To Be Continued... - The Enchanted Forest

The Enchanted Forest – Part 4 by Phil Parker

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, Part 2 by Alex S. Bradshaw and Part 3 by Christian Cameron, unless you want to be spoiled below. I warned you.

Previously Happened

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.

Part 2: The small witch takes Gordon to her home as a guest, then gives him advice and direction how to get into the Faery Queen’s court. Following her lead, Gordon goes to the Golden Oak where he encounters the woodpecker.

Part 3: Gordon continues his way through the forest after he manages to grab an acorn (it was harder than it sounds!), meeting several animals on his way, making friends. Until he crosses path with a fanged stag-man.

The story is To Be Continued by:

Phil Parker
Phil Parker

Phil has 3 obsessions, reading, writing and pizza. He reads and reviews speculative fiction and has been a SPFBO judge. He’s a self-published writer of fantasy novels, experiences that led him to instigate the British & Irish Writing Community where writers collaborate on varied projects for mutual benefit. His pizza obsession arises from his wife’s homemade sourdough pizza which is the best thing in the world and that is official.

The Enchanted Forest

Part 4

‘For a young man who cannot speak, you have a lot of people talking about you.’

The antlered creature grinned, exposing shining fangs in the process, and dismounted. He patted the huge stag on its muzzle, it earned him an appreciative snort as he moved closer to Gordon. He reached out a hand and smiled. The fangs protruded over his lips, robbing the expression of any warmth and turning it into something more akin to a threat. Gordon took an anxious step backwards.

The grin broadened.

‘There’s no need to be nervous, young man. I don’t intend you any harm.’

The outstretched hand remained. Gordon grasped it, surprised by the coolness of the skin and its slightly leathery texture. He looked up into the man’s face and tried not to concentrate on the fangs. It was the eyes that drew his attention. They blazed. Bright, bright blue, like a summer sky but with an intensity that suggested intelligence and determination. Plus, there was warmth and friendliness there too. Gordon felt his muscles relax.

‘Satisfied now?’

The young man smiled, nodded and relinquished his grip.

‘Good. My name is Herne. I’m here to collect you.’

Gordon let his frown speak for him. His new friend chuckled.

‘You’ve become quite the celebrity in the short time you’ve been in the forest. You’ve got everyone asking who this young man is who gathers up acorns and allows others to share them.’

The compliment brought a flush of pink to Gordon’s cheeks. The villagers never said anything nice to him, they preferred to hurl their insults and sarcastic comments, knowing that he couldn’t retaliate. When he was younger, he’d tried, he’d used his fists but that only brought him bruised cheeks and bloody lips. To the villagers he was a joke, a silent and pathetic nobody.

Entering the forest had been his way of proving them wrong.

His embarrassment provoked another smile from the man-like creature with his impressive antlers. It made him wonder if he and the giant stag, now waiting patiently, were connected in some way.

‘According to Rowan the Witch, your name is Gordon. Is that correct?’

He nodded.

‘And you’re here to visit our Fae Queen?’

A second nod.

‘And you’re following the advice of gathering acorns as a gift?’

He hated nodding repeatedly, it made him feel like the idiot everyone assumed him to be, but he did so a third time. This time Herne frowned.

‘There have been others who enter our realm but they are nothing like you, young man. They seek selfish adventure, they threaten whoever they encounter, sometimes even killing the forest’s inhabitants. It is my role to dismiss them. To chase them from our world.’

His final statement provoked a throaty chuckle.

‘I only have to flash these,’ and he pointed to his fangs, ‘and they scuttle away like frightened rabbits.’

Gordon allowed himself the slightest of smiles. It explained the stories in the village of the blood-sucking creatures that hunted in the wood, ripped skin to ribbons and fed on flesh. What better way to keep people out of the woods than to scare them with horror stories made up by such cowards.

But Herne was still frowning and staring at him.

‘Will you permit me to try something?’ he said. ‘I’m finding it difficult to discover what I need from you. May I?’

The same hand reached out and Gordon froze. He stared into the lined face, at the glorious flowing and those enormous antlers but it was the blue eyes that calmed him. He nodded his assent. Herne placed a single fingertip onto his forehead.

‘Close your eyes, it makes it easier for me.’

He did as instructed. Somehow he trusted this person, despite the fangs and the stories. Warmth permeated the skin on his forehead, it penetrated his skull. He could feel it snaking into his brain. He tried hard to quell the rising panic, the possibility of being turned into a mindless slave by this creature. The warmth pulsed, in time to his racing heartbeat, seeping into every corner of his mind.

Then it vanished. He opened his eyes to find Herne smiling at him.

‘Don’t worry Gordon. I have no intention of turning you into a mindless slave!’

Shocked, he blinked rapidly as he stared into the creature’s face. Could he read his mind? That prompted a string of anxious thoughts he did his best to hide.  Herne chuckled again.

‘Don’t worry. I only focus on the thoughts on the surface of your consciousness, just enough for us to communicate. Now, climb up on Dancer and we’ll get on our way.’

‘Where to?’ The thought leapt into his mind instantly and he wondered if it would get a reply. It did, before he’d taken a step towards the magnificent stag.

‘The Faery Court, your destination. You wouldn’t find it otherwise. We keep it well hidden.’

The stag’s name was perfect. The ride wasn’t the buttock-beating Gordon expected. It was smooth, the animal glided through the forest at such speed everything turned into a blur. He looked down at one point, uncertain if the animal’s hooves actually touched the forest floor. It was a mixture of dancing and flying he decided.

He clung on to Herne’s tweed jacket as his travelling companion asked him about his life in the village, his reason for coming into the forest and why he’d shared the acorns, their remnants in the bag on his hip. If the excitement of gliding through the forest at such speed wasn’t enough, the joy of being able to easily communicate with another person was even better. The smile on his lips felt like nothing could erase it. 

They halted in front of a sheer rock face; small crystals glistened in the sunlight peeking through the branches of nearby trees. Gordon peered at the solid surface, bewildered. Like fog fading as the slightest of breezes blows it away, a huge archway materialized. One moment there was a solid cliff, the next a tunnel. No sooner had it formed, and without any apparent command from Herne, they sped through the dark tunnel to enter a world which blazed with light. Blazed to such an extent it blinded Gordon.

The lack of movement told him they’d come to a halt again but it took several seconds for his eyes to adapt. That was when he gasped for a second time. Only now it was much louder and all he could do was shake his head in astonishment, in slack-jawed awe.

Herne turned his head to smile at Gordon, fangs gleaming in the bright sunlight.

‘Welcome to the Faery Court, Gordon. The Queen is waiting for you.’

It’s beautiful, Gordon thought to himself, forgetting they could be heard.

‘It is, isn’t it? A wonderful place to spend the rest of your life.’ 

To Be Continued…

in Part 5 by Quenby Olson

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