New entry for the poll driven story “The Fall of Almerry Keep”

You can find the start out the new section of the story below the break! The previous part of the story will be up until I post the next section of this one, so enjoy it while its still free. Once its taken down it will be published as an Ebook.

The Quest to Kill the Forest Witch

Commander Amaleen Eldenbrow stood on an inner balcony of Almerry Keep, watching the group of armed and armored women in the courtyard below forming up into ranks around a handful of empty carts being hitched to horses. As she watched them the concern and weight of the last few weeks played out across her face.

A Human woman approached, cautiously taking a place by the commander’s side. “I noticed the young ones are down there,” she said.

“And so they are,” Commander Eldenbrow replied. She glanced at the woman standing beside her, Vignette the keep’s Master of Messages. “More bad news?”

Vignette shook her head. “None that came by raven or rider if that’s what you meant. But you may not like what I’ve come to say.”

“Speak your peace,” Commander Eldenbrow said with a heavy sigh. She’d encouraged the senior staff to speak their mind since she’d taken over command of the keep and Vignette more than anyone had run with that freedom.

“They aren’t ready for this,” she said, quick and full of passion. “They are too young. Too inexperienced. Your mother and the twins are marching an army to reinforce us and deal with this abomination growing in the heart of the great forest. They will be here soon.”

“Which is exactly why we need to ensure the keep is fully stocked,” Commander Eldenbrow replied, fists clenching the railing. “You’ve heard Riowondail’s visions the same as me. If there is going to be a siege we need to be able to withstand it if it happens before my mother and her army arrives. And if it happens after? Then we need the stores to feed that army.”

She paused, looking weary. “Every day it grows more dangerous for us out there. Every day more perverse monstrosities wander out from the corrupted forest. If we are to journey to the nearby towns to purchase all the supplies we must act now. We can’t take any chances with this, it may be our last chance to get such supplies for a long time. Those carts need to be protected with every able body we have.”

“But why send THEM? Why send those four young girls along with the rest of those seasoned warriors? Everyone calls them the ‘girl squad’ for a reason, that’s all they are!”

Commander Eldenbrow laughed. It was a cold laugh, a hard laugh. “Three of their number are missing. The Blood Elve Amoera, the Faun Peare, and the innocent plump little Night Elve Teldy. We still have no idea what happened to any of them, but at least with the last two there was evidence they somehow sneaked out of the keep.”

She paused, looked at Vignette. “They were close, all of them. Some of them have grown up together in the Sisterhood, others bonded stronger than family since they began their training here. Do you remember what it was like when you were that age? Do you remember what you would have done for your friends?” She shook her head. “I did not decide they were ready, THEY did. They demanded they be allowed to join the others.”

“They are looking for a fight,” Vignette whispered.

“Yes,” Commander Eldenbrow replied. “They want to avenge their missing friends, but they have no idea where to point that fury. They hope to find danger out there on this little quest to resupply the keep, some enemy to kill. And I fear they will find it.”

* * *

Four cloaked figures dashed through the night, keeping low to the ground and near each other as they moved through the hilly, open ground towards the enchanted forest that was their destination. They stopped a stone’s throw from the tree line and huddled together, throwing their hoods back.

The tallest of the four girls was a freckled Human with long orange-red hair. Under her cloak was heavy armor and a massive two-handed sword hung from her hip. She looked to be barely of age but the determination on her face suggested she’d done a lot of growing up in a short time.

“We’re far enough away now, there’s no chance anyone saw us or is following us,” Dunla, their leader said.

The second tallest girl was a petite green-skinned Orcish girl with dainty, pretty features for one of her race. She had long dark hair that had flowers and vines growing in it and held a large staff made of gnarled wood. She tapped it on the ground and faint green light began to glow from its tip, allowing them all to see each other’s faces better.

“How long do you think it will take them to notice we’ve slipped off?” Resi, the Orcish Druid asked.

“Not soon enough,” a short, stout blond girl with pink-tipped hair declared proudly. She gripped a wand in one hand and gave it a dramatic whirl through the air. “A couple of quick enchantments and they won’t know we’re gone till morning,” Gwynaetha their Battlemage declared. “Not normally the kind of magic I use but we’ve been planning this for weeks, I had time to prepare.”

“Won’t they be worried about us once they notice we’re gone?” the final girl asked.

She was Emiko, their healer. A small Kittaran girl, a member of a race with cat-like ears and tails. Her hair and fur were light pink in color and her cute, innocent face was twisted up in worry as she clung to her healer’s staff.

“I feel terrible doing this. They are going to think whatever happened to the others happened to us.”

Dunla shook her head. “They’ll know what happened this time, I made sure of it. Gwynaetha helped me write a letter explaining everything. It will appear in the detachment leader’s hand the moment she notices we’re gone.”

“What does the letter say?” Resi asked.

“That we know where Amoera, Peare, and Teldy are and that we’ve gone to save them. But it doesn’t explain anything past that, just that this was something we had to do on our own and we knew they wouldn’t let us.”

“Did you mention the Forest Witch?” Emiko asked, her voice quiet and full of fear.

“No,” Dunla replied quickly. “But… Well, with my family history, they may figure it out.”

They were all silent for a long time, unsure what Dunla meant. Finally, Resi spoke up. “We all agree the Forest Witch has them?”

“We’ve all had the same dreams,” Gwynaetha said, glancing at the nearby forest with angry determination. “Amoera begging us to come to her. We all know what we have to do.”

“Save her,” Emiko whispered.

“And Peare and Teldy, too,” Resi added.

They all looked at Dunla. She was staring at the forest, a hard, cold look on her face. “You’re all here to save them. Each of you has talents and abilities we’ll need once we enter that evil place. And I’m going to lead us, I’m going to help you save them. But that’s not why I’m here. I’m here to kill the Forest Witch.”

Emiko gasped, throwing a hand over her mouth. “Dunla! You’re scaring me.”

“Dunla… you CAN’T kill the Forest Witch. We read all about her when we sneaked those books out of the library last week, remember?”

The tall redhead shook her head. “This is why I am here. Why I was brought to THIS keep at THIS time. Don’t you all get it?” She looked at them, annoyed they couldn’t see what she did. “Didn’t you all wonder why my mom was so famous within the Sisterhood? What great dead she accomplished?”

When no one answered she continued. “She killed one of them. And do you know what HER mom did? She killed a Forest Witch too. And so did HER mom. I always thought it was just a coincidence, they’ve done so many other things to bring themselves glory. But I can’t believe I didn’t see the pattern, didn’t see it’s the destiny of my bloodline to kill one of them.”

“But Dunla, the book said-”

“Never mind what the book said! It was wrong. There isn’t just ONE Forest Witch. There are countless ones, all copies of the same base but they each become their own evil thing after enough time. You can’t kill THE Forest Witch, there will always be another one, but you can kill A Forest Witch.” She pointed to the forest. “THAT Forest Witch.”

“But how?” one of the girls asked her. They had all pulled back from Dunla, scared by how intense she’d gotten.

“With this,” Dunla said, patting her sword. “I’ve had it the whole time we’ve been training, I’ve just never used it. It was my mom’s. And her mom’s. And HER mom’s. It’s already killed three of the Forest Witches.”

“It can’t be as simple as stabbing her with an enchanted sword,” Gwynaetha said combatively.

“It’s not. I know what else we’ll need to do but you three don’t need to worry about that right now. You three need to worry about keeping us all safe until we find the witch’s cabin. I’m pretty sure that’s where we’ll find the others or at least Amoera.”

“What is going to happen when we go into the forest?” Emiko asked nervously as they all turned to look at it.

“It’s not a normal forest,” Resi said. “I can feel it… It’s not even an enchanted forest, it’s like it’s not real, like it is pure magic.”

“I can feel it too,” Gwynaetha said. “I think things are going to get really weird when we go in there.”

“It doesn’t matter what the forest sends against us,” Dunla declared. “It doesn’t matter what the Forest Witch tries to do to us. We know she can’t kill.”

“Dunla, we’re still going to be in great danger,” Resi said.

“We all know that,” Gwynaetha replied. “Come on, let’s stop putting this off.”

“We go in together,” Dunla said. “We stick together. We find Amoera and Teldy and Peare.”

“We save them all,” Emiko said.

“And then we kill the Forest Witch,” Denla added as the four entered the forest together.

I’m in no rush to get to the point where Amoera has “saved” her friends, so expect the girl squad to be in the forest for a while. Even if they get split up you should expect them to find their ways back to each other at least once.

What happens first after the girls enter the enchanted forest? (Choose up to 5 options from this poll)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: