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, Part 3 by Christian Cameron and Part 4 by Phil Parker, 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.
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.
Part 4: Gordon makes his acquiantance with Herne, then he is escorted to the Faery Queen’s court.
The story is To Be Continued by:
Quenby Olson lives in Central Pennsylvania where she spends most of her time writing, glaring at baskets of unfolded laundry, and chasing the cat off the kitchen counters. She lives with her husband and two daughters, who do nothing to dampen her love of classical ballet, geeky crochet, and staying up late to watch old episodes of Doctor Who.
It was too good to be true. Wasn’t it?
Gordon had spent his entire life – no, not a long one, he had to admit – believing that what he knew of the world was encompassed in what he had already seen of it. There were other lands, other villages and cities, of course. But to his imagination, they existed merely as a reflection of his own home, his own village. And all of it filled with people like him, like his neighbors, pushing through the monotony of their lives from day to day.
Ever since entering the forest, Gordon had been moving as if in a dream. A vivid dream, but one that he had been able to separate himself from, taking in every new experience with an odd sort of detachment. It was how he had dealt with so many fantastic things without losing his grip on his sanity.
He could not dismiss it as fancy, as some leftover creation of his childhood imagination fueled by all the books he had read. The brightness of it all, and the clarity that came with it, was something he could not deny. He felt as if he could reach out and pluck the very light from the air, like overripe fruit from a tree.
“It’s like nothing you’ve ever seen, isn’t it?”
Herne was still with him, guiding him forward. They had dismounted from Dancer a moment ago – or had it been an hour? Time seemed to have little impact here – and were now walking through the midst of the Faery Court.
“She is here?” Gordon thought. His mouth moved along with the words, as if he could give them sound, but it was his mind that Herne continued to respond to.
“Of course. She is waiting for you, you know.”
There were steps carved into the rock. They glistened as if they were wet, and Gordon worried he would slip and fall as they ascended, but his tread was unerringly steady as they climbed upward.
“Only a little further,” Herne said, a smile coloring his words as he placed his hand at the small of Gordon’s back and gave him a gentle push forward.
It was difficult to tell where rock ended and the forest began. Had it grown this way naturally, feeding off the magic all around, or had the fae shaped it themselves, creating this fantastic world that seemed to exist solely for them?
Gordon did not know where to look first. And so he focused on the stone dais ahead of him, arched over with a roof of tree limbs, their silver leaves fluttering softly like butterfly wings over the entire court.
“Ah, and look who we have here!”
She was beautiful, he thought. But, no. That wasn’t entirely accurate. Her skin glowed, as if lit from within, a shimmer that was there and gone again like a light at the corner of his vision. She was not sitting, though there was a chair – a sort of throne, carved from what might have been stone or bone or a pale sort of wood – behind her. Soft slippers adorned her feet, feet that were silent as she walked towards him, as she held out her hand, as she held him up before Gordon could try to bow or show any sign of obeisance.
“You’ve found us at last, I see!”
Gordon stood there. Indeed, what else could he do? There were others there, other fae scattered about the place, gazing at him as if he had staggered drunk and naked into their midst.
“I…” he began to say. And then he stopped, his mouth still open, eyes widening in shock.
“Oh, yes. You’ll find you have a voice here.”
“I…” he said again, his voice coming out on a croak. “I am s-sorry to b-barge in on you like th-this.”
The Queen smiled. And with that, it was as if the entire court breathed a sigh of relief. “No apologies necessary. I have been waiting for you. We all have.”
Gordon clasped his hands in front of him. Despite the smiles, despite the glow of illumination that seemed to be fueled by something other than mere sunlight, he could not shake the feeling of foreboding that settled on his shoulders with the heaviness of a cape. Or perhaps it was only his imagination, and nothing at all bad was going to happen to him. “Waiting… for me?”
The Queen spread her hands apart. “Well, from what I have heard already, you are like no other human to come into the forest. Most come in here to take. But you… you do not seem so selfish.” She took a step towards him. “Tell me, what do you want?”
His mouth moved, but without sound. Not because he had suddenly lost the ability to speak again, but because he could not think of what to say.
“Surely, there is something?” She made a small, sweeping gesture with her arm that took in the shining court around them. “I had thought to issue an invitation to you, to stay here with us. I have always been curious about humans, but you are the first to truly capture my interest.”
“S-stay?” He could not believe it. To stay in such a place, it would be like a dream come to life. None of his books and studies could have prepared him for such a prospect.
“Just think of it,” the Queen went on, her voice like a caress, like a thought insinuating itself in his own head. “You would be treated like a prince! Your every want and desire fulfilled before you can even snap your fingers. And your voice…” She touched the tip of her finger to his lips. She smelled of earth, and the morning dew, and the warmth of the sun on crisp, autumn leaves. “You will always be heard, as long as you stay here.”
To speak, to remain as a guest at the Fae Queen’s court… He blinked rapidly, dazzled by even the idea of it. “It w-would be an honor, y-your Majesty. B-But-”
“But?” She reared back a step. Her smile did not falter, but there was a question in her eyes. “I am offering you what most others could only dream of. And you hesitate?”
“M-My mother,” Gordon said. And then he cleared his throat and he said it again. Because he could. Because he needed to. “My mother. I c-could not leave her.” His mother, who had taught him to read and to write, who had protected him when the villagers eyed him with suspicion because of the lack of his voice. She who had given him everything she had, the worth of it greater because she had so little to give. “J-Just telling her that I came here, that I w-was a guest of yours, if only f-for a little while, is all I want.”
Her mouth tightened, and for a moment, Gordon wondered if she would let him go, or if she would decide to keep him there, whether he wished to stay or not. But then her expression softened, and her beauty again became a great and terrible thing. “And so you will have it. Herne will see you home again, and along a much easier route than the one by which you came upon us.”
Herne came up beside him. Gordon realized he must have been standing only a step or two behind him since their arrival. “I will see it is done, your Majesty.”
“Good.” She turned away, as if she were already tired of the interview. “Oh, and one more thing.” She looked back over her shoulder, eyes shimmering like pools of water. “Know that you are always welcome in the forest, whenever you would wish it. I believe you have made some friends here, and I am sure they would like to see you again.”
And that was that. Before Gordon could stammer out another word, he was whisked out of the court, down the stairs and back to where Dancer already stood waiting for them.
“Up we go,” Herne said, and then they were off. The journey that had taken Gordon days before, now swept behind them in a matter of hours. By the time darkness fell, Herne brought him to the edge of the forest. Gordon could smell the smoke of chimneys, could see the faint light of candles and oil lamps in cottage windows.
“Take care,” Herne told him as he helped Gordon to dismount. “I must day, I do not think I would have made the same choice if I were in your shoes. You have given up paradise for…” He gestured towards the houses, barely visible through the thinning trees.
“It is more than enough,” Gordon thought, knowing that Herne could still hear him.
“Well, then.” Herne adjusted his seat and raised a hand in farewell. “I hope to see you again, someday!”
Gordon waited until Herne and his mount were out of sight. He turned then and crossed out of the forest, wondering for a moment that it did not feel as momentous as when he had gone in for the first time only a few days before.
The village was quiet as he approached, the lanes empty as most people had already returned to their homes for the night. And so he walked with his chin held high, his eyes taking in the details of the houses, the market square, the fields beyond in a way he never had before. Had he changed so much in such a short amount of time? Or had he simply discovered who he had really been all along?
He paused outside of his own home, his hand poised as if he should knock, like some kind of stranger. No, no. None of that. He opened the door and stepped in, as easily as he would when coming back from a morning of fishing in the stream. And there stood his mother, sitting in a chair by the fire, her shoulders bent forward over a bit of sewing.
One of his shirts, he noticed. A hole in the sleeve she had caught sight of in the way he assumed all mothers did.
He closed the door behind him. His mother looked up suddenly, her right hand still finishing her last stitch before she seemed to comprehend what she saw before her.
“Oh,” she said, as the needle dropped from her fingers. “Oh, my boy.”
He thought of all the things he wanted to tell her, his hands ready to trace out the words for her in the air. But a catch in his throat halted him. It felt like a cough, but when he drew in a breath to better force it out, the air caught the words there and carried them off the tip of his tongue. “M-Mother,” he stuttered, shocked at this last gift the Fae Queen had given to him. “I am h-home.”
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Quenby Olsen is the author of several Regency Romance and Fantasy books. Grab a copy of The Half-Killed, book 1 of the Sundered Veil series.
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