Monday, June 27, 2016

The Raven Flies In *DRAFT* Quest for Copia Snippet

“I found help!” John William heard Celeste’s sweet voice and peered down at the forest floor. Three specks lingered around the base of the tree; the smallest was green and the tension building from his agitated state was felt all the way up the tree where John William sat helplessly.
 “How in Azra’s name did you get up there, boy? We have not even started our quest and you’re already in trouble!” Ferdinand shrieked and paced around.
“Yes, sorry about that. I’m not sure what came over me. I had no idea I was such a good climber.” John William fidgeted. More branches broke around him. “Perhaps you can you help me down?” His voice squeaked.
“Sure, you’re such a fantastic climber; why is it that you can’t manage your way down?” the hopper asked with his long-fingered hands on his hips.
“Hey, up there! I’m Mundi, I have some rope; do you want me to toss it up to you?” A strapping young man, around the same age as John William, stood next to Celeste. He had an oversized backpack loaded with supplies draped over his shoulders.
“Yes, please!” John William extended one arm, hoping to catch the rope. Mundi tucked his long brown hair behind his ears and gave the rope a good spin before hurling it upwards. John William dropped his arm in disappointment. The rope wrapped itself around a branch halfway up the tree.
“It’s much taller than it looks,” Mundi mumbled and scratched his head.
Celeste morphed into her bird form and fluttered to the end of the rope.
“That rope is too heavy, young lady! You’ll drop like a stone.” Ferdinand scowled, waiving his gangly arms in the air.
Celeste pinched the end of the rope with her beak and yanked it loose from the branch. The weight of the rope caused her to bob and dip. She flapped her wings faster and faster. Soon enough she was making a steady climb.
“That’s it, Celeste! Almost…” John William reached down and grabbed her up just as her wings tuckered out. “Don’t worry, I will help you down.” He placed her in his coat and tied the rope around the tree trunk.
“Here we come!” John William gripped his hands around the rope and squirmed down, inch by inch. Once he realized the trunk was strong enough to hold him, he slid down the rope as if he were on a fireman’s pole. “Woo hoo!” He hit the forest floor with a thud. “That might just be the last tree I ever climb!” He held out his hand to Mundi. “Thank you, Mundi.”
“Think nothing of it!” Mundi gave him a firm handshake. “Where are you all headed? The hopper asked for all this stuff!” He twisted his back around, revealing a fat, canvass backpack. “Not sure where you are going to keep everything. The backpack stays with me.”
Celeste popped out of John William’s jacket, ruffling his red scarf, and transformed. “We are going on a dangerous quest. Thank you for assisting us. I’m sure we will manage just fine.” She started easing the backpack off his shoulders to unload the supplies.
“Weren’t you a bird just a second ago? That is some trick – you’ll have to teach me that one. Did you say dangerous?” Mundi rambled out his questions and enthusiastically heaved the backpack up. “Count me in!”
John William gave Celeste a shrug. She let out a defeated sigh. “Okay, fine; you can come. Please, don’t tell anyone!”
Mundi perked up. “You got it! Mums the word! You need someone strong like me around.”
“Yes, yes, the more, the merrier; now lets get a move on! We are burning daylight,” said Ferdinand in an agitated tone.
“Mundi, it’s time to pack up and go home!” A screechy, nagging holler frightened the birds away.
“Sage, tell dad I’m going on a quest! I’ll be home tomorrow!” Mundi shouted with his boisterous voice. It echoed off every surrounding tree. John William and Celeste glared at him with similar scowls. “Oops…,” Mundi cleared this throat. “Sage! It’s a secret quest – so don’t tell anyone… got it?” Don’t worry – I’m sure my sister won’t tell anyone.” Mundi gave them both a sly wink.
“The entire realm will know before the day is over!” Celeste rolled her eyes and started walking east.
“I’m a big guy, but she scares me.” Mundi snickered. “I was minding my own business, taking these supplies to my family’s shop, when she ordered me to come save her, um… friend.” He gave John William a playful nudge.
“Just friends.” John William’s face burned as he glanced at Celeste.
They walked along to the clang of Mundi’s backpack and more of his rambling. “My father’s name is Mundi, my grandfather’s name is Mundi, my great grandfather’s name is Mundi, and I’m pretty sure my great, great grandfather’s name is Mundi. Our family runs a few shops in town. We sell anything. If you need it, we have it! One day, the Mundis will run the whole darn town.”
 John William and Celeste looked around cautiously with every step. The forest carried a tune of strange sounds. Trees creaked as they swayed about, and the creatures made their own unique squeaks and chirps. John William had mixed feelings of comfort and concern. He took a deep breath to squeeze the tension out of his chest.
“We should stop soon,” said Ferdinand, watching the sun fade behind the trees. A raven flew overhead and landed on a nearby branch. It watched them pass before flying to another branch just ahead of them.
“I think we’re being followed,” Mundi whispered.
John William frowned. “I was afraid of that.” He had a feeling he knew exactly who it was. The raven fluttered down to join them. “Oh great,” he muttered with an eye roll. Through the raven’s feathers sprouted a midnight black cloak on a young man with hair and eyes to match.
“Okay, now I know my eyes aren’t right today. This is the second time I saw a bird turn into a human, or a human turn to a bird!” Mundi shook his head.
“Hi, Roman,” said Celeste with a polite smile.
 “You look beautiful, as always, Celeste.” Roman brushed a clump of her hair off her shoulders and winked with an arrogant grin.
John William eyed the young Empyrean, not much older than Celeste, with unease. Compared to other Empyreans, peaceful by nature, something was a little off with him. Besides, he seemed to claim Celeste like she was some sort of trophy to be had. Celeste mentioned to John William she was well aware of Roman’s intentions to marry her and rule Verhonia.
 He approached John William, looking him up and down with a snarl. “I see you have made the unfortunate decision of returning to the realm. I knew you weren’t all that smart.” 
“I don’t know what your problem is with me; but I’m sure Azra’s Pith is big enough for the both of us.” John William stood tough with his chest out and arms folded.
“This is his home; he lives in Verhonia at the palace, Roman. He was invited by King Paraclete,” Celeste declared.
John William blushed. “I was?”
“I thought you knew that already.” Celeste nodded with a sweet smile.
“Oh…? Your father has taken a shine to him? How quaint,” Roman sneered.
“If you can’t be cordial, then I shall have to ask you to leave,” said Celeste firmly.
“I can be friendly. What are we doing? Setting up camp? Lighting a fire? Please, allow me to help.” Roman smirked mischievously and collected twigs for the fire.

“This should be a delightful night.” John William knew the only motive for Roman to stay was to throw trouble his way. Strange creatures with glowing, green eyes and sharp claws already had him on edge. Having to worry about what Roman was up to only made things worse. 

Saturday, June 25, 2016

The Beast In The Shadows *DRAFT* Quest for Copia snippet

“No!” Celeste shrieked.
Cold, clammy fingers brushed John William’s neck. The beast wrapped his claws around John William’s scarf  and dragged him through the dirt. John William let out a gagging cough as the grip tightened across his throat. His face went from bright red to purple.  Celeste lunged for the creature’s ankle and gave it a good yank, giving John William just enough time to squirm out of his scarf and run to the nearest tree. The creature was right on his heels. Hugging the tree, he pulled himself up branch by branch to the very top. “Help!” he shouted as the creature snarled and clawed at the medallion.
 “I’m coming!” Celeste morphed in to a vibrant red robin and fluttered up the tree. John William wrapped the medallion around his wrist to secure it. He stomped the heel of his shoe at the creature’s face.
Screech! Its eyes narrowed to an angry squint. A low, menacing growl moved through its jagged teeth. It grabbed hold of the medallion and yanked it about. John William mustered up every ounce of strength for another stomp. This one hit it square in the nose. His shoe squished into the beasts face splattering goo up his pant leg.
“Hurry!” John William strained. The leather strap holding the medallion tightened around his wrist. “It’s not letting up!”
Celeste little wings fluttered faster. She finally reached them and flapped her wings in the beast’s face. It remained undeterred, keeping its grip in the medallion. A cloud blocking the sun drifted away, allowing rays of light to shine on the treetops. Once a ray hit the creature, it let out a hiss and vanished. Celeste perched on the branch next to John William.
“Maybe we should not mention this to Ferdinand.” With one arm hugging the treetop, he wiggled around to locate the path of sturdy branches he’d used to get up the tree. Crack! The flimsy trunk buckled.
The more he moved, the more it cracked. Branches under his legs broke off and fell to the forest floor. “Okay, let me take a minute to think about this. I’m afraid I might be stuck unless I fall and break every bone on the way down.” John William wrapped his arms and legs around the tree’s tip as it swayed back and forth in the breeze.
Celeste made her way to the ground. “I’ll get help!” She shouted, adjusting her cloak after a quick transformation.

John William let out a sigh. “I can’t wait to hear what the old hopper is going to say about this.” He watched the medallion shimmer in the sunlight and thought about Ferdinand’s warning. They weren’t the only ones interested in the lost city.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

The Vision (*DRAFT* snippet - QUEST FOR COPIA)

The twinkling swarmed John William’s thin frame as they propelled him through the passageway. He landed and tumbled a few times before hitting a pair of pair of worn, leather boots, hiding under a red cloak.
“Hello….” Stunned, John William gazed up at a vision of wild red hair, angelic skin, and vibrant green eyes. He blinked and smiled foolishly, trying his best not to blush. In their time apart, he’d almost forgotten how beautiful Celeste was.
She stood with her arms crossed and a forced frown as she stared down at her feet. “Do you know how long I have been waiting for you to return? Acting like a goof won’t get you out of trouble.” She scowled, blowing her curls out of her eyes.
John William stumbled to his feet and brushed off the remaining specks. “I’m sorry. I was away too long…. But I’m here now.” He gave her a sweet smile.
Celeste’s freckled face lit up. She wrapped her arms around him, covering his whole body with her red cloak.
“I am so happy to be here.” John William whispered in her ear.
“Are you ready for our quest?” Celeste asked cautiously.
“So, what of this quest you keep speaking about?” Ferdinand narrowed his eyes at the two of them.
“We can’t tell you unless you promise not to tell anyone about it – especially my father,” said Celeste.
“Nonsense; I can make no such promise, young lady. I am a loyal friend to King Paraclete. The ruler of Verhonia wouldn’t want me leaving his daughter unprotected. You have officially obligated me to join you on this quest for your own safety.”
“You’re coming with us? That’s fantastic!” John William cheered. “This will be the best adventure ever!”
“Yah, great…” Celeste smiled politely
“We’d better get to it. Where are we headed?” The old hopper stretched his limbs, preparing for a long stint of walking. Celeste let out a deep sigh and pulled a medallion out of her cloak.
“Copia…,” she muttered.
“Yes, to find my father.” John William gently slid the medallion back into Celeste’s cloak.”
“Where did you find that?” Ferdinand blurted with stunned, bulgy eyes.
“Right here in the forest.” Celeste shrugged her shoulders innocently.
“Young lady, do you know anything about Copia?”
“Yes, it’s in the scrolls I study.” She rubbed her hand along her chin. “Um, it was a sacred city and something destroyed it. I, I know there’s more to it than that; but now is not the time to explain the details.”
“The something that destroyed Copia and its people, is precisely the reason we should not be taking this quest! You are toying with a dark energy none of us fully understand. The consequences could be disastrous!”
“Copia has been in ruin since the time of Azra; I’m sure it is perfectly safe; but John William needs my help. His father is out there somewhere,” Celeste declared.
“Oh? Perfectly safe…? Here we go again. For all of our sakes, you’d better hope we don’t find it or that your meddling father has not stumbled upon it.” The hopper sneered with his long green finger waving at John William. “I have a feeling you two are in for a harsh lesson. I just hope there is no pain involved.”
John William took a deep breath and sifted through his bag as Celeste looked on with raised brows.
“What are you looking for?” She inched closer to him until her curly, red hair brushed against his shoulder.
John William blushed and gently brushed her hair away from her cheek. “Um, my uncle gave me a special stone. It’s supposed to help me find what I’m searching for.” In the deep corner of the satchel, his finger brushed along the folds of the soft leather pouch holding the stone. “Yes − here it is!” Butterflies stirred in his belly as he held the small pouch. “I’m not sure what to do. What if it doesn’t work?”
“Only one way to find out… come on, let’s have a look.” Celeste’s green eyes beamed.
“Here goes nothing….” John William shook the bag until the translucent blue stone wiggled into the palm of his hand.
Ferdinand hopped over, examining the stone with his bulgy eyes. “That’s a locator stone. Huh! It is a guardian’s tool. Don’t you know what that means?” He folded his gangly arms across his chest with a tight lipped, smug expression.
“Yes, but I’m sure you’re going to tell me anyways”. John William rolled his eyes.
“It means the stone will not work for you! Only guardians can harness its power… which brings me back to my previous point – Copia should be left alone. Especially by the likes of two youths with a nasty habit of finding trouble.”
“Well, my uncle told me give it a try; and that is exactly what I’m going to do.” John shifted his hand and watched the stone reflect off the sun’s rays.
“I completely agree, John William. What is the worst that could happen?” Celeste gave John William a nudge with her elbow.
“Don’t ever, ever ask that question young lady… especially not in my presence. I have no interest in experiencing the answer.” Ferdinand narrowed his eyes at John William. “Well, let’s get on with it – might as well put an end to this nonsense once and for all.”
“What am I supposed to do? How does it work?” John William rubbed the stone, hoping for some sort of flicker.
“Your uncle did not tell you?” asked Celeste.
John William nodded with a frown.
“That’s okay; we can figure this out. Maybe there’s a magic word?” She smiled and raised her brow.
John William plopped his backside on the forest floor and let out a defeated sigh. “I suppose I should have asked my uncle how it works. What could I be missing?”
“Oh, don’t be so hard on yourself, boy. I don’t believe there is anything you can do. I have only seen guardians possess the stone.” Ferdinand slid the strap to John William’s satchel up his shoulder. “We really should be moving along.”
John William gazed at the stone. His chest tightened as he imagined his father wandering alone. He squeezed the stone until his knuckles turned white. His eyes snapped shut and a vision of a jagged stone with detailed carvings rose from the locator stone.
“Amazing – John William, you’re doing it! It’s working!” Celeste gasped.
The image was crystal clear, markings of trees in Copious Forest divided by the long, thin line of the river. At the very corner was a flowing waterfall cascading into a pool with the head of a serpent protruding from the top. Dashes of red, blue and lights darted across the map. The lights slowed just enough to reveal their fairy winged silhouettes. A with a red glow surrounding her fluttered toward John William and Celeste. As she held her hands out a ball of fire formed and hovered. It grew larger and larger. John William’s fisted hand trembled as he gripped the stone.  
The fairy giggled and hurled the fire ball towards John William. It singed the tip of his nose and vanished into a puff of smoke. “Ouch!” He lunged backwards, vigorously rubbing his nose. The Jagged stone burst into a vivid blue beam of light and shrunk back into the locator stone.
“That, that was fantastic!” Celeste helped John William to his feet. “I know those fairies; They are protecting the map. I’m sure of it!”
“Yes, I’d say you’re right about that… mischievous little creatures.” Ferdinand let out a deep sigh. “Are you sure you want to go through with this, John William. What if…? I mean, your father may not have made it to Copia.”
“I have to find him. I won’t give up – I won’t stop searching until I do.” John William secured the stone in his satchel.
“Alright then, the two of you win, yet again… I suppose we are headed to Windy Ridge.”
“This will be the most amazing quest I’ve ever been on!” Celeste cheered. “Just wait until you see the fairies.”
“We are off to discover!” John William raised his fist in the air. They both snickered excitedly.
“Yes, yes, this is all so exciting. I’m going to get some supplies. There is a vendor not too far from here. I will be back shortly. You two be ready.” Ferdinand grumbled and headed toward the river.
“Can I see it?” John William glanced at the medallion. She placed it in his hand with an excited smile.
“Extraordinary,” he whispered. It began to chime. As the chiming intensified, an eerie breeze blew through his curls. The bushes around them rattled. A low cackle came through the gaps in the trees.
“Did you hear that?” Celeste fanatically glanced around.
John William nodded and reached out to return the medallion. “Maybe we should put it away.” The forest was silent. “Here… take it.” He whispered.
The bushes burst open and leaves flew everywhere. A creature with wicked green eyes and pointy teeth leaped out of the shadows and threw John William to the ground with the medallion still clutched in his hand.