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?
If you didn’t read yet, I recommend starting your journey with Gordon and the enchanted forest by reading Part 1 by Timy Takács, unless you want to be spoiled below. I warned you.
Part 1: A mute young man, Gordon, is about to complete his rite of passage by entering the Enchanted Forest in search of the mighty Feary Queen. He wants to prove himself to the village and to himself. But the forest is full of mythical creatures and danger. Will Gordon be strong enough to make his dream come true? His first encounter is with a bear and a tiny witch.
The story is To Be Continued by:
Alex S. Bradshaw is a fantasy writer and publishing professional who lives in the UK. He is in the final stages of working on his debut novel, Windborn which is about Viking superheroes. He is obsessed with fantasy stories and dinosaurs and can be found lurking on Twitter entirely too often.
Gordon backed against a tree. The bear sniffed at him, which only made Gordon realize how large its teeth were, as the diminutive figure in witch’s clothing collected flowers around him.
“Well?” said the small figure. “What’s your name?”
Gordon signed his name, spelling each letter with a hand gesture, and hoped that the tiny witch would understand.
“Eh? Can you not talk or are you just too scared to say anything?”
Both, Gordon signed.
“Storra won’t hurt you. Will you, girl?”
The bear rumbled and pressed its soft nose against Gordon’s chest. It huffed, then wandered away and scratched itself against a tree.
“See. Now, what are you doing here?”
The small witch wandered around Gordon, plucking delicate blue flowers and placing them in a bag at their waist. Gordon pulled his homemade map from his pocket and showed it to the old witch. They leaned forward, squinting at the map so hard it doubled their wrinkles.
“Looks like you’ve got a whole trip planned. You going anywhere specific?”
Gordon pointed to the spot marked ‘Faery Queen’.
“It’s some way to go and see her, lad. Do you have an invite?”
No, Gordon signed and shook his head. I want to prove she exists.
“I’ll take that as a no.” The small witch sighed. “Let’s talk over some tea. There’s some things that you should know about the Faery Court before you turn up unannounced. Storra, you don’t mind carrying him back, do you?”
The bear growled and swiped a paw through the air.
“Good girl. Hop on then, lad.”
The witch leapt onto the bear’s back in a swirl of black robes. Gordon clambered on, trying not to pull Storra’s fur too much, and sat behind them. At a wordless signal the bear wandered through the forest and Gordon had to grip the witch’s waist to stop himself falling off. Even on all fours, the bear was tall enough that the bushes and ferns only tickled the tips of Gordon’s shoes, but where the witch was small enough to slip under the low branches, Gordon had to duck to avoid them.
As they travelled the witch told Gordon their name was Rowan and they made potions and poultices for the forest’s magical folk. Gordon swallowed, excitement fought with worry in his chest as Rowan told him about all the werewolves, trolls, sprites, goblins, and other magical being they dealt with.
Eventually, they came to a clearing with a fallen tree at its center and Gordon saw the trunk had been carved into a house. The tree had been struck by lightning in the distant past, but had not died and its toppled half – still lush with foliage – created a shadowed yard. Flowers and mushrooms grew in bright patches, some of them even glowed with an ethereal light.
Rowan slid from Storra’s back and shuffled into their house. They gestured for Gordon to sit on a bench next to an old campfire. Storra followed him, yawned, and took a nap.
“Faeries are very particular,” Rowan said, once they had boiled a pot of tea and brought out some small cakes. “If you don’t follow their rules they’ll get offended, maybe even take you prisoner.”
Gordon paused, a slice of cake half-way to his mouth, and shot Rowan a look.
“Don’t worry,” they said “I know how you can get to the Faery Queen.”
Gordon sighed and bit into his cake.
“If you don’t have an invitation, then you’ll need to take a gift.”
Gordon looked down at his plain clothes and patted his pockets to show there was nothing in them except a little food, his dagger, and his map.
“That’s fine, I know where you can get a wonderful gift. But, in exchange you need to do something for me when you get to the Faery Court, okay?”
Gordon raised his eyebrows and waited for Rowan to continue.
“The Moonbell plant only grows in the Faery Court. It looks like a foxglove, but its flowers shine like the moon. It’s a rare potion ingredient and I need it to heal a troll. The Faeries won’t give it to me because the troll forgot his manners when speaking to the Queen or something, but I don’t care about that. So I tell you how to get into the Court and you bring me back the Moonbell. Deal?”
Gordon chewed his lip. He remembered the stories about witches tricking people to cook and eat them, but the witches in the stories didn’t sound anything like Rowan. He glanced back at the small witch, who was blowing to cool their tea. If Rowan wanted to eat him, surely they would have got Storra to kill him already, wouldn’t they? Gordon sighed again, realizing that if he did want to meet the Faery Queen, then this was his best chance. He nodded to Rowan and they shot him a big, gummy smile.
As they finished their tea and cake Rowan told Gordon what he needed to get into the Faery Court. They told him of a nearby woodpecker that was collecting all of the acorns from the Golden Oak trees all across the forest. These acorns were highly sought after by the Faeries as their leaves were always the colour of an autumn sunset, no matter the time of year, and the faeries made them into beautiful clothes. If Gordon could get two acorns from the woodpecker, whether by sneaking them away or convincing the woodpecker to part with them, then he could use one as a gift to enter the Faery Court and another as a gift for the Faery Queen herself.
Rowan gave him directions and some cake, then Gordon was making his way through the forest on his own. For a little while he was content to dawdle, imagining himself to be a great adventurer braving the perils of the Enchanted Forest all by himself. But as he got further from Rowan’s home the shadows seemed deeper and the trees loomed over him as though they wanted to reach their branches down and crush him. Gordon shivered and hurried on.
After a couple of hours, when the shadows were long and the light peeking through the trees had burned amber, Gordon found the Golden Oak tree Rowan had directed him to. Bronze leaves littered the ground and he knelt to slip some into his pocket, to prove to the village how deep he had travelled into the Enchanted Forest.
As Gordon stood up a sound like a crumbling mountain shook the forest around him. He froze and whipped his head around to see what the noise was. Then, as quickly as it appeared, the noise vanished.
More leaves fell to the ground and Gordon caught one as it fluttered past his face. Cautiously, Gordon crept forward. He froze twice more as the avalanche sound crashed down around him, but soon he was at the edge of the clearing that led to the Golden Oak.
The Golden Oak’s trunk must have been as wide as Gordon’s house and it towered so high that he could barely see the highest branches. There were studs dotted across the trunk. Not studs, Gordon realized, but acorns stored in the trunk of the tree itself. The acorns must have been enormous, for Gordon to be able to see them from this distance.
The avalanche crash came again and Gordon looked up to see a woodpecker, black feathers melding with the shadows of the branches, drilling into the tree trunk. It hopped from the trunk to a branch then there was a crash as something tumbled through the branches.
Gordon ducked behind one of the smaller trees at the edge of the clearing just as an acorn the size of a beer barrel slammed into the ground ahead of him. There was a deep fluttering of wings and the woodpecker three times larger than a horse settled onto the ground. It had sleek black wings, a white underbelly with black spots and a crown of bright red feathers.
“Oh, Verdan, you silly thing,” said the woodpecker. “You nearly lost this one and that simply would not do.”
Gordon swallowed. The woodpecker pecked at the acorn, which fit easily into its beak, then leapt into the air and flew back to the top of the tree.
As Gordon watched the woodpecker rise in lazy spirals around the tree, he was suddenly doubtful if he would be able to get the acorns he needed to see the Faery Queen.
To Be Continued…
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The Enchanted Forest continues in Part 3 by Christian Cameron!
For more To Be Continued stories, check out my page!