May 17, 2015
This excerpt is from THE SEQUEL to The King’s Frog Hunter (currently being written), Chapter One. Boschina, the Stone Cutter’s Daughter, along with Captain Ritzs and a Force of Oleen soldiers are on a mission to find Thalmus and deliver to him a mysterious message from Larma. They have been trailed and threatened by a nocturnal beast that they have yet to see as they continue across the desolate Western Hills on the trail to the Great Water. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
The night had been tense and the morning did not look much better as the Oleens swung up onto their horses, formed a column with Boschina and Ritzs in the lead and hurried on toward the Great Water. Throughout the day they watched for animals but saw nothing beyond the barren land and smelled only the constant foul odors from the stagnant ponds. By night fall they had reached the edge of the Barrier Forest. The evening mist hung in the trees, day light was fading, and the trail was disappearing in the growing darkness.
“Let’s camp here,” Captain Ritzs said. “We’ll enter the forest in the morning.”
“Good,” Boschina agreed. “I’m tired.”
The Oleens gathered wood from the base of the trees and started the first fire that they’d had in three nights. The weary soldiers watered and secured the horses, then after eating a hot meal and posting guards, they bedded down with the hope of a restful night. Boschina was exhausted. Still, she tossed and turned, trying to get comfortable, and to empty her mind of images that kept dancing through her thoughts. Larma’s message in her breast pocket beat softly. She was drifting in and out of sleep when she heard someone whisper, “Stone Daughter…Stone Daughter.”
She opened her eyes. Had she dreamt that or was someone calling her? She looked around. The fire was still burning with a glow of crackling embers. Everyone was asleep in various positions around the fire, except for the guards, one on each side at the edge of camp. Her horse, Radise, was calm, not showing any concern. She closed her eyes and tried to sleep. Quietly at first, and then growing louder she heard the voice again. “Stone Daughter…Stone Daughter, come.” It was a soft voice, a comforting voice, almost like her father’s.
Boschina sat up. This time she knew someone was calling her, someone who needed to talk with her. She threw off her blanket, grabbed her sword and walked to one of the guards.
“Did you hear someone calling me?” she asked the soldier.
“I haven’t heard anything,” the woman replied, “just the rustling of those tree leaves.”
Boschina looked toward the forest. Sparks from the fire fluttered up at the trees and were snuffed out by the drifting mist. She started walking back to her blanket when she heard the voice again, calling her. It was coming from the forest. She grasped the handle of her sword and started toward the trees when she heard Ritzs’ voice.
“Where are you going?”
Turning, she saw Captain Ritzs putting wood on the fire. “Someone is calling me from the forest,” Boschina answered.
Ritzs glanced toward the trees then back at Boschina. “I think, if someone friendly wanted to speak with you they’d come forward, into the light of the fire, don’t you?”
The question surprised Boschina. She suddenly felt alert and realized that she had been mesmerized by the voice – drawing her away from the others.
“I don’t know what you’re hearing,” Ritzs said. “If the rest of us can’t hear this voice then something’s not right.”
Looking back at the forest, Boschina shook her head. “Maybe I dreamt it.”
“Maybe, but something is troubling you, something more than that strange beast that’s been following us. The sooner we get to Thalmus, the better you’ll be.”
Boschina felt the rhythmic hum of Larma’s note against her chest. “You’re right, Captain. We need to find Thalmus.” She returned to her blanket, under Ritzs’ watchful eyes, and curled up to sleep.