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From the darkness, a small, waiflike creature emerged and introduced herself as Nala. Apparently, she was once apprentice to the High Mage of Frost but lacked the discipline to become a fully recognized mage. So Morisa agreed to help her with her spells in exchange for Nala assisting in unusual or complicated cases. Gently Nala turned Anabel’s hand over and began tracing something on her palm. Then she inserted a golden quill tip into the quill of forgotten secrets, dipped it into invisible ink and began drawing some secret mark onto Anabel’s palm. But when the job was finished, Anabel’s palm was blank. She looked from Nala to Morisa and back again, but Morisa just smiled.
Now that the Chamberlain was taken care of, there still remained the matter of Arabella. Anabel’s showdown with Arabella would require something extra. Once again, Morisa turned to her potion table and the stove. For the first time, Anabel noticed a star opal right in the upper middle of the witch’s stove, resembling an eye. Anabel had no idea what its significance was, but she wasn’t about to question anything. Morisa grabbed bottles of insidious orchid scent and shadow snake venom. Anabel had no experience with either ingredient but knew of legends surrounding both. The insidious orchid scent came from a hypnotic orchid said to lure the unaware into its deceptive embrace and the shadow snake venom was milked from an unknown species of shadow snake and no one knew its effect on the living. Morisa then dipped a hatpin into the deadly mixture and inserted the poisonous pin into a reinforced vial that had been charmed by nine witches to hold any venom or acid. She slipped the vial into a bunch of North berry pearls and pinned the whole thing, like a brooch, to Anabel’s lapel.
Anabel rushed from Morisa’s hut to make it home before dawn. Just as she passed the underbridge that protected the wolf’s hollow, Anabel froze in her tracks. Just ahead, Arabella stepped out of the shadows. She wasn’t alone, but accompanied by something not of this world...a scythe wielder. His sole gazing eye burned with perpetual fire and his head was adorned with the terrible horns of some dreadful owner. He carried the infamous shadow warrior’s sickle, whose edge had been honed razor sharp by an unbreakable meteor and its screaming handle appeared to emit the demon Ifrit’s death rattle.
Anabel was shaken to her core by the sight. Frozen in place, she could only helplessly watch as Arabella raised her arms and began reciting a spell of unspeakable horror. Anabel noticed the witch was wearing the bestial fury ring from the Chamberlain’s collection. He had bragged to Anabel about this beast’s ring that had the power to fill its wearer with uncontrollable fury.
The sky darkened and the winds blew as Arabella continued her skyward rant of sorcery. It was all Anabel could do to stay on her feet; then as suddenly as they had appeared, the duo was gone. Anabel ran breathlessly all the way home, her heart pounding out of her chest and her throat raw from gasping for air, but she dare not stop.
She burst through the door and took the steps up to the bedroom two at a time. There, thrusting his silver handled sword into its scabbard, stood the Iron Knight. He wore armor that consisted of a striped hide overlaid with a woven casing. Affixed to the casing were smoky scales from genuine dragon hide, impenetrable by human weapons. Heraldic amulets sprayed across his left shoulder and around his waist was a strong chain, twisted into a decorative ligature and cinched with the royal fleur-de-lis symbol. This belt had been an anniversary gift from Anabel and it was infused with a powerful protective spell.
The obstinate helmet (a valkyrie’s gift to an unknown ancient hero) was emblazoned with the Knight’s rose and topped with the wondrous feather of some legendary mythical bird. Lightstep boots, handed down through generations of Silver Mane clan leaders, ensured he would move on wings of quickness.
The Iron Knight was a vision of magnificence and a lump formed in Anabel’s throat as hot tears burned tracks down her cheeks.
While Anabel was out, Henry called with alarming news. Arabella and her scythe wielder enabled the Lord of Darkness to break through from the Dark Side. He and his army intended to wreak havoc over everywhere the sunlight falls and everywhere that exists in complete darkness. With limitless power and all-encompassing evil, the Lord of Darkness will annihilate everything, beginning with the Northern Islands and working his way towards the castle. Not only does he want to savor every second of destruction, but Arabella insists Anabel witness the carnage until the very end.
The Iron Knight knew his birthright as a Knight and Leader-in-Waiting to the SilverMane Clan. The Clan represented strikers of courage and he was uniquely responsible for not only the well-being of his family, but that of the community at large. And he would defend both to his dying breath and that filled him with pride and honor.
He kissed Anabel, handed her a bouquet of eternal roses and placed on her finger the ring of high hopes. It was his mother’s favorite piece and, according to legend, filled the wearer with hopes and expectations.
As he galloped out of sight, Anabel caressed the hundreds-road pendants around her neck. The two pendants represented her life experiences, both prior to and after meeting the love of her life, the Iron Knight. One was etched with the new moon, a symbol of rebirth whose light shines without worries or concerns; the other with a crescent moon (or moon smile as she liked to call it), that calmed the owner’s soul. She furiously rubbed the pendants, praying to be calm and worry free.
Her cloud of dreams cleared and Anabel opened her eyes to see a huge sorcerer’s moon hanging in the sky like a melancholy medallion hung on a string of dusk crystal stars. Her hand tingled and when she looked at her palm, the secret mark was flushed with a luminous twilight’s glow.
She thought she saw movement in the distance, but between the light from the moon and her glowing palm, it took a while before Anabel’s eyes adjusted to the darkness. Walking towards the castle from the town street was a solitary man with a cane. An ancient lantern, swaying from a sudden waft of cold air, added to his sickly pallor. Anabel shivered as the lantern’s candlelight was suddenly dimmed by the burning intensity of the man’s eye of revenge.
*******to be continued
Hi all....it's been quite some time since I posted additional content here. This past year plus has been hectic to say the least. My son suffered an aortic dissection and needed emergency surgery. It's nothing short of a miracle he survived and I thank God for that every single day. My dad passed away, my mom requires help and my sister is still suffering from the effects of leukemia.
Add the pandemic to all of that and it's been one heck of a ride.
So, since I last posted we've had 3 updates....February 23, 2021, August 3, 2021 and the infamous October 4, 2021...not to mention the event updates in between.
Altogether, there have been about 164 new inventory words, characters and places.
I won't lie, it was a daunting task. And, silly as it sounds, I stressed out about it. But it kept my mind occupied when I couldn't sleep and kept real life at bay for a while.
As you can imagine, my storyline update is very long since it's incorporating over 3 updates, but I hope everyone who reads it, enjoys it. Thank you all so much for your support.
A fading lantern led the way past the chapel in the ancient cemetery up the hill towards the grim mansion. The Knight noticed an unusual gorgon statue beside a mysterious tombstone. Closer inspection found it wasn’t a gorgon at all, but a silent banshee, a woman frozen in mid wail. He found it disconcerting that she resembled the lost fairy, once a sobbing stone statue outside the chapel in Ancient Park. How strange!
The mansion was the least hospitable place on earth for keeping curious onlookers away. And its size and remoteness made it perfect for this clandestine meeting. A ghostly mail box stood at the path leading up to the mansion with a latch identical to a horn mail amulet. The Knight remembered the lore about the horn of doubt inscribed on the amulet; doubt can drive even the strongest mind mad, but can also save lives under the right circumstances. He opened the mail box half expecting to see a who’s who of past mansion residents and just chuckled to find it empty.
In the long hallway, the Knight sidestepped a fallen chandelier and lingered at a statue of the mythical crumple-horned elk sitting atop a bone pedestal. He swung around his adventure kit and quiver and laid them atop the pedestal. Always ready to go, his kit was outfitted on one side with an array of extra arrows, with one particular deadly arrow made from a mysterious metal capable of piercing pure steel while the other side held two crossed swords. Under the swords lay a perfect fork, good for eating or holding meat over a fire and a plate of truth. Ever since Jeronimo poisoned the werewolves’ wells, Anabel insisted the Knight carry the plate with him when he was away, maintaining it was magic and could detect poisoned food.
His favorite quiver was adorned with an archery award emblem won many years ago, a victory badge symbolizing his werewolf clan with an embroidered wolf howling at an embroidered blood moon. It was far more appealing to the Knight than the renegade’s coat-of-arms emblem given him by his father. That gift was presented during the time Oeland was furious with his son; livid with his choice for a bride and his perceived lack of interest in clan issues. The coat-of-arms was meant to telegraph the Knight’s rebellious streak and Oeland’s displeasure with him.
The Knight continued walking towards the cacophony of a ghostly feast; hushed voices, glassware and weaponry. The sounds led him down the hallway towards a large room they called the hall of suffering. It was rumored unspeakable atrocities were meted out in this chamber by the mansion’s former inhabitant, the Lord of Darkness. As far as the Knight knew, the Lord was just folklore. But Arabella definitely wasn’t. She had a penchant for attracting the most unsavory characters and would do anything to get what she wanted. If her association with the scythe wielder wasn’t evidence of that, her threat to unleash the Lord of Darkness and his minions certainly was.
As his large imposing figure filled the shadowy doorway, a deafening silence filled the room. Amused but not wanting to further escalate their fear, the Iron Knight took a step into the room. The blood-red eternal candle(s) from the skull chandelier illuminated his face with a fiendish cast and all eyes turned to him.
Immediately, Oeland’s soldiers snapped to attention and bowed at the sight of the prince of the clans. By his lead, a brief convivial atmosphere permeated the dour room as war stories and a dwarven bowl of ale made the rounds. The Knight knew Oeland’s warriors very well and implicitly trusted each and every one of them.
His history with Arabella was steeped in lies and deceit but to threaten the whole world of Midnight Castle was a new low even for the witch. Arabella was insane with jealousy over Anabel. The Iron Knight’s unshakable devotion to Anabel was never a secret and no potion, whether love, forgetfulness or break-up, could ever change that. Humiliated by her husband’s undying love for another woman, Arabella vowed revenge. Intensifying her fury was the fact her own father, Lord Chamberlain, found Anabel intriguing and had a soft spot in his heart for her. The truth was Arabella quickly grew bored with the Knight, realizing having isn’t as pleasing as wanting. And despite the fact she moved on to greener pastures, Arabella vowed retaliation on every last resident of Midnight Castle.
For everyone’s sake, the Knight steeled his own emotions and treated Arabella courteously whenever their paths crossed, but his perfunctory gestures only made Arabella’s blood boil. Years of watching the Iron Knight and Anabel blissfully enjoying each other, and their child, proved too much for Arabella. Normally, Lord Chamberlain could keep her in check, but with him missing, the witch’s vengefulness grew and grew.
As images of Anabel and his little girl floated by his mind’s eye, the Iron Knight’s resolve was buoyed. As his second in command noticed the Knight’s wistful expression, they locked eyes and instantly the Knight was brought back to the present. Every head turned in unison as the Knight slowly and methodically made his way to the front of the room. At the far wall, the Knight reached up and pulled aside an intricate tapestry, revealing a hidden map. When he turned to face his men, he was struck by the intensity in their eyes. Oeland didn’t let his son down; sending only the best of the best for this crucial mission.
Despite their less than enjoyable history together, the Knight knew Arabella pretty well. And that included all her secret hideaways, or most of them anyway, where she liked seclusion to hone her craft. The Knight was sure the witch and her minion could be found in one of those secluded places.
He divided the warriors into squads and each squad was assigned a specific region on the map. Stealth was needed to flush out Arabella and who better at stealth than werewolf warriors.
One-by-one, the squads searched the grids until only one small section of the map was left. All the warriors, with the Knight at the lead, focused on the land to the northeast of the Castle, the Elvyn Forest. The Knight hasn’t been in the forest since the war with the Elves that lead to the devastating poisoning of the wells in the werewolf clans’ capital. But he never forgot the irony that the forest’s peaceful façade was home to a pond of life filled with water that’s poison to everyone except elves. And just past that pond of life stood a giant hollowed-out tree soaring so high it seemed to kiss the clouds. At its base, covered by a tangled mass of gnarled vines and roots lies a subterranean cavity. The witch knows full well the bitter history between the elves and werewolves and would find this place a perfect hideout.