10 weeks, 5 authors, 1 story. In To Be Continued… I asked 5 authors (self-published and traditionally published alike) to write a story together based on my prompts, without knowing about each other. They each had 2 weeks to write their part before I forwarded it to the next person to continue. Each part is somewhere between 500 – 1500 words long. So, are you ready to enter The Enchanted Forest?
Welcome to the third edition of To Be Continued… After the first edition, The New Sound and the second edition, The Butcher Queen there wasn’t any question there will be a third one as well. Can’t say whether there will be a 4th one in the future, but I really would like to have a sequel to The New Sound at one point.
As I was preparing the third edition, I had many people in mind I wanted to have on, but I also had this urge to take part myself as well. I was considering to go last, but I’m really not good at endings and I wasn’t sure if I could get a part done in 2 weeks, so my only option was to start the story. Turns out, I can write a 1K+ words part in about two days easy… When I started preparations, I had nothing really in mind topic/prompt-wise. Then one night I woke up with some lines in mind and did my best to repeat them in my head so I wouldn’t forget them. When I woke up the first thing I did was type it down in my phone – and believe me, I hate typing so much on phone. But anyway, those first lines pretty much remained the same as you will read them. I also knew for sure that it was me who had to start to tell the tale of The Enchanted Forest.
When I was writing this specific piece of fiction, I was thinking a lot about myself and disability and that’s what led to this article: Does Disability Define Me?. I definitely had a weird journey with this one as it’s been AGES since I’ve shown anything I’ve written to people, let alone made it public like this. And then there was the anxiety that authors following my lead – writers more accomplished than I am – will be able to call me, the fake one out and say I wrote a pile of rubbish. Either they are really nice people or it really is acceptable, no one said a bad word so far, so I’m pretty sure it’s not a complete disaster. But even so, it was hard to let it out of my hands as I had ideas where I wanted the story to go and because it was something close to my heart. I’m really not good with giving the control over to others… and there was many bumps on the road until finally this day arrived.
What I wanted for The Enchanted Forest to be was a folk tale-like story, something that reminded me of my childhood. But also I wanted mythic creatures and a heart warming adventure. Whether that was a success or not, you’ll have to decide yourself when we finish posting the story in full.
I’d like to thank each author for taking part and helping to bring my vision to life! And without further ado, let’s visit the enchanted forest, shall we?
Timy, also known as Queen Terrible Timy hails from a magical land called Hungary, born and raised in its capital city, Budapest. Books have been her refuge and best friends ever since she can remember along with music. She might be a tiny bit addicted to the latter. Timy is the owner and editor of RockStarlit BookAsylum, a blog dedicated to books and music. She always tries to find ways to bring the two worlds together. Timy is also the co-owner/manager of Storytellers On Tour, a book tour organising service dedicated to indie SFF authors. In her free time (hah!) she likes to scribble things, collect panda stuff, go to concerts and travel.
Do you know why the dead of the night is called the witching hour? That’s when magic happens. If you listen closely, the wind might bring the cackle of witches, the beat of a cacophonous song, the clang of the ladle and cauldron colliding with each other in an eerie rhythm. If you are brave enough to breach the forest on beautiful summer nights such as the one our story starts, you might even catch a glimpse of the spirits dancing around the trees, their ethereal bodies glowing in the light of the full moon.
Gordon was about to do exactly that. In the village, there were legends surrounding the Enchanted Forest being the home of many supernatural creatures. They mostly kept out of the way of humans as long as their home wasn’t disturbed. Especially on the nights of a full moon. But even these warnings couldn’t stop the adventurous young men trying to seek out the secrets hidden in the deepest parts of the forest. Some were never seen again, while others returned completely changed by their experiences.
Centuries before, a young man whose name was since forgotten, one day saved a beautiful young woman’s life who lay injured just outside of the forest. Unknown to him, the girl was the daughter of the Witch King, whose kingdom lay deep in the woods. When he learned what happened, he agreed to let humans into the forest, but only twice a year on the night of a full moon. He promised to reward those who were found worthy. Ever since, upon their 18th birthday, each young man tried their luck. Whether the Witch King really existed or not, the day someone set foot in the Enchanted Forest marked their rite of passage into adulthood. If they returned, they had to take their place in the society based on their skills and calling.
That year it was finally Gordon’s turn to prove his worth to the village. To everyone who ever mocked, taunted and shunned him because of his inability to speak frightened them. But he never let that bring him down. Let them say what they wanted. He patted the dagger hanging on his belt, making sure he still had it. His heart was beating to the rhythm of a war drum, ready to burst. Despite telling himself otherwise, he was nervous. He had to force himself to stop fiddling with his clothes – he was just like his mother, fretting over him. She smiled proudly when he hugged her goodbye, but lines of worry creased the corners of her eyes. “Come home safely!” she said as he gently wiped her tears with his thumb, made the sign of farewell, then turned to leave.
Gordon smiled at the memory, thinking of all things he would have liked to say to his mother but couldn’t. Standing at the edge of the forest, he gazed up at the sky, trying to see the moon over the foliage, but clouds and leaves blocked it from view. He took a deep breath, and stepped over the invisible line that separated the mundane world from the mysterious unknown of the forest. Well, unknown for anyone else but Gordon. Ever since he was a child, his only company were books. It was the only place where he could be with the words he loved dearly, but couldn’t say out loud. Books were speaking for him, and on most days that was enough.
He spent hours poring over all the written lore he could dig up about the forest and its habitants. Then nagged the elders of the village – in his own way, by thrusting the old parchments under their nose and looking at them with big pleading eyes – to tell the stories of those who returned from their adventures into the Enchanted Forest. Admittedly, they didn’t talk about it much, but from the scarce information he had, he was able to draft a crude map, even if it was inaccurate.
He consulted it one last time before he tucked it into his pocket. He knew exactly where he wanted to go. Ever since he first heard about the dancing faeries, he longed to see their dwellings, which were told to be located near the Silver Lake, just over the territory of the werewolves, right next to the Witch Kingdom. It was easy to find them, all he had to do was reach the clearing about an hour walk from the edge of the forest, spot the stream and follow it to the deepest parts of the Enchanted Forest. Legends say, those who caught a dancing faerie were granted an audience with the Faery Queen. Though whether that was a good or bad thing no one knew – no one ever came back to tell that tale. Gordon was determined to be the first to meet the Queen and bring back proof she existed.
The forest was nothing what he expected. From the outside it seemed quiet and frighteningly ominous, but once he left the edge well behind, the forest filled with life. The path was hugged by trees and flowers in every color imaginable, some of them even glowing faintly in the pale moonlight. The air was heavy with the scent of them. Birds he had never seen before sang their cheerful songs and he stared at them with a pang of envy. But he didn’t have time to feel sorry for himself, there was too much to see!
Somewhere in the distance a roar sounded. Everything froze and Gordon only hoped whatever made that sound would not head towards him. Unfortunately, he was out of luck. The earth vibrated under his feet and branches cracked as something undoubtedly big closed in on him. A moment later a bear’s head appeared between two oak trees, its beady eyes focused on Gordon. The rest of its body followed as it stepped toward him. He lifted his hands warding the beast off, backing into a tree, the dagger forgotten, tramping some of the flowers in his haste to get as far away from the fangs as he possibly could. An unexpectedly high voice shouted at him from somewhere behind the bear’s head.
“Watch your step, you fool! Those flowers are extremely rare and valuable.” A smallish figure slid down the side of the bear to stand before Gordon. It was about as tall as his chest, wearing a black robe and a witch’s pointed hat, its face so wrinkled, it was hard to determine its gender. It looked Gordon up and down, its look questioning rather than threatening. “Who are you and what the hell are you doing here?”
To Be Continued…
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