Here's the first chapter from Princess of Prophecy. I hope you enjoy it.
Chapter 1The Princess knew she was in trouble. She never should've let herself get separated from her Protector. Where was he?
Winded from her run, she flattened her slender frame against a tree and studied the forest around her. There were three of them all right, slinking through the trees almost silently. It was amazing such large creatures could move so quietly. She was thankful she wore her brown riding pants today and not the green gown her handmaiden Precilla had suggested. She had to keep moving. She took off at a full run, her long blonde hair flying out behind her.
The monsters had corralled her in and were driving her toward the Cliffs of Despair. She'd already run a long way since leaving Spirit behind and wasn't used to this much exercise. Poor Spirit. He'd been a good horse. He fought valiantly until the troll broke his leg. But his bravery had enabled her to escape. She'd always remember that horse and how his red coat shown like fire in the sunlight. She was going to miss him.
A quick glance back told her the trolls were easily keeping pace with her. She'd never outrun them. Where was Albert?
She entered the meadow at the top of the Cliffs of Despair and slowed her pace. The view was actually quite splendid from up here. League upon league of rugged snow-topped mountains towering into the sky with green forested valleys below. Even the meadow was pretty, its green grass dotted with wildflowers and butterflies. If it wasn't for the monsters chasing her, she'd have enjoyed the view.
"Stop running, Princess," came a voice from behind her. It was a troll. "We mean you no harm. We just want to talk." The loping language of the trolls made his English sound like that of a simpleton child.
She stopped and turned to face them, only three feet away from the cliff ledge. Straightening her back, she spoke in her most regal tone. "What do you want to talk about?" The three trolls fanned out in front of her, leaving her no room to escape. The one directly in front of her spoke. "We want to talk about you."
These creatures looked even more hideous up close than they did at a distance. About nine feet tall, they had lumpy green and black skin covered with small patches of scraggly black hair. Their dull gray eyes made it hard to believe they were intelligent. But they were, and cunning, too, according to her father's men. As revolting as these creatures looked, it was their hands the Princess couldn't take her eyes off of. Dangling awkwardly from the end of overly long arms and grossly deformed, they could wrap their fingers all the way around her slim little waist with room to spare.
"What about me do you wish to know?" she asked, backing herself as close to the ledge as she dared.
"Be careful," the troll warned. "We wouldn't want you to fall. It's a long way down." His silly sounding accent made it hard to take him seriously.
Alura sneaked a look. She could barely make out the river in the valley below. She truly hoped all the trolls wanted to do was talk.
"I'm safe here," she said with more conviction than she felt. "Just don't come any closer." Where was Albert? She wasn't sure even Albert could take on three trolls, but maybe he could enable her to escape.
"Okay," said the troll. "Just come away from the edge a little. We don't mean you any harm." At the center troll's bidding, all three trolls took a step backward.
"As I said, I'm fine here. What did you want of me?" Maybe if she kept them talking long enough, Albert would find her.
"Well, Your Highness, my name is Clud," he said with a graceless bow full of knees and elbows. "And these are Glew and Lug," he said, gesturing to his left and right.
"How do you know who I am?" the Princess asked.
"You're important to us, Princess. Your whole family is."
She noticed the sun glinting off a piece of metal somewhere behind the trolls. It's Albert, she thought. A slight smile came to her lips.
As she focused her attention back on Clud, the troll was saying ". . . and because of this we would like to--"
"Leave her alone!" Albert's booming voice rang out and echoed off the cliff face across the valley. Clud turned in surprise just as Albert's charger came to a skidding halt in front of him.
The Knight launched himself from the saddle and over the skidding horse's head, sword drawn. He landed in the middle of the troll's chest, driving his sword clean through the massive beast. The impact caused the giant monster to fall backwards, arms flailing.
One of his overly long arms struck the Princess, knocking her backwards a few feet--a few feet into thin air.
"Albert!" she screamed as she fell.
"Alura!" she heard him scream.
As Alura fell, she couldn't believe it was actually happening. She was going to die. Tears came to her soft blue eyes as the thought sunk in. There were so many things she wanted to do; learn to play the harp, shoot a bow, kiss a boy and eventually get married, be a mother and a queen. Now none of those things were going to happen.
Looking down, she could make out the trees on the valley floor where they'd only been a green spot moments before.
She surprised herself at how calm she was. If someone had told her she'd die by falling off a cliff, she'd have thought she'd scream the whole way down. But screaming would disrupt the pleasurable sensation of falling. If this wasn't going to kill her in the end, this would actually be fun.
The river changed from a thin white line to actual flowing water as she plunged closer. She wondered what kind of man she'd have married. Would he be strong? Handsome? Stalwart? She decided yes, he would be. And they would have three children, a boy and two girls.
She could clearly see the rocks along the edge of the river now. At least she'd die too fast to feel any pain.
She'd almost reached the tops of the pine trees in the valley floor when something appeared beneath her. It was solid, light blue, and covered in feathers.
"Clear skies, Princess," a cheery voice said, as the Princess felt herself being carried upward. Her impact with the thing was hardly noticeable. Perhaps she'd already hit the rocks below. Was this what death was like?
Alura said nothing. She blinked her eyes. They felt real. She didn't feel like a ghost, or at least what she assumed being a ghost would feel like. What was happening?
"Princess, are you all right?" the voice asked.
Alura swallowed hard. "I'm okay, I think," she managed to say through her confusion. Why wasn't she dead? Or was she? And where was that voice coming from?
"Good. Cavalon would be upset with me if I let you get hurt."
Alura tried to gather her thoughts. The thing she was clutching looked a bit like a horse, but it was entirely covered in feathers and had giant flapping wings.
Her mind started to clear. This was incredible. She was on a flying horse; a flying horse that could talk. "You're a pegasus!" she exclaimed.
"Yes, I am," replied the creature. "My name is Marsali."
"But pegasi only exist in legends," she said cautiously, thinking maybe this was a dream, or maybe she really did hit the rocks below.
"If by legends you mean tales of old, that's probably true." The pegasus made a sweeping turn and began to climb again. "We haven't shown ourselves to humans in many years. But things are changing now."
Marsali soared over a ridge and swooped down into the next valley. The change was so abrupt Alura had to grab a handful of the creature's long blue mane to stay on.
This was no dream, and it certainly wasn't death. This was exciting!
"I'm taking you to see Cavalon," Marsali informed her.
"He's the one who sent me after you."
Sent her? How did this Cavalon know? She was glad he did, but how?
"Do you realize just how difficult it is to make a rescue like yours?" Marsali asked. "First, I have to fly faster than the falling object; that's you, in this case. Then, I have to . . ."
The pegasus continued speaking, but Alura's ears had shut off, overpowered by all her eyes were taking in. The view of the mountains from this height took her breath away. The waterfalls, the sheer cliffs, and the snow-covered peaks were incredible to see from this height. Her heart soared as they flew over ridge after pine-covered ridge. Adrenaline raced through her veins as she tried to take in as many of the sights as she possibly could. She never wanted this ride to end.
All too soon, the pegasus landed, turning the smooth glide of flight into the jarring ride of a horse. "And landing is another matter," Marsali continued. "You see, in order for me to land--"
"Thank you," the Princess interjected as the pegasus took a breath. Marsali hadn't stopped talking the whole trip, and the Princess had to be quick to get her words out. Alura carefully slid off the pegasus' side. "You saved my life, and for that I'll be forever grateful," she said, petting Marsali's feather-covered nose. She wondered if pegasi liked that as much as normal horses.
"It was my privilege," the pegasus said. Then she stretched out her front legs and bowed her head down between them. The beauty of this sky blue horse with head down and wings extended back put a lump in Alura's throat.
"Thank you again, Marsali," she managed to get out. "I'll never forget that ride."
The pegasus stood. "You're very welcome, Princess. That's Cavalon over there," she said, pointing with her nose. "He'll take care of you from here."
Even though the ride was exhilarating, it did feel good to have solid earth under her feet once more. The large grassy glade she stood in had trees on three sides and a cliff for the fourth. The random yellow and pink wild flowers strewn about it reminded Alura of one of her mother's gardens. Looking out over the cliff ledge stood a long-haired white horse, without wings.
Alura took a few steps toward it, but the white horse didn't move.
"May the wind always be beneath your wings," Marsali said, then she turned, galloped for a short while, and flew off.
Alura watched the creature fly away. It was astonishing that such a big animal could fly, but what a joy it was to ride! She stood there for a few moments basking in the memory of her ride. Wow!
Coming out of her revelry, Alura started toward the white horse once again. Its long white hair hung below its belly and its tail was so long it dragged on the ground. "Excuse me. Are you Cavalon?" she asked from a safe distance.
As the horse turned toward her, her eyes were captured by a glistening pearl white horn. It was a unicorn! Her jaw slowly dropped open.
Cavalon walked over to where she stood. "Good day, Princess Alura," he said in a deep rich tone, bowing his head. "I trust your ride here was pleasant."
Alura stood frozen. The legends never mentioned anything about unicorns being able to speak. "Princess, are you all right?" the unicorn asked.
She forced herself to talk. "Um, yes, I am. Thank you for asking." She was actually speaking to a unicorn! She just wanted to scream. She couldn't believe it. She suddenly wished she'd worn the gown Precilla had suggested.
"Good. For a moment there I was worried," Cavalon said.
"Forgive me, Your Majesty, but I'm not accustomed to speaking to legends, and you're the second one I've met today." The unicorn's white hair looked so very soft, and he was wearing a large wreath of forget-me-nots and daisies around his neck. There was something majestic about this creature, like it was the master of all things, and knew it.
"Your Majesty?" Cavalon replied, his eyes twinkling. Then he smiled. "No. I'm not a king, Princess. I'm simply the White Unicorn. I'm sorry we had to meet under such dire circumstances."
What dire circumstances? A pegasus ride and now talking to a unicorn? This was an unbelievable day. Then she remembered. "You mean the trolls." The conflict with those horrible ugly creatures came pounding back into her mind.
Albert! Even he couldn't take on three trolls. A warm sadness filled her heart. She couldn't imagine her life without him. He'd been her Protector, her playmate, and her confidant for as long as she could remember. He was a good man. Her face contorted as she fought to hide her tears.
"Yes, the trolls," Cavalon said. "That must have been frightening for you. I'm not completely sure what they're up to, but you can bet it's not what they say it is. Did the trolls tell you what they wanted with you?"
Alura shook her head to clear the pain of Albert's death. She had to pay attention; a unicorn was speaking to her.
She thought for a moment about Cavalon's question. She'd been so distracted by the sight of them she hadn't paid much attention to what the troll actually said. "No, not really," she answered.
"Oh, well. It would've been a lie anyway. I had Marsali bring you here so you could relay a message to your parents for me. The time has come for the races of legend to become known once more. We shall no longer keep ourselves hidden from the mortal races. And the Unicorn's first act in the open shall be to side with the humans against the troll invasion to come."
Troll invasion? There had been a few incidents with them lately, but nothing on the scale of an invasion. "I'm sorry, um, ah. How shall I address you?" Cavalon had the presence of royalty, but she didn't know which title to use.
"Just call me Cavalon."
That didn't seem regal enough, but, if it's what he wanted. "Okay, Cavalon. I'm afraid you're mistaken. We've had some disruptions from the trolls lately, but nothing we can't handle."
The unicorn looked her directly in the eye. "The trolls are simply testing your defenses, young Princess. Don't underestimate them."
His deep blue eyes stood in stark contrast to that gorgeous white coat. She just wanted to reach out and hug his neck and run her fingers through his soft hair. For some reason, she felt completely safe in his presence. "I don't think they're a danger, Cavalon. They--"
"Will you relay my message, Princess?" the unicorn interjected calmly.
"Of course," she said, a little startled at being interrupted. At home, no one dared interrupt her when she spoke.
"Good. And thank you. But I'm afraid I must go now. I've just been made aware of another matter I must attend to immediately."
Alura looked around. There was no one else with them.
"We'll talk again," the unicorn said. He pointed his horn at her, and there was a bright flash of light. When her eyes adjusted, she found herself standing down the road from the main gate of Green Tree. She was home, but how?
"Good day to you, Princess," said a startled passer-by, bowing deeply.
Quickly gathering her wits, she replied, "Good day to you as well." Her parents weren't going to believe this. A pegasus and a unicorn. She started running toward the gates.