." Just then she found what she had been looking for. As Maurice moved his body over hers she pulled the knife out of her pack and stabbed it into his leg, causing him to cry out with pain. He cried out again when she gave the knife a twist and Hannah was able to roll him off of her. Hannah quickly got up and grabbed her shield then, as Maurice stood up, she hit him across the face with it. He fell to the floor, unconscious. Hannah quickly began collecting her stuff. "Stupid bastard." She muttered, blinking away the tears that were forming. When she had packed her back she paused the rub her eyes, "Stupid, stupid bastard." then after kicking the fire out, she rode away.



Maurice woke up half an hour later. As he tried to stand there was a sharp pain in his leg. Looking at he saw the wound was quite deep, though the bleeding had stopped. Looking around it was obvious that Hannah had left.



"Stupid bitch." He muttered as he started tending to the wound. He had just bandaged the wound when there was a growling sound from outside. "Shit." He muttered as he grabbed his sword.



Hannah rode across the mountains in a constant state of tension. On the one hand she was worried about Maurice coming after her but on the other with the only source of light being a lantern and a fatal drop just a couple of meters away, she didn't want to ride at any more than a trot. It was a great relief when she both sighted the end of the mountains and it began to grow light enough to see. Hannah was about to put out the lantern when it went out by itself, Hannah shrugged, glad the lantern had lasted her as long as it had. Clearing the mountain she thought about finding somewhere shady to get some sleep, but rejected the idea as she knew she was too upset to sleep and she was still worried about Maurice catching up with her.



***





When Morgan got up she was about to go and wash herself when a weak voice said, "Morgan." As she turned Beatrice said, "I feel sick."



Walking over Morgan said, "You look terrible." She put her hand on Beatrice's forehead and said, "You're burning up."



"I think we might leave a bit late today."



"What? No, we're not leaving until at least tomorrow."



"But, I just need to lie down a bit. I should be better in a while." Beatrice protested.



"I mean it, you are not getting out of bed today." Morgan said forcefully.



Beatrice was going to argue, but instead said, "I'm going to be..." Morgan quickly emptied a bag and held it for Beatrice to be sick into.



A short time later Beatrice fell asleep, and Morgan went out to a small woods she'd seen to gather some herbs. When she got back she payed the innkeeper for another night, then asked him to bring some broth up to the room.



***





That night Hannah almost fell off her horse as she got down off of it. She was so tired that she just sorted out her horse and got her bedding and a fire ready then went to sleep without bothering eating.



Hannah woke up part way through the night Hannah was sure that she could see someone standing a short distance away. Jumping up and grabbing her sword Hannah suddenly realised that it was actually a tree. Laughing to herself Hannah went back to bed and tried to get back to sleep.



***





"So are you feeling better?" Morgan asked Beatrice the next morning.



"Yeah, whatever it was you were giving me seemed to have worked."



"So, do you think it was something you ate?"



"I don't know. I mean you were having the same stuff. Well whatever it was I seem to be over it so we can get going."



Morgan got the map out and said, "According to this we should be at the border by tonight."



"That's good." Morgan laughed at something, "What's up?"



"Well to get to this kingdom we had to cross a mountain range. Now to get to the next we need to cross a ravine."



"Well it's kind of symmetrical. So should we have any problems crossing?"



"No there's a bridge shown on the map."



"Good. Well let's get going."



***





They were just drawing close to the border when Morgan grabbed Hannah's arm and motioned for her to stop. She looked around for the best place to hide. She noticed a small dip and led them over to it. She then said



"Get your horse to lie down." She then started coaxing the horse to lie down and lay next to it, trying to comfort it. Beatrice did likewise. When they were both lying next to their horses Beatrice asked



"What's up?" Morgan pointed upwards and Beatrice saw something flying in the distance. At first she thought that it was a bird, then as it got closer she realised how wrong she was. It was a dragon. It flew overheard, not seeming to notice them. As they stood up Beatrice asked



"Do you think it saw us?"



"I think if it had we would be able to tell, you know, by being dead."



"Oh right. Well we'd better get going."



"That's what I was about to suggest." They quickly got on their horses and continued onwards.



***





"So that's the kingdom of Arabesh?" Beatrice asked as they gazed out over the ravine.



"Yeah."



"It looks nice, I should visit it some time."



"Aren't we going there now?"



"No, that's not where the tower."



"Then where?"



Beatrice looked down into the ravine. Morgan just gave her a questioning look, "I don't know how I know, I just do."



"Well okay, but how are we going to get down?"



"There must be a way down somewhere."



"Well it's getting to dark to look now, and this looks like a good spot to camp."



Beatrice was going to argue, but instead shrugged and said, "Okay then, we'll start looking first thing tomorrow."







I find it kinda funny, I find it kinda sad
The dreams in which I'm dying are the best I've ever had.
- mad world



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 Post subject: Re: Ever After
PostPosted: Tue Dec 09, 2003 11:41 am 
I can't find any reason for you to feel nervous about this installment. The scene was handled well. It's a wretched topic, but a fact of life that stuff like this could take place. The real success of the scene is the fact that it did not seem gratuitous, as such events often are in drama.



Yes, I dislike anyone who tries to harm Hannah, but I understand that Maurice was not just simply a pure evil device in the plot. You've made him a complex and multifaceted character, which I think magnifies the horror of his attempted crime against his diminutive companion. The aftermath of this incident is lasting both for the character and the reader due to the characters between which it took place, more so than the despicable act.



I kind of figured that the bag that Morgan and Beatrice left behind would turn up.



The food in Haven doesn't agree with the Princess' delicate constitution? Or could it have been something deeper that sickened her? A connection of some kind to the sickening experience of a certain person that is looking for her?



That Innkeeper has a very strange sense of humor indeed. I wonder why he thought that so amusing? Did Morgan flinch at the "w" word out of anything other than ingrained reflex from her persecution in the other kingdom?



Excellent chapter, Justin!



-SQ



P.S.

I'm still working on *my* Princess and her Mechanic friend. They're almost ready-to-go with another chapter in their tale.



But, you're right. I need to get a-typin' so's I can get a-postin' ;)









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 Post subject: Re: Ever After
PostPosted: Wed Dec 10, 2003 10:24 am 
StrangeQuark: Thanks/ I'm glad that scene didn't seem in any way gratuitous. As to why I was nervous well, as I'm sure you know, we writers can be funny things I was a bit worried that with what happened in that part and this next one I was doing a :joss



You'r right about the innkeeper, a very strange sense of humour. Yes Morgans flinching was just a reflex due to a lifetime of persecution.



Quote:
I'm still working on *my* Princess and her Mechanic friend. They're almost ready-to-go with another chapter in their tale.



But, you're right. I need to get a-typin' so's I can get a-postin'




Be aware I'm going to keep :boot until you do post :wink



Chapter 10

Wall of Thorns.

Tower of Ice.





The next day, as agreed, they followed the ravine to the north, looking for a way to get down. It was about midday when they found a slope down the side of the ravine which was both wide and shallow enough for them to ride down.



"So, which way now?" Morgan looked up and down the ravine, not seeing anything interesting.



"This way." They continued on northwards. After riding for a couple of hours they came to a fork. One way continued on north and looked flat and even, the other went northwest and rose slightly, worse, the ground seemed unstable.



"Let me guess, it's that way." Morgan pointed to the northwest.



"'Fraid so." The way seemed to be easier than it looked but they were still slowed down quite a lot. Then after travelling a few miles they were stopped by wall of thorns, blocking the whole of the ravine. "That could be a problem."



"We should stop for the night anyway."



"I think it's still going to be there tomorrow." Beatrice pointed out.



"I know but I think I have a spell that will help us."



"Finally your magic is useful for something." Shaking her head, Morgan decided not respond to this.



***





When Hannah reached the ravine she was a little confused. She had no idea how she was going to reach the princess. Closing her eyes, Hannah focused on the princess, trying to get a better idea of where she was. Suddenly she realised that the princess had gone down into the ravine. Looking both ways Hannah tried to decide which way she should go to try to find a way down. Finally, giving up she said to her horse, "So which way do you think I should go?" The horse didn't respond, however it did start walking to the south. "I guess we'll go this way." It was full dark when Hannah reached the same slope which Beatrice and Morgan had used to get down.



***





When Beatrice woke up she found that Morgan was up and was already looking through her book for the spell.



"You should have woken me" She said



"Well I thought you could do with some rest."



"Well I have been feeling tired. I guess I'm not as over whatever it was I had before as I thought I was. So any luck?"



"Not yet."



Suddenly Beatrice noticed that the thorns seemed to be closer, "Wasn't that further away last night?"



"Yes. It's grown several feet during the night."



"Shit. We can't stay here very long then."



"No, though hopefully we won't have to." She turned the page then said, "Aha. I've... Shit."



"What?" Morgan didn't have to answer her as a few moments later they heard the sound of dogs approaching. "Please tell me you've found the spell."



"I have. It'll just take a moment."



"I don't think we have a moment."



"Oh I don't think they're as close as they sound. The echoes will make them..."



"Just cast the spell. We can discuss acoustics later."



"Okay."



***





Once they were through the wall of thorns the walls of the ravine began to drop rapidly. Though the couldn't see this as they were surrounded by a thick fog. "Morgan? Are you still there?"



"I'm here." Morgan took Beatrice's hand in her own.



"Sorry, I thought I'd lost you."



"Maybe we should tie our horses together, so that we don't lose each other for real."



"Good idea." They did this, then lit lanterns to help them see the ground ahead, and avoid any pot holes. Beatrice led the way, being guided by some instinct which drew her onwards. "I hope this fog clears up soon."



"I don't think it will. I kind of get the impression that it's not natural."



"Well that's not encouraging."



"I know." Morgan hesitated then decided to not tell Beatrice about the uneasy feeling she had. She couldn't really put it into words, it was just a vague feeling that there was something wrong about this place.



***





"How am I going to get through here?" Hannah asked herself, standing before the wall of thorns, "And how did the princess get through." Suddenly Hannah noticed something glinting in the thorns. Looking closer she saw that it was armour, she then saw that there were several people trapped within the thorns. "That's not a good sign." Hannah checked the sides of the ravine to see if there was anyway to climb out and get round the wall of thorns. However the walls of the ravine were totally smooth, and Hannah soon realised if there was a way out the knights would have taken it rather than trying to cut there way through. Getting an idea, Hannah took a torch from her bag and lit it. As she held it up to the wall of thorns, the thorns moved back away from the fire. Moving the torch in an arch Hannah was able to move the thorns back. However as she stepped back to look at how much progress she'd made, the thorns grew back. She guessed this is what had happened to the knights. They gotten part way through then as the thorns grew back had become trapped. It seemed that even with the fire it would be impossible to create an opening which both she and her horse could get through. She might be able to do it if she left her horse behind, but Hannah was loath to do that. Thrusting the torch into the thorns, Hannah found that they moved rapidly away, but they didn't catch light. Putting the torch down Hannah looked through her pack for her lantern. As soon as she found it she remembered that she'd run out of oil, but as she moved the lantern she saw a flask of oil there, "I don't remember packing this." Hannah muttered as she got it out. Deciding to not look a gift horse in the mouth Hannah took the began splashing the oil liberally on the thorns, trying to get it as far into the wall as possible. She then set light to the oil. As it ignited the thorns rapidly moved away creating an opening. As soon as the opening was large enough Hannah slapped the side of her horse, causing it to run through. As soon as her horse was through, Hannah ran through, keeping her torch in front of her. She was halfway through when the thorns began to close in around her. Diving forwards Hannah rolled out of the way of the thorns, just as the wall closed up. "Do I not want to do that again." Hannah said, before going to look for her horse.



***





"Not another mountain." Morgan moaned. In the light from their lanterns she could just about make out a wall of stone rising up ahead of them.



"I'm afraid so." Beatrice said, "The tower is at the top of the mountain."



"So we're almost there. I wonder what the tower is like."



"We'll find out soon enough." Beatrice led them to a slope leading up the side of the mountain. At first they slowed down as they climbed up it but after a while they rose up above the level of the fog and being, able to see, they sped up a bit.



After they'd been climbing for an hour Beatrice almost slipped off of her horse, and over the edge of the slope, but caught herself in time. "I think we should stop." Morgan suggested."



"But we're almost there." Beatrice protested.



"So? Will it really matter if they get there tomorrow rather than today? Anyway it won't do any good if you kill yourself getting there."



"Fine we'll stop for the night." They found a wide point of the trail, then stopped to camp.



***





Riding into the fog Hannah was once again glad to have the link to the princess. She knew that she would soon be hopelessly lost without it. She kept going long after it had gone dark. Since, due to the fog, she couldn't see anything anyway, the darkness didn't make any difference. She only stopped when she reached the base of the mountain. Deciding it wouldn't be safe to go up when she was practically falling asleep in her saddle.



***





The next morning Beatrice took a turn for the worse. She was clearly too ill to travel, but that didn't stop her from complaining about it. "I'm starting to think you don't want me to get there."



"Of course I do. I just want you to be fit when we do."



"But we're so close."



"Well just rest a while. If you start to feel better we might be able to get going by this afternoon."



"Alright."



"Now, I noticed some herbs growing in the wall. I'm going to go and get them, that is if you'll be okay?"



"Will these herbs help me get better?"



"Yes."



"Then go, get them."



***





Hannah could barely contain a sense of excitement as she climbed the mountain. If her sense was right she was just a few meters away from the princess. She could hardly believe that she'd be the one to find her. Just then a woman came round the corner. Hannah recognised her as the woman who'd been with the princess and started to greet her. Seeing her the woman gave a look of recognition, followed by one of terror. Reaching into a bag she threw some dust at Hannah while chanting. Hannah felt herself being thrown back against the wall of the mountain, and as she hit it she heard a smashing sound. When Hannah had recovered and gotten up, the woman had run off. Remembering the smashing sound, she checked her bag and found that her glass slippers had smashed. For some reasons this upset Hannah more than anything else that had happened to her on the journey and, sitting back down she started crying.



***





When Morgan got back to the camp she was surprised to find that Beatrice was up and packing. "You're up."



"Yeah, it's weird. As soon as you left, I started feeling better."



"Oh, well that's good as we have to go, I just ran into a knight."



"Do you think we have time?"



"I hope so."



Beatrice looked up at Morgan then said, "You seem really worried."



"Yeah, I am."



"Don't worry, I won't let them hurt you."



"It's just." Morgan paused to collect her thoughts, "Lately I've been having nightmares."



"I noticed."



"In them I'm being burned at the stake. The knight, she's the one lighting the fire."



"Then you're right, we need to hurry." Just then they heard the sound of someone crying. Morgan started in the direction of the sound, "What are you doing?" Beatrice asked



"We should check it out." With a shrug Beatrice decided to follow. When they got round the corner they found Hannah there.



"Is that the knight you saw?" Morgan nodded, "Well then let's go."



"She might need help."



"But what about..."



Morgan had already continued on. "Um, are you okay?" she asked Hannah.



"No." Hannah answered, "Since I've left home I've been bullied by water sprites, attacked by killer beetles , almost raped and when I think I might actually be able to do this, you chuck me about with a wave of your hand. I'm cold and I'm warn out and I want to go home."



Morgan crouched down in front of Hannah and said, "I'm sorry I attacked you, it's just you startled me."



"Yeah, well some knight I am."



"Well you're the only one who's managed to find me." Beatrice said, coming forwards, "Anyway did you think this was going to be easy?"



"No, I thought..." Hannah stopped



"You thought it'd be like a fairy tale." Morgan finished



"Stupid, I know." Hannah said. She tried to dry her face using her hands. Morgan handed her a hankey which Hannah used to dry her face then blow her nose. She was going to give it back to Morgan, then took it back saying, "I'll get it cleaned for you."



"Look, I know you've been through a lot coming after me but I'm not ready to go back, so you'll have to go back without me."



"But I could go with you." Hannah suggested



Beatrice looked doubtful at this. "I thought that you wanted to go home."



"Well I don't want to be alone at the moment. Anyway I could help protect you."



Beatrice looked even more doubtful at this. Before she could protest thought Morgan said, "I think she should come."



"But what about your dream?" Beatrice asked.



"What dream?" Hannah asked.



"It doesn't matter." Morgan said quickly.



"Alright then she can come." Beatrice agreed, "We've wasted too much time already."



"Thank you." Hannah whispered to Morgan.



Morgan gave Hannah a crooked smile then stood up saying, "I'm Morgan, by the way. So, are you ready?"



"Yeah, I am." They went back to Beatrice and Morgan's camp and packed it up.



***





As they continued riding up the mountain Morgan said to Hannah, "You said something about killer beetles."



"Oh, yes that was at the cave of the oracles."



"You went to the cave of the oracles?" Beatrice asked, her tone suggesting she didn't believe this.



"Yes."



"You?" Beatrice said again.



"Well it wasn't my evil twin."



"What was it like?" Morgan asked.



"Not much to look at. There was some water there that made me sick but after I drank it I could sense where the two of you were, which is how I found you."



"That must have been how you got over the great plain."



"You believe all this?" Beatrice asked.



"Why shouldn't I?"



"No ones made it to the cave of oracles."



"Until now." Hannah said. Beatrice was going to respond but just then she almost slipped off of her horse. Quickly riding forwards Hannah caught her before she could fall.



"Thanks Morgan." Beatrice said in a sleepy voice.



"No, I'm Hannah." Hannah pointed out.



"Sorry I thought that, sorry."



"Maybe we should stop." Hannah suggested



"No, we've had too many delays." Hannah gave Morgan a questioning look, but she just shrugged.



***





It was late afternoon when they reached a plateau. In the center there was a large tower.



"Wow!" Hannah said, "You don't see one of those every day."



"How are we going to get in?" Morgan asked since from where they were they couldn't see any entrances. Without responding Beatrice got off her horse and walked towards the tower. She then stepped through the wall. "Beatrice wait!" Morgan shouted, but Beatrice had already disappeared. Getting off of her horse Morgan ran after Beatrice but she collided with the wall and fell down.



After getting all the horses Hannah walked over and asked, "Are you alright?"



"I hurt my nose." Morgan complained.



"I guess that we're not invited."



***





It seemed that the further she got up the staircase, the sicker Beatrice became. At one point she leaned against the wall, only to quickly pull her hand away in pain. "That was stupid." She muttered. Staggering a little Beatrice made it into the room at the top of the tower. The only furniture in the room was a large four poster bed. Moving the curtains Beatrice was surprised to find herself lying there. "What now? Am I supposed to kiss her?" Suddenly the woman woke up.



She smiled as she saw Beatrice and said "You came."



"I didn't seem to have much choice." Beatrice pointed out, "So who exactly are you?"



"I'm princess Beatrice Dupres."



"Then who am I?"



"It's a long story."



Beatrice collapsed to the floor. After managing to pick herself up and finding a chair to sit on she said, "Maybe you can give me the basics."



The other Beatrice got up and said, "Okay just after I was born I was kidnapped, you are a changeling who was put in my place. I'd been hoping you'd come for so long that I'd almost given up."



"What so that we could catch up on old times?"



"No, so you can release me."



"What'll happen to me if I do?"



"I'm sorry." She looked at the floor as she said this.



"Damn! Damn damn damn." Beatrice moaned.



"You had no idea."



"What that I was just some changeling?" Beatrice got up again and began pacing, "No of course I didn't."



"I really am sorry. I guess that you're as much a victim in all this as I am."



"How do we do this?"



"No."



"What?"



"I can't do this. Just go back home, forget about me. Just promise me you'll try to be happy."



"For a while now I've been hearing a wailing sound. Only now do I see that it must have been a banshee." Beatrice said quietly.



The other Beatrice ran at her shouting, "Just go, get out of here." Beatrice grabbed her hand. The other Beatrice moved her other hand away but Beatrice quickly moved to grab that one as well and the room filled with light.



***





As the light dimmed it took Beatrice a few seconds before she could see again. When she could see again she could see her changeling lying on the floor a short distance away. Checking her Beatrice found that as she had suspected her changeling was dead. Beatrice picked her up and carried her over to the bed. Beatrice gazed at her a few seconds then bent to kiss her on the forehead before pulling a blanket over her head. By then the tower was starting to shake quite violently so Beatrice ran down the stairs. She didn't slow down as she approached the bottom figuring that if she wasn't let out then she'd be dead soon anyway.



***





As the tower began shaking Hannah said, "I wish I knew what was happening."



"I hope Beatrice is okay."



"Did she say what drew her here?"



"She didn't know. I hope it wasn't some sort of trap." Suddenly Beatrice came running out of the tower, Or at least it looked like Beatrice but her hair wasn't dyed or cut and she was wearing white robes.



"Who are you?" Hannah asked.



"I'm Beatrice." She thought a moment then said, "You're Hannah, you want to be a knight." Then to Morgan, "You're Morgan, you're a witch."



Morgan walked up to Beatrice and held her hands near her temples before saying, "May I?" Beatrice nodded and Morgan put her hands to her temple. After a couple of seconds she staggered back crying.



"Morgan what's wrong?" Hannah asked.



"She's dead."



"Who?"



"Beatrice."



"Then who's this?" Morgan was unable to answer so Hannah turned to give Beatrice a suspicious look saying, "Are you going to explain."



"Of course but the tower is going to collapse and we need to get away from here." Hannah nodded and they quickly went to their horses and rode back down the mountain.







I find it kinda funny, I find it kinda sad
The dreams in which I'm dying are the best I've ever had.
- mad world



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 Post subject: Re: Ever After
PostPosted: Wed Dec 10, 2003 1:46 pm 
Ooooooh, having two Beatrices was was an unexpected twist in the story. Now, some questions are begging for an answer. Who kidnapped the real Beatrice and why? Is she the real Beatrice or are you gonna pull another surprise? I couldn't see why you should be worried about both chapters (this & the one prior). You've done both really well. This is still a great story and I'm really glad you decided to post this. Now, I can't wait to see what more adventures lie ahead for the three.



Also, I'm worried about Morgan's dream? Is that prophetic? Or metaphoric? You know, like sparks flying between those two. :heart Anyway, I'm really glad Hannah was able to catch up with Morgan and Beatrice.



Oh, and bad Maurice for doing the attempted rape. Will that be his last appearance in the story? Okay, I know, patience, patience. I should let you tell your story instead of me asking all the questions.



Please keep the updates coming.



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 Post subject: Re: Ever After
PostPosted: Wed Dec 10, 2003 6:24 pm 
Oooh. Ahhhh.



Very twisty and clever. I think that the scene with the two Beatriceseses could have stood to be a little longer, but I have developed a very personal attachment to scenes between identicals ;) , so weigh that observation carefully.



Hannah and Morgan. There's a little spark between them, yes. Now they're both on the outside, together. Yes, outside of the tower, and now outside of the truth as to what is going on with Beatrice. Nice, polite, clever symbolism if you ask me. Bravo!



Symbolism... The glass slippers broke when Morgan 'shocked' Hannah. Are they symbolic of Hannah's 'fairy tale' vision being shattered? Or could it represent the 'breaking the ice' with Morgan :) Or, could it simply be a harbinger of the death of Beatrice1? Lots of ways to interpret that little token that you threw in there.



Oh yeah, Hannah is one clever little knight, using her skills of observation to work out the best way to get through the thorns. I like it when such a charming little character comes up with an ingenious solution like that.



Charming. Yes, she's very charming indeed. I loved the handkerchief line, where she offers to have it cleaned before she would give it back to Morgan. Something so small, yet so telling of the character, and her demeanor. Is she convinced through years of belittling that she's too repulsive to return the cloth with her humors on it? Or is it that she's so averse to having put someone else out by their generosity?



I'm starting to babble now. Too tired to say anything else of value. Sleep awaits, and hopefully, another chapter of Ever After :)



This is a great story, Justin. Thanks for sharing it with all of us.



-SQ



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 Post subject: Re: Ever After
PostPosted: Thu Dec 11, 2003 11:07 am 
StrangQuark: what you mean someones been adding symbolism to my story? The swine ;) part of me wants to take the credit for it and say yes I really am the greatest writer who ever lived, but I have to be honest and say I was just lucky.



As to the bit with the hanky when I was writing it I was thinking about the scene from Pretty Woman where the hotel manager gives Julia Roberts a hanky to dry her eyes. She then blows her nose on it then hands him back this dripping hankerchief and he's like yes, thanks. I just thought that Hannah wouldn't do that.



oh and BTW :boot



Chapter 11

Explanations

Homeward bound





As they rode down, Hannah kept looking suspiciously at the woman claiming to be Beatrice. She obviously wasn't the woman they ridden to the tower with, so who was she? When they had made it back to the campsite they got the camp set up, then Hannah asked, "So now are you going to explain."



Beatrice paused to take a breath. "I am the real princess Beatrice. When I was a baby I was stolen from my parents and brought to the tower. The woman who you were travelling with was a changeling, who was left in my place." Hannah snorted in disbelief.



"She's telling the truth." Morgan said.



"Oh. Did she know what she was?"



"No. She had no idea she wasn't, um, me." Beatrice answered.



"Was this why she was drawn here?" Morgan asked



"I believe so. Though I don't know how we were connected she definitely seemed to be drawn here. For as long as I can remember I have hoped that she would come to release me, maybe that was what drew her here."



"And what, when she released you, you killed her?" Hannah said.



"Hannah." Morgan said in a gentle voice.



"I had been hoping for so long that I had almost forgotten what it would do to her. When she arrived and I was faced with a living breathing person I couldn't go through with it, but she took that choice away from me. Knowing what would happen."



"You mean she sacrificed herself to free you."



Beatrice nodded, "I wish she hadn't. I think being stuck in the ice tower would be better than feeling how I am now."



Morgan walked over to Beatrice and placing her hand on her shoulder said, "There's no reason to feel guilty."



"Isn't there?"



"As you said, she chose what happened."



Beatrice nodded, then looking up at Morgan she asked, "Do you know how far we are from home?"



"Well it took us a couple of weeks to ride here. Assuming we take the same route back, it'll probably take at least as long."



"Should we?" Hannah asked, "I mean go the same route. It seems we went south then east then north again so it'd be quicker to go north west from here."



"And would you know how to get back to the palace going that way?" Morgan asked



"Um, no."



"Me neither which is why I think we should retrace our steps."



"I would like to get back as quickly as possible." Beatrice said.



"Which is why we don't want to get lost." Morgan pointed out.



"Okay then." Beatrice conceded , "I've been away more than twenty years. I can wait a couple of weeks."



"I'll get a fire started." Morgan said.



"How are we for food?" Beatrice asked.       



"We've got some, but we're going to have to ration it if we're going to get back to the nearest town."



"Well after living in that tower anything will be a blessing."



"That's good because we don't have much." Morgan said, "Unless you've got some, Hannah."



"Well I've got a couple of fish left and..." Jumping up Hannah said, "Oh oh. I found a bag on the way here. I think it might be yours." She went to her horse and came back with a bag.



"So you found it." Morgan said, as she recognised the bag.



"The vegetables were going rotten so I threw them but the dried meat seems to be okay."



"Well this'll help a lot." Morgan said. "So what have you been living on?"



"Mainly whatever I could catch." Hannah answered.



"Wow, I am in awe of you. We were both pretty useless at being self sufficient."



"Oh well I did a lot of hunting when I was home so I was used to it."



"I did a bit but mainly it was just a case of leaving a trap and going back to check on it in a couple of days to see if I caught anything. I didn't really have a clue when it came to catching stuff while on the move."



"Oh, well." For some reason Hannah was feeling embarrassed so she turned to Beatrice and asked, "What have you been living on?"



"Mainly ice." Beatrice answered.



"Ice?"



"Well it was very nutritious ice." Beatrice added.



"It must have been." Morgan said.



"Maybe we should have brought some with us." Hannah suggested.



Beatrice shook her head. "If I never see any ice again, I'll be a happy woman."



***





The next morning they set off down the mountain. As they got near the bottom Beatrice asked, "How are we going to find our way through the fog."



"You know about that?" Morgan asked.



"Yes. I seem to have gained my changeling's memories."



"Oh well I'm not sure. The other Beatrice was drawn to the tower, but we don't have that now."



"Look over there." Hannah said, pointing in front of them.



"What is it?"



"You can just make out the ravine we went through."



"She's right." Morgan said



"As long as we can be sure we're going in a straight line when we get into the fog, we know what direction to go in."



"Well Morgan can handle keeping us going in a straight line."



"Well then it shouldn't be any problem." This turned out to be the case and by mid evening they had reached the ravine. Shortly afterwards they reached the wall of thorns.



Looking through it Morgan asked, "Are there people in there?"



"Yeah." Hannah answered, "I think they tried to cut their way through then got stuck when it grew back."



"How did you manage it?" Beatrice asked Hannah.



"Luck mainly. What about you?"



"Magic." Morgan answered.



"Of course I should have thought about that." Morgan found the spell again and was able to open the thorns up.



As they rode through Beatrice said, "We ought to bury them."



"We don't have anything to dig with." Hannah pointed out.



"Well there are lots of stones about at least we can make cairns for them."



"Okay then."



As they got through Morgan said, "I saw someone move." She went over to a knight lying just beyond the thorns.



Hannah followed her, then seeing who it was said, "Goddess, Daniel."



"You know him?" Morgan asked.



"He's my brother."



"Step brother." Daniel managed to say in a weak voice.



"What happened to you?"



"I got caught in thorns."



"And you didn't think to take care of the wounds."



"I bandaged them as well as I could." He looked past Hannah and said, "Hey you found the princess, good for you." With that he passed out. Hannah Ripped up a shirt to make some bandages, then with Morgan's help she cleaned and rebandaged Daniels wounds.



"How is he?" Beatrice asked. Morgan got up and got her spell book and started going through it.



"He's lost a lot of blood. I'm not sure he'll make the ride back home." Hannah said to Beatrice.



"Aha!" Morgan said.



"What is it?"



"I've got a spell that will teleport Daniel back home."



"That's handy." Hannah said.



"What about us?" Beatrice asked.



"What?"



"Can you use it to teleport us home?"



"No." Morgan answered, "It only works on one person." She glanced at the book then asked Hannah, "Hannah, can you start a fire and get some water boiling."



"Do you want me to do anything?" Beatrice asked



"Well you could help me look for some of these herbs."



"Sure." They went off to look for the herbs.



***





About half an hour later they had everything ready. Morgan had used the boiled water to extract the essence from some of the herbs, creating a paste which she pained on Daniels face. She then began throwing the other herbs on him while chanting. As she finished the spell Daniel glowed then disappeared.



"Wow, it worked." Hannah said, just as Morgan collapsed, with blood flowing from her nose.



***





When Morgan woke up she found Hannah sitting next to her.



"You're awake." Hannah said seeing her. "You really are silly. Why didn't you tell us what would happen?"



"I didn't want to worry you."



"Like I said, silly." She got a cloth out of a bucket of water and mopped Morgan's forehead with it a moment before asking "So where did you send Daniel?"



"Home."



"But you've never been there."



"And?"



"Well then how did you know where to send him?"



"I didn't but he did."



"Oh. Well I guess it makes sense." Putting the cloth away Hannah went on, "Personally I think you did it on purpose."



"Did what?"



"The collapsing thing. I think you just wanted to get out of having to help bury those knights."



"And did my cunning plan work?"



"Yeah, we've done it already."



"It seems rather late to be doing that sort of thing."



"Well Beatrice wanted to do it right away and I don't think I could have slept if we hadn't done it."



"Where is Beatrice?"



"She's gone to sleep. I'm keeping first watch."



"Oh well now I'm awake, you can go to sleep and I'll keep watch."



"Nonsense, you need to rest. I don't know what's involved with teleporting someone but I guess it isn't easy."



"It isn't, but we didn't have much choice, did we?"



"No, I know that. And thank you. I mean Daniel and I haven't always got on but I would have hated for something to happen to him."



"You're more than welcome."



***





They set off early the next morning. After they had been riding most of the morning Morgan suggested they stop for a break. Beatrice, grudgingly, agreed to this but she spent the whole time pacing impatiently. As they set off Hannah said quietly to Morgan, "Well that's something she's got in common with her changeling. They're both pretty pushy."



"Shhh." Morgan said, though she had to agree with Hannah.



***





As they rode out of the canyon they were suddenly covered by a shadow. "What the..." Hannah muttered as she looked up, "Oh shit." The shadow had been caused by a dragon flying overhead.



Having seen the same thing Morgan kicked her horse while shouting, "Quick, we need to find cover." Beatrice and Hannah rode quickly after her. After they'd been riding a while Hannah looked back over her shoulder. The dragon didn't seem to be paying attention to them. After they'd ridden a way away from the dragon they slowed down.



"It doesn't seem to be following us." Beatrice said, "I wonder why?"



"I don't know." Morgan admitted, "I don't know too much about dragons."



"And I was starting to think you knew everything." Beatrice said.



"There aren't many myths about dragons and a lot of them are contradictory."



"Don't worry I won't hold it against you."



"Well I'm just glad it has ignored us." Hannah said, "I don't really care why, I'm just kind of glad to still be alive."



"That was rather scary." Beatrice admitted, her heart was pounding and from the looks of them she guessed that the other two women felt the same way.



***





It took another couple of days to reach the first town. As they approached it Hannah said, "It'd be nice to stay at an inn for the night."



"Do you have any money?" Morgan asked.



"No."



"Me neither. What about you Beatrice?"



"Well do you think this'll be enough?" Beatrice asked, holding up a gold necklace.



"Where did you get it?" Morgan asked.



"To be honest I don't remember. I've always had it. I guess I was given it when I was born."



"So it's like a family heirloom." Beatrice nodded in response. "Then I'm not sure if we should sell it."



"Nonsense. I'm a princess, I have lot's of heirlooms. I'm not going to miss this one."



"Well if you're sure."



"If that's settled." Hannah said, "Who's going to handle the selling."



"If I remember correctly, Morgan's pretty good at haggling so maybe she should."



***





Later that evening they were sitting in the dining room of an inn. "So Morgan, where do you live?"



"Oh, I have a house in the forest of Morrigan. Or at least I had, The knights of Galeone burnt it down."



"Oh, I think I found it."



"How bad is the damage?" Morgan asked, hoping the damage might be repairable.



"Pretty bad." Seeing Morgan's face fall she went on, "But the walls are still there so I guess it can be repaired."



"What about the roof?" Morgan was starting to lose hope about the house.



Hannah shrugged apologetically and answered, "That wasn't so lucky."



"Oh."



"You don't need to worry about that." Beatrice said, "I'll have it rebuilt."



Morgan was going to protest but realised that this wasn't the time to be proud and independent so instead she said, "Thanks."



***





They set off early the next morning. They rode till quite late in the evening then set up camp. When they had eaten Morgan watched quietly while Hannah practiced using her sword.



"You're very good at that." Morgan commented



"Well like this it's easy. It's a lot harder when you've got someone, or something else trying to hit you back." Hannah said



"So your fairy godmother gave you the sword?" Morgan asked



"Yes." Hannah said. Then as she remembered something she said "Oh." and sheathing her sword she went to her pack. She came back with a book saying "I've got this book, it's about a saint called Leanne."



"I've heard of her." Morgan said. Hannah opened the book up to the page she'd marked and showed Morgan the picture of the sword she'd seen. "This is Piper's sword." Morgan said. Hannah drew her sword and held it next to the picture. Morgan looked at the sword, then the picture, then the sword again. "Goddess, you've got Piper's sword."



"Is that good?" Hannah asked



"Yes, very." Morgan said "Though have you heard any voices speaking to you since you've gotten it?"



"No, should I have?" Hannah asked



"Probably. I guess this means that she's finally found peace. Which is good."



"Yeah." Hannah said, "Though I really don't know what you're talking about."



"Haven't you read it?" Morgan asked.



Hannah looked embarrassed at this and said "Well I've always been very busy and I've never had the time learn to, well, you know."



"You can't read." Morgan said



"Yeah. I've been trying to teach myself, recently, but it's been difficult and it makes my eyes hurt." Hannah explained. Morgan motioned that Hannah should sit next to her. Hannah put her sword away and did so.



Morgan, holding the book so that Hannah could see it began to slowly read. "The demon hit Leanne with a terrible blow, sending her flying several feet away. Before it could regain it's balance Piper ran forwards and with one swing of her sword she cut one of it's arms off. She swung again but the demon caught the blade and it pulled the sword out of her hand. Gazing at the sword it said in a terrible voice



'Nice sword. Here have it back.' With that it drove the sword through Pipers chest. As Piper died the demon cast a spell catching her spirit and binding her into the sword. When Leanne saw what the demon had done she gave a cry of fury and threw her own sword at it like a spear. The sword went trough the demons head, cleaving..."



"Um, what did you say that word was?" Hannah interrupted



"Cleaving." Morgan answered. She then went on "Cleaving it in two. She then ran over to her fallen comrade. As she pulled the sword out she was surprised to hear her friend saying



'Hello, Leanne can you hear me?'



'Piper? Is that you?' Leanne said.



'Who else.'



'But you're dead.' Leanne said, starting to think that she'd gone mad.



'I don't feel dead. Though why are you holding me like that.'



'I'm not holding you.' Leanne said 'I'm just holding your sword.' Then suddenly the same thought occurred to them both



'you're in the...'



'I'm in the...'



'Sword.' They said at the same time."



Watching them both Beatrice couldn't help smiling. Since leaving the ice tower she had been trying to think of a way to pay Morgan and Hannah back for their help. Now seeing them together she suddenly thought of a way.







I find it kinda funny, I find it kinda sad
The dreams in which I'm dying are the best I've ever had.
- mad world



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 Post subject: Re: Ever After
PostPosted: Fri Dec 12, 2003 6:38 am 
Yes, there's definitely symbolism working throughout this story. Unintentional symbolism is the best kind (I think so, at least) because it demonstrates an innate ability at work.



The fact that Hannah is a better person than her brother is very evident, and Morgan's very exhaustive effort to help the man was also a very telling action for that character.



I was kind of moved by the mental picture of Morgan reading with Hannah. The Piper's Sword thing is a very interesting tale in of itself, and having Morgan read it to us, and Hannah, was very well done.



Looking forward to more. Good stuff, Justin!



-SQ



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 Post subject: Re: Ever After
PostPosted: Fri Dec 12, 2003 7:44 am 
StrangeQuark: Thanks, I doubt if I'll ever get tired of this sort of feedback :D



Chapter 12

Q & A

Confessions





When Beatrice woke up she was surprised to find herself back in the tower. Sitting up she tried to work out what had happened. Then she realised that she had just dreamed about escaping, it wasn't the first time. Realising that she would probably never get away from here Beatrice began crying. Then a voice said, "Beatrice , wake up."



***





Beatrice opened her eyes, to find herself in a small tent. Morgan was sitting next to her with a concerned look on her face. "Sorry to wake you but it sounded like you were having a nightmare."



"I was, I dreamt I was back in the tower."



Morgan placed her hand on Beatrice's shoulder, "Don't worry it was just a dream."



"Was it?" Beatrice was silent a moment then said, "I know I'm pushing us rather to get back to the palace..."



"I understand," Morgan cut in, "You want to get back home."



"It's not just that, it's like I can't be sure that this is real, that I really have gotten away from that place, until I get back to the palace."



"I can understand that. I promise we'll get back to the palace as soon as we can." Morgan assured her.



"Thanks. You know if I do start pushing you a bit much then just tell me."



"Okay then. Well I'll let you get back to sleep." Morgan got up and walked out of the tent.



***





After they'd been riding a couple of hours Beatrice stopped saying, "What's that up ahead?"



Morgan raised her hand to shield her eyes, "It looks like a group of riders."



"Looks like an army." Hannah added.



"What makes you say that?" Beatrice asked.



"You can see the sun reflecting off their armour."



"Oh yeah. I wondered what that was. Do you think they're looking for me?"



"I don't think so." Morgan answered.



A while later the knights reached them. One of them rode up and said, "What are you doing here?"



"What are you doing here?" Beatrice asked back. Thanks to gaining her doubles memories she was used to a rather more respectful tone from people.



"There's a dragon in the area. We've been sent to deal with it."



"We know, we've seen it." Hannah said.



"You've seen the dragon and survived?" The knight didn't seem to believe this.



"Well it didn't notice us."



"Then you'd better leave, you might not be so lucky next time." The knights rode past them.



"Well they were rude."



"Poor men." Morgan said in a low voice.



"Why do you say that?" Beatrice asked,turning towards them.



"Because they're going to die." Morgan answered.



"Oh, yeah." She turned to watch the retreating figures, "Do you think we should warn them?"



"I think that they already know." Turning they continued on their way.



When they stopped that evening Beatrice said, "So Hannah, I know all about Morgan," Beatrice admitted to herself that this was a lie since she didn't know very much about Morgan's past, but she wanted to get the two of them talking, "but I don't know very much about you."



"Okay what do you want to know?"



"I don't know. Tell me, us about your family."



"Oh well my real parents died when I was very young."



"I'm sorry." Morgan said.



"Well I don't remember them. I was adopted by the Watsons when I was three."



"I think I've heard that name." Beatrice said.



"Oh well my dad's a magistrate. We've got a small farm house. I've got a brother, Daniel, um, who you met. I've also got two sisters, Simone and Isabelle. They're identical twins."



"So are you the youngest?" Morgan asked.



"No, I'm about the same age as Simone. Isabelle as well, unsurprisingly."



"Well I'm an only child." Noticing the look that Beatrice was giving her Morgan quickly added, "That is except for my older brother."



"An understandable mistake." Hannah said, "There are times when I try to forget having an older brother."



"Actually I never met my brother. He left home before I was born."



"Wow, he must be a lot older."



"Well he's fifteen years older than me."



"Oh, have you ever thought about finding him?" Hannah asked.



"Not really." Morgan answered with a shake of her head.



"I can understand that. I mean, families, who needs them."



***





The day after next they arrived at another town. They quickly found an Inn and went to book rooms. When Beatrice asked the innkeeper for three rooms he shook his head saying, "'Fraid I've only got two. One twin and one single."



Turning to the others Beatrice said, "I think I'll take the single room, let you two get the twin room."



"Hey, how come you get a room to yourself?" Morgan protested.



"Yeah, just because you're a," Hannah lowered her voice, "princess doesn't mean you get to hog the single room."



"It's okay Hannah we don't need to keep my being a princess secret." Beatrice pointed out, "Besides I only want the single room because I don't want to disturb you with my snoring."



Hannah and Morgan looked at each other a moment then said together, "You take the single room."



"Thanks, I will."



***





Later that evening when they went to their rooms Hannah opened the door for Morgan, then bowing said "After you."



Morgan curtsied, "Why thank you kind sir knight."



As Hannah followed her in she smiled and said, "I still can't get over the delicate princess snoring quite that loud."



"Yeah, I'm glad we're at the opposite end of the building from her." Morgan agreed. After getting ready they went to bed.



***





About an hour later Hannah was woken up by a sound from the other side of the room. At first she thought that Morgan had picked up Beatrice's snoring and rolling over, she tried to go back to sleep. After a while, though, she realised that Morgan was actually crying. Sitting up she asked, "Morgan, what's wrong?"



"Nothing, It's okay." Morgan muttered, "Go back to sleep."



Sitting up Hannah fumbled round on the table till she found the flint then lit the lamp. "I'm not going to till you tell me what's up."



Morgan sat up saying, "I didn't want to disturb you."



"Yeah, well that doesn't answer my question." Hannah got up and grabbing the lantern she walked over to Morgan's bed and sat on it. "Now are you going to tell me what's wrong or do I have to sit here all night."



Morgan stared at Hannah a while, wondering if there were some way she could get out of this. Then, after a while, she gave up and said, "I was thinking about Beatrice, about how much I miss her."



"Well she's just down..." Hannah stopped as a thought occurred to her, "Oh, you probably mean your Beatrice, don't you?" Morgan nodded in response, "So what was she like?"



"Well she was a lot like the princess but she seemed so happy to be able to finally get away from the palace and doing it caused her death. Life can just be so unfair at times."



"You're not going get any argument from me. But it's good that Beatrice, I mean the princess, got to get away from that ice tower. I mean that can't have been very nice for her."



"No, I know that and I'm happy for her, I just wish that Beatrice hadn't had to die to release her." Hannah looked away, wishing that there were something that she could do or say which would make it better but barring bringing Beatrice back to life she couldn't come up with anything. Seeing Hannah's reaction and mistaking it for boredom Morgan said, "I'm sorry, you probably want to get to sleep."



"What? No, I'm not really sleepy."



"Oh, me neither. What do you want to do?"



"Well my sisters have this game when someone wants to join their clique, where you each ask each other a question, taking turns. It always seemed like fun."



"I take it they never let you join in."



"Of course not, so what do you say?"



"Okay, who goes first?"



"It that seems you do. And the answer to your first question is you did. Right my turn." Morgan thought about protesting this but decided she'd let Hannah get away with it this time. "So how did you get in to witchcraft?"



"Oh, well after I ran away from home..." As she said this Morgan hoped that Hannah wouldn't ask about this.



"Why did you run away?" Morgan froze, trying to work out the best way to answer this. She didn't want to lie to Hannah but there were some things she wasn't ready to talk about. Noticing her reaction Hannah said, "I'm sorry."



"No it's okay." Morgan said, with a shake of her head.



"No it's not." Hannah contradicted, "I asked a question out of turn."



Realising that this was Hannah's way of letting her off answering the question without making either of them uncomfortable Morgan decided to go along. Looking up she wagged her finger at Hannah saying, "So you did, naughty girl."



Hannah shook her head guiltily, "I'm a bad bad girl."



"Well I'll forgive you this once. Anyway as I was saying before being interrupted, After I ran away I ended up in the forest of Morrigan. I was found there by Hazel who took me in. I don't think she intended to raise me but after a while she couldn't bear to let me leave."



"She sounds really nice."



"She was. I mean she was a wonderful, caring person. She taught me a lot, not just witchcraft, and I killed her."



Hannah was rather shocked by this, "Surely you don't mean that."



"I do." Morgan said forcefully. "One day the knights of Galeone came. Hazel told me to run then she staid to stop them from coming after me. I circled round and watched as they caught her and set up the fire. Then when the fire reached her she screamed so much I couldn't Bear it. I had a knife with me so I cast a spell to help my aim, then I threw it at her. I killed her."



"But you only did it to end her suffering and you were risking being captured." Hannah reasoned, "What you did was very brave."



"The brave thing to have done would have been to try to rescue her."



"That wouldn't have been brave, it would have been stupid. How would getting caught yourself have helped her?"



"Maybe, but I'll never know." Morgan stared down at the bed, avoiding looking at Hannah.



"Well maybe this wasn't such a good idea." Hannah said, starting to rise.



Looking up Morgan said, "Don't think that I don't know what you're doing."



"What?"



"Well firstly you go out of turn, now you're trying to run off without letting me have my go."



"Well if you're sure."



"I am. So you said your sisters are twins, didn't you?"



"Yes I did. Right, my go again."



"What?" Morgan said, not sure what was going on.



"You asked if I had said my sister's are twins, so it's my go now."



Morgan frowned at this, "You really are sneaky."



"The sneakiest." Hannah agreed, "Don't worry I'll ask an easy one. How old are you?"



Morgan sighed with relief. She had been worried that Hannah would ask more about her running away. "I'm twenty one."



"Wow." Hannah said, "The same age as me."



"Indeed. Right my go." Morgan wanted to ask more about Hannah's sisters since she'd never seen any identical twins before, but then something else occurred to her, "Are you a virgin?"



"Um, well." Hannah was rather flustered by this question, it was probably the last she would have expected, "Why do you want to know?" She asked finally.



"Well when we were crossing the great plain we met a unicorn but Beatrice scared it off. Now I am a virgin and I guess the princess is, so if you are we might be able to meet it again."



"Oh." Hannah said, starting to grow excited, seeing a unicorn would make this trip, "Then yes I am."



"Good. Well now my next question..."



"Don't I get a go?" Hannah protested.



"You did. When I asked if you were a virgin you asked why I wanted to know."



"It seems I'm not the only sneaky one." Hannah pointed out.



"I'd say we're both pretty sneaky, probably why we get on so well. Right, you asked me how I got into witch craft so I'll ask why you want to be a knight."



"Oh that's a tough one." Hannah fell silent as she tried to think what it was that had drawn her to being a knight. Eventually she said, "For a long time I've wanted to do something that, I don't know, that made a difference. I mean when I'm cleaning the house, it doesn't matter how well I do it, I just have to do it again after a couple of days. Anyway the only people who benefit from it are my family. So I wanted to do something which would make a difference to the world. And being a knight seemed to be kind of exciting."



"And there's the glory." Morgan pointed out.



Hannah shook her head, "Not really, I mean for every knight whose remembered there's probably a couple of thousand who are forgotten. Not that it matters since it doesn't seem like I'm cut out for this." Hannah finished with a shrug.



"What are you talking about?"



"Well the whole breaking down and crying thing was kind of a clue. You only let me come with you because you felt sorry for me."



"That's nonsense. I wanted you to come with us, partly because I was impressed by the fact you were the only person to catch up with us but mainly because you seemed nice and I wanted to get to know you." Morgan hesitated, worried that she had said to much but Hannah didn't react so she went on, "Anyway after what you'd gone through it was okay to feel a little overwhelmed."



"That's just it. Proper knights generally don't feel overwhelmed." Hannah pointed out.



"Maybe knights who have years of experience but this was your first, um, quest. There's no reason for you to feel ashamed, especially as you were successful."



Hannah thought about it a moment before nodding and saying. "Thanks. Um, whose go is it?"



"Does it matter?" Morgan asked.



"No I guess not."



"Well it was fun." Morgan said with a happy smile. Looking up at her Hannah suddenly started feeling strange. "Well we should probably get some sleep, the princess will want to be off early." As she said this Hannah felt herself blushing but wasn't sure why. Getting up Hannah quickly made her way back to her bed. After putting the lamp out she lay quietly trying to work out what these feelings she had about Morgan meant.



***





As Hannah had predicted Beatrice did indeed want to set off early. After stopping for a quick breakfast they rode out of the town and on their way. After they'd been riding a while Beatrice asked, "How far do you think we are from the border?"



"Well we need to continue west for a couple more days till we reach the next town," Morgan answered, "then we need to travel due north for a couple of days till we get to the border."



"Why not go north west?" Beatrice asked, "We'd probably save a day that way."



"But we'd lose that much time trying to find the crossing over the mountains. This way we know we just need to travel straight north." Morgan pointed out.



"Good point." Beatrice agreed. While it still rankled to have to take the long way, she accepted it would be silly to take a short cut only to lose time because they couldn't find their way across the border.



That night after they'd eaten Hannah got her sword and began practicing. While she did Morgan got out the map and went to sit next to Beatrice. She pointed at a spot between two towns and said, "We're somewhere along here. We should be at this town," Morgan moved her finger along to the town, "Some time tomorrow. After that it should take two days to get across the great plain then two more days to get across the mountains."



"Then we're be back in my kingdom."



"That's right. After that it should just take three, four days to get to the palace."



"So it's another nine days to get to the palace." Beatrice said, not sounding happy.



"Yes though we might be found by a patrol before then and the closer we get to the palace the more likely that'll be."



"Well I guess it'll take as long as it takes."



"She's quite good isn't she?"



"What..." Beatrice started. Then looking up and noticing where Morgan was looking she agreed, "Yes she is. Though we haven't seen her in a fight yet."



"True."



Noticing them looking at her Hannah stopped and asked, "What do you think?"



"Very impressive." Morgan enthused.



Hannah flipped the sword over, catching it's handle, "Well a lot of that is down to this sword. It's very well balanced." Sheathing her sword, Hannah walked over and sat down, "So have we got the route all planned out?"



"Pretty much." Morgan answered, "Though this map only covers this kingdom. When we get over the border it might be trickier."



"Well we can always ask directions." Hannah said.



"Or when we reach the nearest town we could ask the local guard to provide an escort." Beatrice pointed out.



"Oh, yeah." Hannah said, "I hadn't thought about that."



***





They reached the next town by early evening. The local inn was pretty much empty so they were all able to get rooms. Beatrice thought about booking a twin room again, but decided that that would be too obvious.



***





The next morning, when Hannah got a top out from her pack she noticed a couple of pieces of glass caught up in it. Carefully removing them she threw them in the bin. Then, emptying her pack out, Hannah set about clearing out all the remaining glass. She was just about finished when there was a knock at the door. "Come in." She said.



As Morgan came in she asked, "Are you busy?"



"No, just finished. I think I've got all the glass out of my bags. Glass slippers really are not practical."



Morgan hesitated a moment. She was feeling rather nervous about what she wanted to say to Hannah. Finally needing to say something she said, "Those are the slippers your fairy godmother gave you."



"Yeah, I think it's obligatory or something."



"Well I'm sorry about breaking them."



"That's alright. I mean I don't think I'd have ever used them and if you hadn't then some one would try to use them to identify me and then Isabelle and Simone would have had to cut their toes and heels off and, well, ouch!"



"Um," Morgan was having trouble keeping up with the conversation.



"Yes, I know. That would only happen if I had a prince fall in love with me and that isn't really likely to happen."



"Actually that does kind of bring me to what I wanted to talk to you about." When she saw that she had Hannah's attention Morgan went on, "Do you mind if I sit down?"



"No, go ahead." Hannah said. Morgan sat down on the bed while Hannah sat on a chair opposite her, "So what did you want to say?"



Morgan paused to compose herself then said, "The thing is. I think I'm kind of, like, sort of, um, in love with you." Morgan looked down at the floor as she waited for Hannah to react.



"You are?" Morgan just nodded. "Oh." Was all Hannah could think to say.



"I understand if you're upset or anything. Maybe we should just forget I said anything."



"No, don't" Hannah said, "I mean I'm not upset. To be honest I'm a little flattered."



"You are?" Morgan said, looking up at last.



"Yes, So I take it that you're a... What's the word?"



"A lesbian." Morgan supplied.



"Right. To be honest I haven't been sure about that sort of thing." As she said this though Hannah couldn't help thinking about the way she'd been feeling around Morgan. Now that Morgan had brought it up it occurred to her that she was in love with Morgan. Hannah giggled as this realization struck her. Noticing the concerned look that Morgan was giving her Hannah explained, "Sorry, it's just that I started by saying to be honest, then I went and lied. I mean I have always been sure, I just didn't want to be. I was a normal girl, not a freak or a pervert and normal girls liked boys." Hannah sighed, "I guess I have a choice, I can either be honest about who and what I am or I can be unhappy for the rest of my life."



"So which one is it?" Morgan asked.



"I thought that was clear from the way I phrased it."



"You might not be happy hiding who you are, but it is the safe choice."



"True, but if I was someone who always made the safe choice do you think I'd be here, or still back at home."



"Good point." Morgan agreed.



Hannah got up and went to sit down next to Morgan. Looking at her she said, "In case I wasn't clear I think that I'm kind of, sort of in love with you too."



"You mean?" Morgan asked, not wanting to get her hopes up.



"I mean... Okay?"



"Oh, yes." Morgan answered happily, "You know liking girls, women, doesn't make you a freak or a pervert. There's nothing wrong or unnatural about it."



"I guess not." Noticing a shadow fall across the doorway Hannah looked past Morgan and said, "Hello Beatrice."



"Are you two ready?" Beatrice asked.



"Just give me a couple of minutes." Hannah answered.



When Beatrice had gone Morgan stood up saying, "I'll go and check on the horses."



"One moment." Hannah said, standing up. "There's something I need to do."



"There is?"



"Yes, I believe the gallant knight is supposed to kiss the fair witch." With that Hannah leant forward and kissed Morgan. After a few seconds she moved back away and went on, "We have to keep to tradition."



"But isn't the knight supposed to kiss the fair princess?" Morgan asked.



"She really isn't my type."



After they'd been standing like that for a minute or so Morgan said, "I really better got check on the horses."



"Okay, I'll see you in a couple of minutes."



***





When Morgan got to the stables Beatrice was brushing her horse. Morgan went over to her own horse and began putting the saddle on. As she did so she kept glancing over at Beatrice. Beatrice was looking rather unhappy and Morgan was sure that she had been crying. Finally, Beatrice walked to the opposite side of Morgan's horse and asked, "So how are things?"



"Pretty good." Morgan answered.



"I meant how are things between you and Hannah."



"Oh well they're okay."



"They looked to be more than I okay to me." Beatrice pointed out.



"Well I care a lot about Hannah and she says that she feels the same way about me, so yes I guess they are better than okay." Morgan paused to check the saddle then went on, "Though I don't want to rush things."



"That's probably wise." Beatrice turned back to her own horse and sighed as she began checking the bridle.



"What about you." Morgan said.



"What about me?"



"Well you seem to be upset about something."



Beatrice turned back to Morgan. "You know how I gained the memories of my double." Morgan nodded, "Well last night I remembered that my parents were dead."



"Oh my." Morgan said, a little shocked, "I hadn't thought that you didn't know. Sorry."



"Well I didn't know them at all." Beatrice went on.



Morgan walked round her horse and hugging Beatrice said, "I'm here if you want to talk about it."



"Thanks, but not right now." Beatrice said.



"Okay then." Morgan looked round the stable and said, "I wonder where Hannah's gotten to."



As if on cue Hannah came in. As she started getting her horse ready she said, "Sorry I took so long. I had a bit of trouble getting my stuff repacked." Once Hannah had finished with her horse, they set off.





I find it kinda funny, I find it kinda sad
The dreams in which I'm dying are the best I've ever had.
- mad world



Top
  
 
 Post subject: Ever After
PostPosted: Fri Dec 12, 2003 10:04 am 
Whew! A lot of stuff going on in this chapter.



The kiss was great! I have to admit that I've been conditioned by years of reading stories that have a romantic curve to them. I have grown to (wearily) expect the first kiss of any couple to be an explosive and hyperbolic ascension-on-the-winged-chariot-of-the Gods-wafting-ever-heavenward five-plus paragraph experience. It was small, simple, and rather dry.



That's a good thing IMO, because of the much more important 'contact' that they established on an emotional level, and the suddenness of the revelation of their feelings. All in all, a very refreshing un-fairy-tale treatment that serves to illustrate the depth of their connection further than any "tongues clashing like mighty waves in an ocean of heated passion" paragraph chain ever could.



Beatrice is a match-maker, hugh? Good on her, then.



And you've managed to keep that very subtle wit going consistently throughout this story.



I like the way that you handled Hannah's perception of her own sexuality also. There's conflict evident in her words. Not to say that she hasn't made up her mind, but you can feel the stigma that has kept her feelings in-check when you read her dialogue. I'm sure that she's not confused, as such, but she has been confused about whether to reveal her inclination or not. I can't phrase my thought properly for some reason, so I'll move on...



Why did the certain-death-dragon give them a miss? Hmmm... Recurring dream about being back in the tower. Lots of compulsion there. Hannah's observation of the sun glinting off of the knight's armor was pretty clever too. She's such an observant girl.



Looking forward to more, Justin.



-SQ



Top
  
 
 Post subject: Re: Ever After
PostPosted: Sat Dec 13, 2003 12:59 am 
StrangeQuark: It occurs to me that one of the keys to being a good writer is to have clever readers :)



Quote:
tongues clashing like mighty waves in an ocean of heated passion




I like it. Do you mind if I pinch that? ;)



Quote:
Why did the certain-death-dragon give them a miss




The short answer is becuase after everything out heroines and readers have been through, having them be killed by a dragon would be a rather depressing end to the story. The only way to kill a dragon is with a Dragonlance(tm). The fact that they don't exist in this story does make fighting dragonss rather problematic.



For the long answer keep reading...



Quote:
Hannah's observation of the sun glinting off of the knight's armor was pretty clever too. She's such an observant girl.




Would it surprise you if I said that I always pictured Hannah as looking like Alyson Hannigan? (Three guesses who Morgan looks like)



As always thanks for your comments



Chapter 13

Unicorn hunting

On home soil





After they had been riding half the day Hannah asked, "Are you sure we're going in a straight line?"



"Yes, we've been heading due north since we left the town." Morgan answered.



"Wow, I bet that you never get lost."



"Well I do occasionally. Knowing which way you're heading doesn't help that much if you don't know how to get where you're going."



"Oh, yeah, good point."



***





They had been riding a couple of miles when Hannah asked, "How long is it going to take to get across this plane?"



"It took us a couple of days when we first came across."



"A couple of days?" Hannah boggled at this. "I'm surprised that you didn't go nuts."



"Well it was a close thing."



"Where did you say you saw the unicorn?" Beatrice asked suddenly.



"It was just after we came over the mountain range."



"So we probably won't see one for a while then."



"Probably. I'm not sure whereabouts they are."



***





They stopped just as it started getting dark. Hannah did the cooking for everyone. As Morgan watched her she said, "You're very good at that."



"Well I did all the cooking at home."



"You did?"



"Yes, didn't you?"



"Well yes, but I lived alone."



"Oh, well everyone was always too busy. As I said, my father's a magistrate and my brother was training to replace him. My mum spends a lot of time gossiping, and my sisters were always busy with their hair." Seeing Morgan's expression she went on, "Well they do have a lot of hair."



"So what are your sisters like?"



"Oh well they're both beautiful, or at least that's what everyone else says." She reached out and took Morgans hand, "personally I don't think they're anywhere near as beautiful as you." Morgan just smiled shyly at this. They were both interrupted by Beatrice suddenly starting coughing.



"Is something wrong?" Morgan asked her.



"No, Just got a bit of a cough."



***





They set of again early in the morning when it was only just starting to get light. They travelled at faster than normal since none of them wanted to stay on the plains too long. "I have to say that I'm glad that I missed this the first time I came through here."



"I still don't understand why no one has built a road through. It would solve all the problems."



"Some one did." Hannah said.



"I don't think so." Beatrice argued, frowning as she tried to figure out what Hannah was talking about. "Wouldn't we be able to see it."



"It's overgrown." Hannah answered, "But you can still make out fragments of it."



Looking closely Beatrice found that she was indeed able to make out small fragments of road. For a while she couldn't figure out what had happened, then it occurred to her that some one had laid a stone road and the grass had grown up through it, breaking it up. "This area is strange."



"You can say that again." Hannah said, "Have you noticed the shadows?"



"No." Beatrice and Morgan said at the same time.



"Watch them." They did so and soon realised what Hannah was talking about. As they rode, their shadows were moving, and changing in size as if the sun were moving around in the sky.



"Well that is..." Beatrice started to say, stopping as Morgan rode away from them.



"Come on." Morgan said. They both followed her and soon saw what had attracted her attention. Their was a unicorn grazing a short distance off, with a couple of fowls.



"I wonder why those horses are with it." Hannah wondered.



"They're not horses." Morgan said, "I guess that the horns must grow when they're older."       



"I guess that makes sense." Beatrice frowned as she considered the alternative.



Sensing them, the unicorn walked up to them, and lowered it's head. Hannah got off her horse and went to stroke it, "Okay, so maybe I'm sorry that I missed this."



***





It was early evening when they reached the mountain range. "So what do you think we should do?" Morgan asked, "stop here, or carry on till it's dark."



"Stop here." Hannah answered.



"Are you sure." Beatrice didn't seem to be too happy with that idea.



"Well we don't know where we'll find somewhere to stop on the mountains, and we don't really want to be crossing them in the dark. I've done it and it wasn't fun."       



"Why were you crossing the mountains in the dark?" Morgan asked.



A spasm of pain crossed Hannah's face before she answered, "It doesn't matter. Then turning to Beatrice she said, "Besides we want to be well rested so that we can make a good crack at getting over the mountains."



"Alright then we'll stop here." Beatrice conceded with a sigh.



While Hannah and Morgan got the camp ready Beatrice rode on a bit and sat staring at the mountains that towered above her.



"Don't worry we'll get there." Morgan said as she approached her.



Beatrice jumped a little then turning said, "I'm doing it again, aren't I?"



"Yes, but we both understand." Morgan assured her.



"We're so close. I can almost feel it." Turning away she went on, "Well like you said, we'll get there soon enough. I'll take care of the horses."



"Okay then."



***





Hannah was sitting on watch when she heard a growl coming from her right. Turning she couldn't see anything at first, then she saw a pair of eyes staring at her. These were joined by a second pair, then a third. "Hey, you two, wake up." She took a log out of the fire and threw it at the eyes. As it flew at them she could make out three wolf like creatures sitting at the base of the mountains. They didn't react as it hit the ground between them. After a few seconds the light burnt down and Hannah was once again left staring at the eyes. These were joined by a fourth set.



"What is it?" Beatrice asked as she came out of her tent."



"Wraith wolves, I think."



Morgan stared at the eyes a moment then said, "You're right."



"What are they doing?" Hannah asked, the way they were just sitting and staring at her was unnerving. She almost wished that they'd attack. Then after picturing them tearing her apart, she decided that having them sitting there was probably better than that.       



"They certainly didn't seem to be shy about attacking us before." Beatrice said, "It's almost as if they can't leave the mountains."



"The unicorns." Morgan said suddenly



"Huh?" Hannah asked.



"I think the unicorns in the area are having some affect on it. That's what makes it so hard to navigate through here, but it's also what's stopping the Wraith wolves from entering."



"So you're saying that we're safe?" Beatrice clarified.



"As long as we stay away from the mountains."



"Which does rather beg the question, what do we do when we have to camp tomorrow night?"



They all stared at each other for a few seconds then Beatrice said, "Let's not find out."



"Agreed. Well it should be interesting." Hannah said.



***





None of them were able to sleep very well and they got up early in the morning to get ready. As she packed the tents up Hannah kept glancing over at the mountain range, expecting to see the eyes there again. She even thought about suggesting going round the mountains. Though she had a feeling that Beatrice wouldn't agree to this, since it would take them a couple of months to get round.



They were all ready just as the sky began to grow lighter. They rode as fast as they dared to on the narrow ledge. They reached the place they had camped at before early in the afternoon.



"We're not going to make it are we?" Beatrice asked as they stopped to rest their horses. Morgan just shook her head.



***





They were still a long way from the end of the mountains as it began to grow dark. As the darkness deepened around them they heard a howling from behind them.



"How far?" Beatrice asked.



"A few hundred yards at most." Morgan said.



"Then what?" Hannah asked, "There's nothing to stop them leaving the mountains on this side." Hannah stopped and jumped down off her horse.



"What are you doing."



"Get out of here. I'll hold them."



"You can't, they'll kill you."



"Go!" Hannah shouted. As Morgan and Beatrice began to reluctantly ride on she turned to face the approaching wolves and drew her sword. She was relieved that she could only see two of them approaching. One of them ran ahead of the other and jumped at Hannah, who rolled out of the way. Quickly rising she drove her sword down through it's head, and into the ground, pinning it there. The Wraith Wolf thrashed about as it tried to free itself. Distracted Hannah didn't see the second wolf jumping at her till the last minute. She quickly threw an arm up to shield herself as it knocked her to the ground. Hannah shoved her arm into it's mouth, so that it was biting on her bracer, while with her other hand she pulled her knife out of it's sheaf and drove it into the creatures head. As it went limp Hannah quickly threw the Wraith Wolf over the edge of the cliff. She then turned to the first and wondered how she was going to get her sword and deal with the Wolf. Then she heard a growl. A third wolf was running towards her. As she braced herself Hannah heard a low chanting. Then the wolf went flying backwards over the cliff face. Turning she said, "I thought I told you to go?"



"I decided not to." Morgan retorted, "By the way, you're welcome."



"Alright, so thanks. Now what do I do about my sword."



Morgan got off her horse and walked round behind the wolf. Wrapping her arms round it she said, "Okay pull your sword out." Hannah gripped her sword and pulled. As soon as it was free Morgan threw the wolf after it's companions.



"If you're both done being heroic, can we get going?" Beatrice asked.



***





As they left the mountains Morgan said to Beatrice, "Welcome home." Beatrice would have responded, but she was feeling too tired.





I find it kinda funny, I find it kinda sad
The dreams in which I'm dying are the best I've ever had.
- mad world



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 Post subject: Re: Ever After
PostPosted: Sat Dec 13, 2003 11:07 am 
Chapter 14

Found

Home





They got up as soon as it was light and quickly set off. They'd been riding about an hour when Hannah spotted a group of knights approaching. They stopped by the side of the road and waited for them to arrive. The knights almost rode past, stopping at the last moment.



The leader approached and said, "Your highness we've found you."



"Actually these two found me." Beatrice said, indicating Hannah and Morgan.



Recognising the knight as one of the ones she'd met just after she'd set off Hannah said, "Hey it's you. I thought that you'd given up."



Ignoring her the knight said to Beatrice, "Your highness I must insist that you return with us."



"Of course, where else would I go?"



The knight seemed to be surprised by her acceptance for a moment, before nodding and indicating his men to flank Beatrice. As Hannah and Morgan rode forward he seemed to finally notice them, "There's no need for you to come."



"That's okay, we don't mind." Hannah said. The knight slapped her across the face, knocking her off her horse. As Morgan got off her horse and moved towards her, she found a pair of crossbows pointing at her.



"You wouldn't be thinking about going anything stupid would you?" Morgan just shook her head.



Beatrice wasn't going to take this quite so quietly, saying, "You had no right to do that." Ignoring her the knight indicated for the men to get going.



Reaching Hannah Morgan said, "Are you okay."



Getting up Hannah said, "Yeah, I'm okay. Well they were unpleasant."



"I know. I'm worried about the princess."



"Me too. Maye we should follow them."



"Just in order to be sure that's she's okay." Morgan agreed.



***





Beatrice was livid with anger. First the knight had attacked her friend, now he was ignoring her demands for an explanation. As they rode she was trying to work out a suitable punishment for this cretin. One of the knights from the rear guard approached and talked to the commander in a low voice for a few moments. He then rode back down the road, along with a couple of other knights.



"It seems that your companions are following us." The commander said.



"They might not be. This is a main road, maybe they're just going home." Beatrice pointed out



"We can't take the risk. I've sent some of my men back to set up an ambush for them."



"But you can't." Beatrice would have ridden back to warn them but the command had hold of her reins, "Why are you doing this?"



***





Morgan reached across to take Hannah's rein and stop her. Hannah turned to ask what was going on but Morgan put her finger to her lips to silence her.



In a low voice she explained, "There are some of those knights up ahead waiting to ambush us."



"What exactly have we done to them?" Hannah complained.



"I don't know but I think we should take this turning."



"But what about the princess?" Hannah asked, as they turned onto the road.



"There's another road we can follow, where we should be able to keep an eye on the princess, but keep out of their sight."



"Okay, good."



***





Beatrice was almost sick with worry as the knight who'd been sent to ambush her friends approached. "Report." The commander said.



"They turned off the road, shortly before they reached our ambush."



"I see."



"You see I told you that they weren't following us." Beatrice said. The commander sat silently. After a while Beatrice realised he was thinking about sending his men after Hannah and Morgan.



She was going to say something when one of the men said "Sir, the royal guard are approaching."



"Edmund." Beatrice said, as the lead rider approached her.



"Beatrice, I take it that you are ready to return to the palace?"



"Yes, brother I am."



Edmund turned to the commander and said, "So you found her."



"Yes sir we did."



"Actually it wasn't them I was found by..."



"We found a couple of women with her but they decided to not accompany us."



"Only after you attacked them." Beatrice complained.



"I'm sure that the commander had his reasons."



"Hannah wasn't doing anything."



Turning back to the commander Edmund didn't seem to have heard, then he said, "Hannah Watson?"



"Yes." Beatrice said. Glancing around she saw that she was the only one who thought it strange that Edmund knew her name. She tuned back in time to see Edmund backhand the commander. Seeing their commander struck a couple of the knights reached for their swords then, looking at the royal guard, they thought better of it. Even though she didn't know what had caused it Beatrice found herself feeling elated at her brothers reaction.



"Was she hurt?"



"No sir." The commander answered, not sure what was going on.



"Not through lack of trying. He even set up an ambush for her."



"You're very lucky that it failed." Edmund said. Then after a moments thought he said, "Get off your horse."



"Sir?"



"You heard me." They set off again, with the commander walking behind them.



***





"I wonder what brought that on." Morgan asked, from the position where they'd been watching this.



"I guess the prince doesn't like his men attacking his subjects for no good reason."



"I guess."



"Maybe we should join up with them."



"I'm not sure that it's a good idea." Morgan said, with a worried expression.



"Well we know that Beatrice is okay so how about we set off home."



"Okay." Morgan agreed, a sad look on her face.



"Well since your house has burnt down, I thought that you could stay with me if you want."



"You mean it?"



"I wouldn't have said it if I hadn't."



"Are your parents going to be okay with it?"



"Of course they will." Hannah said, trying to look and sound as if she were convinced of this.



***





It took three days riding to reach Hannah's home. As they approached they saw a young woman sweeping the front yard.



"I don't believe it." Hannah gasped



"What?"



"Well Simone, or maybe it's Isabelle, is sweeping the yard. They never do any work."



"I suppose that with you not being there, someone had to do it."



"I guess. Ah, I was right first time, it's Simone." Having seen them Simone dropped her broom and ran into the house. As they reached the courtyard they got off their horses. Taking her horse's reins in one hand, and Morgan's hand in the other Hannah walked to the house. Before long Simone came back out with Diana and David.



"So you're back, I see." David said.



"Daniel said that you found the princess." Diana sounded doubtful about this, even as she glanced about as if expecting to see the princess with them.



"That's right." Seeing her mother glancing around she added, "She's with the prince now."



Diana sighed with disappointment then said, "Did she give you any indication as to why she ran away?"



"I think she needed to find herself."



"I think that we all did." Morgan added, speaking for the first time.



"And did you?"



"You could say that." Hannah said, catching Morgan's eyes and giving her a slight smile.



For a while no one said anything then Simone said, "I knew it." she faltered a little as everyone turned to look at her. "Well maybe I didn't actually know but I always knew that you were a freak."



Letting go of Hannah's hand Morgan walked over to Simone and stared at her a while, forcing her to look down. "Hannah isn't a freak, and neither am I."



"Whatever." Simone said before storming into the house.



"Morgan's house was burnt down so I said that she could stay here."



Diana was staring at the house, not having ever seen Simone be cowled like that before.



"I really don't think that that is..."



David stopped at a look from Diana, "Of course your friend can stay with us."



"But..." David started



"Not now."



"We'll just take our horses round to the stable." Hannah suggested.



As they walked towards the stables Hannah said, "Can I just say wow!"



"What?" Morgan asked, not understanding what Hannah was so happy about.



"Oh just the way you stood up to Simone like that. I mean, normally she always gets her way."



"Well I didn't like the way she was talking about you."



Hannah smiled, "Thanks."



***





Later that night, over dinner, Hannah's parents explained what had happened while she was away. Apparently Prince Edmund had spent a lot of the ball dancing with Simone and Isabelle. Then a couple of days later he had come to visit them and within a weak he had proposed to Isabelle. After taking this in, Hannah told them about her own adventures, surprised at how much attention she seemed to be getting from her family.



"So you're saying you visited the cave of the oracles?" David asked. He seemed to be questioning everything she said. Hannah was just glad that she had Daniel to back her up about finding the princess or he probably wouldn't believe that either.



"Yes. It's how I found the princess."



"But you didn't bring anything away with you?"



"I didn't have time to pick up souvenirs, what with the flesh eating beetles and all."



"I guess not." Her father conceded.



"I wouldn't have made it out if it hadn't been for, um, Maurice."



"Is that the guy I met you with?" Daniel asked.



"Yes."



"What happened to him?"



"We fell out shortly after that." Daniel was going to question her further when something stopped him. He turned to Morgan and asked



"Did you want something?" Morgan blushed fiercely and gazing down at the table muttered



"No, nothing." Morgan tipped her head forward, letting her hair conceal her face, though she was glad that she'd been able to distract Daniel. Hannah hadn't ever told her exactly what had happened with Maurice but considering Hannah's comment about nearly being raped, Morgan was able to make a good guess.



"Well there's the problem of rooms. Isabelle is visiting tomorrow with her guard. so we'll need the spare room. I suppose we can make a room for you down here miss Maclay."



"David." Diana said "They're both twenty one. They can share a room. That is if it's okay with you. Hannah" Hannah was preoccupied with something else. "Hannah?"



"Sorry, I missed that."



"I was just wondering if you minded sharing with your, um, friend."



"I don't mind. What about you, Morgan, do you mind?"



"Not at all."



"Well good." Diana said



"Are you sure that's appropriate?" David asked her.



"Of course I am." She answered.



***





After everyone else had gone to bed Hannah and Morgan stayed up to clear everything up. "So what do you think?"



"About what?"



"My family of course."



"Oh, they seem to be... nice."



"And the reason for the hesitation was?"



"No... reason. I don't think you father likes me."



"He doesn't like anyone."



"Oh well then that explains it." Having finished cleaning everything up they went to Hannah's room.



"I'm looking forward to sleeping in a proper bed."



"Yes, that is a problem with traveling." Morgan agreed.



"Also there's the worrying about wraith wolves and other nasties."



Morgan looked round Hannah's room and said, "It's... nice."



"Again with the hesitation." Hannah said, "Well it's a bit dusty, I guess that no ones been in here since I left."



Going over to the bed Morgan asked, "Are we both going to fit?"



"It's a bit small, but we should do if we squeeze up."



Morgan nodded. She raised her hand to her top then hesitated. Then seeing Hannah blithely undressing Morgan took her top off. Hannah had been bent down taking her boots off, as she stood up she tried to not react to what she saw, but failed. For a moment Morgan didn't know what had caused the reaction, then glancing down at the scars that criss crossed her body she said, "Oh those. Sometimes I almost forget about them."



"How? When? Who?"



"I'd rather not talk about it."



"But..."



"Please."



"Well okay then." Promising herself that she was going to bring this up again, Hannah finished getting undressed then climbed into bed. As Morgan got in after her she said, "so this is our first night together."



Morgan rolled onto her side so that she was facing Hannah, "I've been looking forward to this."



"Me too, but..."



"It would feel a bit strange with your parents just down the hall." Hannah nodded, "Besides it's been a long day." They kissed then Hannah rolled over. Morgan moved up beside Hannah and put her arm over her. Her last thought before falling asleep was that she could get used to this.



***





The cart creaked as it was drawn along the cobbles. Morgan tested the ropes that bound her arms but they were too secure for her to break them. She saw something fly at her in corner of her eyes and raised her hands just in time to block the stone. She then noticed the large pile of wood surrounding a tall stake.



The next moment Morgan was standing tied to the stake. She was surrounded by people who were screaming at her, but she couldn't make out what they were shouting.



Then the crowd parted and Hannah stepped through holding a torch. She stared at Morgan with a look of hatred on her face and said, "This is for Morgan."



She then drove the torch into the pile of wood.



"But I'm Morgan." Morgan pleaded.



Hannah ignored her and walking round the pile of wood she started several other fires.



"Hannah, please." Morgan tried again.



Hannah threw the torch at Morgan shouting, "Shut up witch."



***





Morgan woke up with a start then, as she began to remember where she was she calmed down a little. Sitting up she gazed at Hannah a moment, trying to reconcile the woman sleeping next to her with the woman in her dream. The dream had seemed so realistic but she couldn't believe that Hannah would do that to her. Morgan tried to get out of the bed without disturbing Hannah, but accidentally knocked her. Rolling over and sitting up Hannah blinked a couple of times then asked, "What's wrong?"



"Nothing, I was just going to get some water. Sorry I didn't mean to wake you."



"That's okay. There's some in the pitcher in the kitchen."



"Thanks." Morgan walked through to the kitchen then finding the pitcher and a cup she poured herself some water.



Having put the top back on the pitcher Morgan was starting to go back to their room when she heard Hannah's father saying



"I still don't agree with this. It's unnatural."



"Are you going to risk her ruining everything?" Diana asked him.



"Do you really think that she would?"



"Of course. She's always been selfish. Sometimes I don't know why we adopted her."



"So we use the witch to distract her." Quickly moving down the hallway Morgan didn't hear anything else that was said. She hadn't understood much of the conversation but she didn't like it much. It was clear that David didn't approve of her being with Hannah.



"Hey." Hannah said as Morgan went back into their room, "No drink?"



Morgan realised that she'd left the cup behind. "I forgot it."



"Is something wrong?" Hannah asked, sitting up in the bed. Morgan realised that she couldn't tell Hannah about what she had heard so she shook her head. "You're shivering."



"I'm cold."



"Oh well if you get back into bed, we can sort that out." Hannah lifted the bed covers for Morgan to climb in. She then put her arm round Morgan and began kissing Morgan's neck while she fell back to sleep.





I find it kinda funny, I find it kinda sad
The dreams in which I'm dying are the best I've ever had.
- mad world



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 Post subject: Re: Ever After
PostPosted: Sat Dec 13, 2003 11:40 am 
Justin, you may pinch anything that you want;) That quote is adverb-free, it has imagery, motion, strong verbs, and a comparative clause. Those are supposed to be elements of good prose, so feel free to copy and paste it whenever you have a scene where two people kiss. Just don't use it when the grandchildren kiss grandpa or anything like that :) You may turn-off a few readers :)



Lots of good action in this one. The urgency is very real, with Beatrice goading them on. I like the very subtle development of the Hannah/Morgan relationship too.



Again, I like the subtle humor that lies beneath the surface of the dialogues. I smile a lot when I'm reading these. In fact, I think that a lot of these scenes would easily survive the translation to an audio/visual medium, like TV or movies. Must be because of the vibrant characters and the nonchalant language. It's a good combination that you've got going throughout this tale.



I'm loving it. I'm really glad that you've written this ahead of time. I don't fancy the idea of waiting weeks for an update ;)



-SQ



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 Post subject: Re: Ever After
PostPosted: Sat Dec 13, 2003 10:41 pm 
Hmmm. I like the latest bit of intrigue a lot. I wasn;t expecting it at all. I figured that Hannah and Morgan would be enjoying some sack-time, and that would be the end of it. I'm glad that my expectations have been shattered. There's so much more that is still unresolved here. Very nice.



I like the whole Morgan/Simone showdown, very simple and rewarding. Hannah needs to see that Morgan has other special powers, like that. Very warm feeling I got, knowing that Morgan is so protective of Hannah. Just like when she was knocked off of her horse by the knight.



You've really done an excellent job with this whole story. The plot(s) is(are) very rich and thick, without ever being murky. A very fine line that you've been walking with that. Bravo!



-SQ



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 Post subject: Re: Ever After
PostPosted: Sun Dec 14, 2003 1:51 am 
StrangeQuark: Yup, the story's not quite finished yet. Thee's still the matter of choosing a new ruler and working out how Beatrice ended up in that ice tower to resolve.



Though we are getting close to the end, I should be posting the last part about wednesday/thursday.



I'm glad that you've enjoyed the story. Though coming up with it was rather easy. All I had to do was create the characters, put them in a setting then record everything that they did. I mean I didn't come up with any of the dialogue, that was all improvised by the characters.



Chapter 15

Chores

The bride to be





When Morgan woke up later that morning she reached over to the other side of the bed and was surprised to find that there was no one there. Sitting up she looked around wondering if it had all been a dream. The fact that she didn't seem to be in her cottage told her otherwise.



Then Hannah came into the room, "Morning."



"Morning." Morgan responded, "What time is it?"



"Just gone seven. I'm afraid I'm probably going to be very busy today. Make up for all the time I've been away."



"I can help." Morgan said, starting to sit up.       



"No you can't." Hannah responded. Then, realising that she'd sounded harsher than she meant to she added, "I mean, you're my guest so it wouldn't be right."



"But I want to. I mean it'd be better than sitting around doing nothing all day. Anyway it's what I'm used to."



"Well if you insist."



"I do." Morgan said as she got out of bed. "If you'll wait a moment then I'll get dressed"



"Well I'll just go and get the fire going."



"Okay then." She went down to the kitchen and put some logs in the stove before adding some kindling. She then lit it. When the fire had started going she added a couple more logs to it. Grabbing the water buckets she took them outside and filled them from the well before leaving them on the kitchen table.



When she went back to her room she found that Morgan was almost dressed.



"If there's any clothes you want cleaned then you should get them out as I'm going to do it now."



"I'll come with you."



"You don't have..."



"I know I don't, but I want to." They then set off, pausing to collect the pile of clothes that had been left, and the soap. As they were leaving the building Morgan said



"It's very quiet here. Are we the only one's up?"



"Oh yeah. The others won't be up for another hour or so."



"Oh. Well it was nice of them to get all their dirty clothes together ready for you." Morgan said sarcastically.



"Well they do try to make my life as easy as possible for me." She said with the same tone. Then she added in a shocked voice, "I didn't mean to say it like that."



"Why not?"



"Well it sounded ungrateful. I mean they've given me a home since I was little and they haven't mistreated me or anything. I mean it's not as if they've made me sleep in the fire place or anything."



"They just expect you to do all the work." Morgan couldn't keep the annoyance out of her voice. She hated the way Hannah's family were taking advantage of her.



"Well yes. But I don't mind." Morgan shook her head at this but didn't respond. By this time they had reached the stream, "Well then I'd better get started."



"We'd better get started, don't you mean?" Morgan asked



"Of course."



"You make it sound as if you don't want me helping."



"It's not that it's just I'm used to doing this stuff alone."



As she started sorting the clothes out Morgan said,         "Well I guess I am as well so we'll have to break each other of the habit."



"I guess."



As they started working Morgan asked, "Once this has been done what else is on the schedule?"



"Well firstly I'll make breakfast for everyone then I need to clean all the rooms then I..." She then proceeded to recite a long list of jobs that she needed to do.



"Wow yours days certainly busy."



"I guess but it must have been the same for you, living on your own."



"Not really. I mean I wasn't looking after a family and since I was on my own it didn't matter if I let some jobs slide for a couple of days."



"Naughty." Morgan just shrugged at this. Then Hannah thought about the rest of what she had said and said "That's a funny way of putting it."



"What is?"



"That you didn't have a family to look after."



"Well I didn't."



"And I do?" She thought a moment then added "I guess that I do."



"It's seems that you're going to be so busy that you won't have any time for, well for you."



"What do you mean?"



"As long as I've known you you've always liked to spend at least an hour each day practicing with your sword. But I don't see you having much time to do that. Or energy for that matter."



"I'm sure I'll be able to find time. Especially with you helping."



"Which is why I'm going to. While we're staying here at least."



"Are we leaving?"



"We should think about getting our own place."



"I guess we don't want to out stay our welcome and a place of our own would certainly be more intimate... I mean private." Hannah corrected herself, blushing. "Though there's the problem of affording it."



"Why?" Morgan asked "We did just help rescue a princess. At risk of sounding mercenary surely we can ask her to help us?"



"I guess we can. And it wouldn't be mercenary since it'd only be a loan."



"Of course."



When they got back to the house they found that Daniel was already up and was cutting the fire wood.



"Wow." Hannah said "I guess that's one less thing I'll need to do."



As they approached he looked up and asked, "So where did you two sneak off to so early?"



Hannah held up the pile of clothes she was holding and said, "We did the washing."



"Oh. well it'll be good to have some clean clothes. No ones bothered since I got back."



"You're kidding."



"Yes. Simone did it though not without a lot complaining."



"Oh. I was surprised to see you doing this."



"Well I'm not going to be allowed out in the fields for a while and I wanted to do something. Besides I thought it'd be a good way to build my strength up."



"Well it certainly helped build my arms up."



Daniel looked doubtful at this but didn't respond.



***





Hannah was sitting scrubbing the steps when she was interrupted by the sound of horses approaching. Looking up she saw Isabelle and another woman. She was only slightly taller than Hannah, having short curly red hair. She was wearing chain armour and a tabard that marked her as being a member of the royal guard. They both got off their horses and Isabelle walked up to Hannah while the other woman took the horses round to the stables.



"So you're back."



Standing up Hannah said, "Hi. I hear you're engaged to the prince."



"Yeah." Isabelle said, running up she added "Look at this." She showed Hannah her engagement ring.



"Very nice." Hannah said, She actually thought that it was rather gaudy but decided that it'd be best to not say that.



"Yeah it's a pity you weren't at the party. Well, actually, I suppose it's a good thing you weren't."



"Um, yes." Hannah replied not certain what Isabelle meant.



"I mean... Well I'm sure you'll find someone someday, like I did."



"Oh I already have. She's inside getting lunch ready."



"Well that's wonderful and did you just say she?"



"U huh." Hannah said with a worried smile on her face.



"Well I'm happy for you."



"Thanks. So who was that with you?"



"Oh she's just a body guard, Edmund insisted that I have one. Well I'm just going to find mum and dad."



"Sure." Isabelle ran off leaving a very bemused Hannah.



***





Just before noon Diana and her two daughters went to do some shopping. As soon as they had gone David went looking for Morgan. Finding her in the kitchen he stopped a moment to look at her with disgust. That she was a witch was bad enough. The fact that she had somehow enchanted Hannah was much worse.



"I see Hannah's got you helping with her jobs. She always was lazy like that."



Turning, Morgan bit back her first response and said, "Actually I had to twist her arm to let me help."



"Oh. Actually I wanted to talk to you."



"Okay. What can I do for."



"I want you to leave." David said



"Excuse me?"



"Your relationship with my daughter is an abomination and I won't let it continue."



"What gives you the right..." Morgan started to say.



"Quiet." David interrupted in a tone that caused Morgan to jump. He threw a bag on the table and said "There's a hundred gold in there. You can have it if you leave this house tonight and never come back."



Morgan thought about the offer a few moments then said, "Okay then. I accept."



"Good. I want you gone by tonight."



"Of course." He then stalked off, smiling to himself. He hadn't expected Morgan to agree so readily. Of course as soon as she was out of the house he was going to tell the authorities about her.



***





As Hannah finished the steps she threw her brush into the bucket and sat back to rest a moment. As a shadow fell over she said, "Hi Morgan."



"Hello." Morgan answered, sitting down next to her. "I've got lunch ready but I guess that we're going to have to wait for your mother and sisters to get back."



"Yeah, Well I suppose I should get rid of this water."



"Do you want me to come along?"



"Okay then."



"Actually I wanted to talk to you."



Noticing the tone of Morgan's voice Hannah said, "This sounds serious."



"It is, but it's good. Your father's giving us some money. To go towards a new house."



"He has? That doesn't sound like him."



"Oh well there is a catch."



"Of course. What is it?"



"We have to leave here by tonight."



"We do?"



"Well actually I do but you'll come with me, won't you?"



"Of course. Where you go, I go." Morgan ran up and hugged her. Hannah grabbed the bucket of water and they started towards the stream. As they went Hannah asked, "So why do you have to leave?"

Morgan knew right away that she couldn't tell Hannah what her father had really said so she said, "Oh I think it's just getting crowded, what with Isabelle and her guard being here."



"I guess they don't want us underfoot, with all the preparations and everything." Hannah emptied the bucket into the river then as they walked back she asked, "So what do you think about, um? Isabelle's guard."



"Cassandra? She seems to be quite nice, though rather standoffish."



"Yeah, she's certainly nicer than those knights we met earlier."



"You mean because she hasn't attacked you yet."



"Yeah that definitely makes me like someone, the lack of being attacked by them."



***





That afternoon Hannah found some time to do some practicing. She was just warming up when Daniel approached her, "So where's Morgan?"



"She's off meditating."



"Oh. So were you going to practice?"



"Yes."



"How do you fancy a sparring partner?"



"Are you up to it?"



"As long as we don't do anything too strenuous. I'll just get my sword." He jogged off. A few moments later he came back with a sword, busy putting some padding on it. As they faced each other he said, "Have I thanked you yet?"



"For what?"



"Saving my life."



"Oh, then no."



"Well then thank you."



"You're welcome. You are my brother after all."



"Step brother."



"Right, of course."



"You know after I got back here I was confined to bed for a couple of days. Which gave me a chance to do some thinking."



"It did?"



"You don't have to sound quite so surprised."



"Sorry."



"Anyway I realised that what you had said was right. We had all taken advantage of you. You did everything we asked without expecting anything in return."



"It's alright."



"No it isn't, but oh well." They then continued practicing in silence. After they'd been sparring for half an hour Daniel started to tire.



"How do you feel about a decent opponent?" Looking around Hannah saw that Cassandra and Morgan were watching her and her brother.



"Okay then." Hannah said, saluting Cassandra. She soon regretted the decision as she found herself being sorely pressed. The worst thing was she had the feeling that Cassandra was holding back.



"You're pretty good." Cassandra said.



"Really, that must be why I'm losing."



"Don't feel too bad. I'm one of the best swords women in the royal guard."



"Now you tell me."



***





Later that evening Morgan and Hannah went and packed up there stuff. Looking at the bags she had packed Hannah said, "Well I'm certainly taking more than I did last time."



"Though hopefully we won't be travelling as far as we did then."



"Oh yeah well it should just be a couple of miles to the nearest inn rather than a couple of kingdoms."



"Good." Then there was knocking at the door. Morgan went to answer it "Hello." She said to Hannah's father.



"Are you ready?"



"Yes. The money?" He handed her the bag "Thanks." Morgan said. She then turned and threw the bag to Hannah before going to check her packs.



Seeing Hannah's bags David asked, "What is going on?"



"I'm leaving." Morgan answered "That is what you wanted."



"But you were supposed to be leaving Hannah, not leaving with her."



"You didn't say that. You said you wanted me to leave this house."



"You were trying to break us up." Hannah said, speaking for the first time.



"Of course I was. And you know that witch."



Morgan walked over to Hannah and said, "You don't have to come if..."



"Don't you want me to?"



"Of course I do."



"Then I'm coming." She grabbed her own bags and they started out.



"Hannah Watson if you leave here then don't ever come back." Hannah didn't even pause. David turned to find Diana staring at him



"Exactly just what happened here?" She asked.



"Don't start." He answered. As David went to his study he considered still contacting the authorities about Morgan, but soon rejected the idea. He couldn't risk the scandal of his daughter being caught with the witch.



***





They got a room at the nearest inn and asked for a meal to be brought up to it before going straight up. Once in the room Hannah sat down on her bed, a dejected look on her face.



"I can't believe my dad did that. I finally find the love of my life and he tries to drive you away." Morgan didn't know what to say so she remained silent. "I think it's possible that I might have the worst parents who ever lived."



"They took turns." Morgan said in a quiet voice.



"Who took turns, doing what?" Hannah asked.



"My parents." Morgan started, then paused, not sure why she had started this. She hadn't wanted to bring the subject up but it had just slipped out.



"Yes?" Hannah prompted.



"My parents took turns beating me."



"Oh goddess Morgan. I'm sorry."



"It's okay."



"No it's not. Here I am whining about my family and, well I guess I can't really complain."



"That isn't why I told you. Actually I'm not sure why I did."



"Oh well I'm glad you did. If you want to talk about it more."



"Thank you. but not now."



"Okay."



"Did you mean what you said?"



"When I said what?"



"When you said that I was the love of your life."



"Of course."



"Thanks." Just then there was a knocking at the door. Morgan went to let the chambermaid in.





I find it kinda funny, I find it kinda sad
The dreams in which I'm dying are the best I've ever had.
- mad world



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