Ropes sway with the gentle rocking of the ship above me as I slowly drag myself from sleep. Gulls can be heard, their cries piercing over the drumming of sailors' feet and the shouts of the captain. I stretch in my hammock and wonder at how my life has changed so drastically. I pause, calculating the days, and I’m shocked it has only been ten days. We have been at sea for five of those days, but today my new life will truly begin. We have arrived home. I turn to look at my companion, still slumbering away, and smile. Home, such a strange word for a land I’ve yet to even set foot on. It has been a rather interesting adventure and I’m sure the bards will warp and embellish it over the years. I shake my head and think back on how everything has changed.
Banners whipped about in the warm breeze, a riot of scarlet and gold against the blue sky. Crowds lined the streets, everyone dressed in their finest and clutching flowers. All for the Chosen One who sat atop his stallion like a king, his armor gleaming in the sun. He is everything the scholars claimed he’d be, a mighty god amongst men. Beneath the armor is skin of darkest walnut, corded with muscle from years of training, the fantasy of women and envy of men throughout the kingdom. Cheers erupted as he made his way to the gates, to his destiny. He smiled at the adoring crowds, every inch the mighty hero come to save them all.
Once I rode out the gate, I scoffed and rolled my eyes. Such indulgence and waste thrown at the feet of one man simply because of a few words in an old book. An old book that neglected to mention the lowly slave forced to follow along on said perilous quest. I shook my head, my unkempt hair shining like copper in the sun. A sign of my heritage along with my barely tan skin and lean frame. Ghostlings we are called for our paleness. Our lean frames are wraith-like compared to our masters’ hulking forms, their skin a deep brown to almost black with equally dark hair and eyes. My eyes are green, like the lush grass surrounding us, and scanned for danger.
My master rode on, oblivious to the warm spring day around him. I sighed quietly and did my best to enjoy the sliver of freedom this quest provided. No scrubbing my hands raw in the kitchen or breaking my back hauling water today. Just a peaceful ride to possible doom.
We stopped at a stream after a few hours of riding, its clear water dancing merrily along, further smoothing the rocks beneath. My master dismounted and scanned the area.
“Prepare lunch,” he commanded and I hurried to attend to it. I ensured everything needed was packed in the saddlebags so the task is quick to accomplish. I even managed to pack double the usual amount for myself. Once my master and the horses were tended to, I happily dug into my meal.
We resumed our journey as I enjoyed the last few bites on an apple. It’s a rare feeling, this fullness, and with the soft sway of riding it has me drowsy. We entered a forest, the shade a blessing to my already baked skin. Still my master plowed ahead, barely registering the low hanging branches. I found myself pondering the prophecy as I dutifully followed behind.
Wreathed in copper, proud and tall,
The blood of kings within his veins.
Child no longer, with spring’s call,
He goes to where evil now reigns.
With sheer cunning, a blade of steel,
He bests the beast’s fang and fire.
The prized beauty, a royal genteel,
His fate, a crown and empire.
It’s rather vague I’ll admit, but what prophecy isn’t? My master was the obvious chosen one according to the scholars. His copper circlet, his princely blood, and his birth being on the first day of spring all matching the description. I agreed ‘proud and tall’ certainly fit, but I found the ‘sheer cunning’ part worrisome. My master was certainly strong and well trained in combat, but I have never known him to be in possession of any cunning, sheer or otherwise.
As the third son of the king, I could see why he was so focused on getting to his reward, a princess and his own kingdom by the sound of it. A decent motivator to dive headlong to one’s doom I suppose.
We exited the forest in time to see the sky shift into amber and crimson. I scanned the horizon, relishing the openness before me. A valley stretched below us, its grasses swaying in the gentle breeze. Early blooms added splashes of white, pink, and purple to the vast green sea. Beyond rose jagged peaks, their summits blanketed in snow. Amongst those peaks lay our goal, a cave where our doom awaited. I had heard tales of the creature since I was old enough to walk. A winged demon black as pitch that frequently poaches sheep and cattle from outlying farms, often setting the grounds ablaze. My parents were workers in one of those farms and died in the beast’s flames when I was young. I was sold to the king shortly after and raised alongside his youngest son, my master.
I nudged my horse forward and followed the prince into the valley. While lovely, I couldn’t help but feel exposed as we crossed such open terrain. Luckily, while my master seemed completely at ease traversing the expanse, he did not stop to camp until we’d made it to a stony outcropping on the other side.
“We camp here,” he stated, dismounting with ease. As was his habit, he wasted little breath on me, but I’ve learned not to mind. With far less grace, I dismounted, my legs unused to so long in a saddle. Preparing camp was extensive work I learned as I scurried about to set everything up with care. My master did not lift a finger to help of course and even unbuckling his copper plate armor was left to me.
The meal was a simple stew, hearty and filling, with bread freshly baked that morning. A rich feast for a ghostling like me, but I could tell my master found it barely acceptable. He spoke not a word to me, yet from my place by the horses I could see his disdain clearly in the firelight. He finished his meal and gave a slight nod before heading to his bedroll. I approached the pot and ladled myself a bowl of the stew, grateful I gauged his appetite well. A ghostling was not allowed to cook a meal for themselves so I have had to make just enough extra that the discarded portion of my master's meal is filling for me.
Meal finished, I set to scrubbing the cookpot, the sound drowned out by the snores of my master. I banked the fire for the night and rechecked the horses before laying down on the ground, my only bedding a thin mat and a well-worn blanket. I would have loved to pack a plush bedroll for myself, but the extra food was risky enough. With an arm tucked under my head, I drifted to sleep, content to have a full stomach.
Dawn arrived in a wash of pink and gold heralded by dozens of birds chirping and zipping chaotically across the valley. I blinked away the cobwebs of sleep and took in the scene, my master still blissfully unaware a new day had arrived. With an almost lazy stretch, I worked the kinks out of my body and set about preparing breakfast.
My master roused himself just as I finished making his meal, likely the smell of sizzling sausage having done the job for me. As required, I waited by the horses until he indicated he was finished, then I dug into my own portion while he did his usual morning workout. I watched him go through each form, his sword winking in the sun. As a ghostling, I was not allowed to learn from the sword master, but as the prince’s slave, I was always present at his training sessions. Growing up, I would often slip into the deserted warehouse by the stables and mirror the forms, a twig or broken broomstick in hand. I risked losing a hand each time I did, but I felt driven to return whenever I wasn’t worked to exhaustion by the head cook.
Mounted once again, we continued our journey, heading up and into the snowy mountains towards the beast’s lair. The air turned crisp as we climbed, but luckily it did not become too chill. We stopped at midday for a quick meal, our goal in sight ahead. The cave loomed above a cleft of rock with no way for the horses to proceed, not that they seemed the least bit willing to do so from the way their nostrils flared and eyes rolled. A part of me hoped my master would command me to stay with the horses and await his return, but that hope was soon dashed.
“You will follow,” he commanded instead, “you will bear witness to my glorious victory.” Holding back a resigned sigh, I quietly followed him. The cleft of rock was an easy climb and we soon crouched before the cave entrance. Inside, there was a deep rumbling followed by a whoosh. The air that whipped out the cave was foul, a mix of rotting meat and sulfur. My master unstrapped the shield from his back and drew his sword. With a hand signal, I’m told to wait to the count of ten then follow. I nodded and watched him step soundlessly into the cave.
1… 2… rumble…
3… 4… whoosh…
5… 6… rumble…
7… 8… whoosh…
9… 10… rumble…
I scurried inside, hoping the sound is masked by the beast’s rumbling snore. Just as the daylight’s reach stopped, the cave opened into a massive cavern. There was a surprising amount of light illuminating the space. Surprising, until I spied a giant fissure in the ceiling, sunlight pouring in from the jagged opening. The glittering mass of gold strewn across the floor grabbed my attention next, but it was the shadow curled atop the pile that held it firm. The beast was massive and I saw two swords protruding from its teeth like toothpicks. I gulped and sought out my master. He was making his way carefully to the slumbering beast, shield and sword at the ready. I noticed a gilded cage on the other side and realized there was someone in it. I glanced along the wall and saw a tiny ledge that led right to the roof of the cage. I looked to my master one last time and began the agonizing crawl along the ledge.
I was halfway to the cage when I heard multiple tiny clinks of metal and a huff. I risked a glance over my shoulder and saw the beast shifting in its sleep. Once it settled back I continued creeping along the ledge. I made it to the cage and saw there was a young woman asleep inside. My brain stalled at the sight of her. Her dress was luxurious, layers of cloud-like silk in numerous shades of pink piled up in a skirt that looked like the intricate cakes the head baker designed. An obvious princess even if I didn’t notice the delicate tiara glittering in her golden hair. Her soft peach skin was dusted in freckles and I found myself aching to touch her. A ghostling princess, my mind reeled at the implications.
A roar shook the cavern, nearly dislodging me from the ledge. I turned towards the beast and saw my master had buried his sword into the beast’s eye. It lashed out with its tail which slammed into my master, throwing him into the far wall. There was a sharp crack and he slumped. The beast sniffed the air then lumbered half blind to the fallen prince. I watched in horror as the creature tore off his armor and flung him into the air, swallowing him down in a single gulp.
“Your friend didn’t fare too well,” a soft voice commented. I spun to the voice and saw the princess calmly gazing up at me, her eyes as blue as the sky outside. I started to correct her but paused, suddenly not wanting her to know the truth. I contemplated the beast as it sniffed the air again. Creeping back along the wall to the exit would only leave me exposed and vulnerable. A cowardly route as well. I watched as it lumbered back to its mound of treasure and began pawing at its injured eye. If only the blade had struck deeper it may have felled the beast. I scanned the room for ideas and saw a mighty hammer propped beside a mirror, likely a weapon from some other unfortunate hero. It was only a few feet from the cage and I decided it was my best chance at survival.
The princess watched silently as I deftly climbed onto her cage and made my way down. It was strangely thrilling to feel her gaze on me. I made it to the hammer, its weight lighter than I expected. Perhaps hauling all that grain and water was helpful training, I mused as I also picked up the mirror. I crept forward, toward the beast, but that was not my true goal.
Instead, I was seeking a sunbeam streaming in from the fissure above. I slid the mirror into it and dove away. As I’d hoped, the light reflected into the beast’s uninjured eye, leaving the creature fully blinded for the moment. I charged at the injured eye and slammed the hammer onto the sword, driving it deeper.
A scream erupted from the beast, but I dodged its flailing and landed another blow. The beast shuddered and collapsed. I waited, expecting it to thrash at me, but it remained still. I had killed it. Not the chosen one, the prince raised and trained for it, but me, a mere ghostling slave.
“You have succeeded where so many have failed,” the princess stated, pulling me from my thoughts, “return me to my kingdom and you will be greatly rewarded for your bravery.” I blinked, slightly dazed by the unusual turn of events, but quickly returned to the cage and made short work of the lock. I helped the princess step out of the cage and led her out into the sunshine.
Once outside, I grabbed two mostly empty saddle bags and ran back inside. I may be rewarded once I got the princess home, but in order to do that I’d likely need funds. With both bags filled with coins, I strapped them to the horses and helped the princess up onto my mount, its shorter height more suitable for her to ride comfortably. I mounted my master’s stallion then turned to her, a silent request for direction. She looked around, collecting her bearings.
“North,” she said, “the dragon flew south across the ocean to these mountains. We will need a ship.” She paused, glancing at the stuffed saddlebags, “You were wise to collect what you could.” I felt her praise shiver through me as I nodded. Ghostlings are rarely praised and I can’t even remember the last time I was.
The journey through the mountains took the rest of the day. We spent much of the time talking which was new for me. Many of the other ghostlings avoided associating with me since I belonged to the chosen one so conversations were rare. As we reached the other side, the princess, Lyra she called herself, stopped her horse.
“We should camp here,” she said, “the proximity to the lair should ward off most predators.” I nodded and began preparing the camp. To my surprise, Lyra joined in, making the task go by much quicker than the night before. Soon, a meal was ready and I ladled a bowl for her. I struggled to lift the ladle to fill my own bowl, ashamed slavery was so ingrained in me. She said nothing while we ate, but I could feel her eyes on me.
“He was not your friend,” she asked softly as she put her bowl down, “was he?” I shook my head.
“He was the third son of the king and my master,” I admitted, “Everyone claimed he was the chosen one of the prophecy. I was sold to the king when I was 6 after my parents were killed.” I hung my head in shame, certain that even a ghostling princess would look down at me. Her hand was soft as it took mine, its warmth a comfort I didn’t know I needed. I raised my eyes to hers and instead of scorn I saw kindness in her sapphire gaze. Emboldened, I dug into my pocket, pulling out one of my only possessions, and placed it in her hand. “This is all I have left of them.”
I watched as she gave the small locket her full attention. It was dull now, the metal badly tarnished. She popped the clasp open and gasped. Inside, there was a tiny painting of my mom, looking a bit younger than me. Her hair was a wild mass of curls the same coppery red as mine and her eyes were the same spring green. On the other side, there was a strange design etched into the metal. A proud stag rearing on a shield, a crown around its neck like a collar. Lyra looked up, her blue eyes wide.
“This,” she asked, the words a struggle for her, “is your mom?” I nodded, curious at her reaction. She closed the locket and handed it back to me. “You were never told?” I shook my head, confused.
“Told what?” I asked and Lyra explained by sharing a very surprising tale.
Across the ocean, there was a land divided into three kingdoms. Two of those kingdoms were ruled by two very good friends, the Briarwoods and the Glenbrooks. So close were the two kingdoms, that they sought to join their two families together with a marriage. The young Briarwood princess, Nadine, frequently met with the Glenbrooke prince, Bryan, and they grew very close, much to their parents' joy.
However, during one such meeting, the princess’ carriage was attacked by a great black dragon and she was stolen away. She was sadly never seen or heard from again.
“The prince, my father, eventually married another, though he has never forgotten his first love,” she concluded. I was shocked, but the little I remembered of my mother matched too well to be a coincidence.
“She named me after him,” I said quietly, stunned at this new information. I ran a hand through my unruly hair and went over the prophecy again.
Wreathed in copper, proud and tall. I’d never considered myself particularly prideful, but I was definitely tall and my hair was as close to copper as you could probably get.
The blood of kings within his veins. According to Lyra’s story, that bit was true as well.
Child no longer, with spring’s call. Ghostlings all celebrate their birthdays on the winter solstice, but when I was young my mother did give me gifts on the spring equinox with the firm command not to tell anyone. This made it very likely I was indeed at the age of majority this spring, a child no longer. The next three lines all matched the battle in the cave well.
The prized beauty, a royal genteel. I certainly thought that fit Lyra and couldn’t help the blush it caused. Our parents were to marry, but I doubted Lyra would want someone raised as a slave, princely blood or not.
His fate, a crown and empire. My mother’s kingdom I imagined, but I could barely see myself ruling my own life let alone being a ruler over others. I shook my head, overwhelmed by it all.
“One step at a time,” Lyra counseled, seeming to read me like a book, “let’s first focus on getting to my father. The rest can wait until then.” I nodded and began preparing for sleep. I set out my meager bedding as Lyra unrolled the bedroll. “Unacceptable,” I heard her murmur and my shoulders slumped. Suddenly a large fluffy blanket was thrust at me, part of the plush bedroll. “I have spent weeks with this flimsy dress as my only bedding, I can make do with half of this.” My eyes were wide with shock, but I managed to nod and accept the extra bedding. I watched her nod, satisfied, and return to her preparations. It took me a moment to process her latest act of kindness, but soon I was laying on the bedding staring up at the stars.
I awoke with a start to the sound of cooking. Glancing blearily about, I noticed dawn had come and gone, the sky a solid blue broken with wisps of white clouds. I blinked the sleep away, shocked to have slept in for the first time in over a decade. I began to panic before realizing I was not being scolded for my laziness. Instead, I saw Lyra calmly working on breakfast, two plates of sausages and eggs being prepared. She looked up, noticed I was awake, and smiled. I found myself speechless at such a dazzling smile and was further surprised when she brought a plate over to me. I swallowed thickly, trying to wrap my mind around the fact a princess was serving me breakfast.
“Th-thank you,” I finally managed and was rewarded with a second smile at close range. There was a sparkle of mischief in her eyes so I suspected she was fully aware of the effect such an action was having on my poor brain.
Breakfast was soon finished and we mounted our horses to resume our journey to the coast. As we rode, Lyra told me all about her home, our home. I sat in awe as she told of the various cities and villages, all full to bursting with ghostlings like me pursuing trades and businesses with freedom and acceptance. Not ghostlings, I corrected myself silently, Ghael. I learned my unruly red hair was quite common and I’d be seen as quite swarthy with my tanned complexion. A ‘sailor’s complexion’ she called it and I found myself wondering if the brief blush I spied on her cheeks was merely my imagination.
We stopped briefly for lunch and I was again floored by her generosity and kindness. Everything she took for herself was split equally and offered to me without hesitation. I did my best to not be surprised by it, but was well aware I failed miserably at it.
We crested a hill a few hours after lunch and saw a village sprawled along the edge of a mighty blue expanse. I could barely tell the difference between the water and the sky at the horizon, a dizzying effect, and I pulled my gaze from it, focusing instead on the village. Buildings crowded together stacked two and three atop each other with some leaning so badly they were like drunkards trying to support one another. Smaller huts crowded by the water appeared to be perched atop stilts, looking like oversized storks.
We dismounted and made our way through the village, the difference between Lyra’s tales and my upbringing on full display. Every villager I saw was dark skinned and seemed set on glaring, not at me, but at Lyra in her princessly attire. I found myself itching for a blade as we reached the docks, the malicious eyes seemingly staring from every darkened corner and alleyway.
I let Lyra take the lead as we strolled the docks, and she selected a ship flying colors and an emblem she recognized. The negotiations were a flurry I could barely follow, but luckily Lyra handled it with ease, securing us passage at dawn. Dawn, however, was still many hours off, the sky only just beginning to tint in the ruddy shades of evening. The captain suggested staying at one of the inns lining the docks before he turned to bark orders at his crew.
We decided on a less rundown looking building, the flaking wooden sign announcing itself with a creak as it swayed in the salty breeze. I watched uneasily as Lyra acquired us a room for the night and a stable for our horses. Something about those sitting at the stained and battered tables had my nerves on edge, though Lyra seemed unbothered. We took our belongings up to our room and I let out a harried breath as the bar slid into place securely.
“You aren’t comfortable,” she stated, confusion lacing her words, “do you believe we are in danger here?” I couldn’t decide what I believed, but had learned to trust my feelings over the years.
“My mother ended up a slave,” I said, trying to work out the possible cause for my unease. “She may have escaped the dragon and headed here in a bid to get home. She obviously did not make it on a ship.” I watched Lyra consider my words and nod.
“I agree,” she replied, “we should take turns sleeping tonight so that we are not caught unawares.” A plan in place, I found some of my unease dissipated, but not all. We stuck to the food in our bags for dinner, the risk of a drugged meal downstairs a very real danger, but one easily avoided. I volunteered for the first watch seeing as I slept late and watched quietly as Lyra slipped into one of the creaky beds.
I sat on the other bed, quiet and alert. I could hear the shouts and laughter below us slowly taper off as the drunken patrons made their way to bed, either to a room beside ours or out in the darkened village. Soon there was only the soft clink of the barkeep cleaning up and the rhythmic rumbles of the ocean waves.
A soft hiss caught my attention and I saw the bar on the door slowly slide out of position. I crept towards the door, positioning myself so I’d be hidden behind it when it opened. My only weapon was a large cookpot, but I crouched unafraid as the door slowly swung open.
It was just the one man, his skin barely lighter than the shadows of the room. He had a large knife and a coil of rope in hand, making his intent easily known. As he cleared the door, I pounced, throwing the cookpot over his head and grappling for the knife. I was able to wrestle the knife away from him, likely thanks to surprising him. He threw the cookpot aside and lunged for me, an angry, muscle-bound shadow intent on unleashing pain and possibly death. Something inside me clicked into place and I moved forward, the large knife held like a sword.
It was over in an eyeblink, the would-be kidnapper dead on the floor, me standing in a daze, and the knife coated in blood. I glanced up at Lyra who had awoken sometime during the fight, her body was still tense from fear. I cleaned the knife and retrieved the sheath, replaying the moves I had completed on instinct in my mind. I easily recognized the moves from the hours watching my master drilled in them. Moves I had risked life and limb to practice in secret for years.
A shuffling scurry of feet approaching pulled me from my thoughts and the portly innkeeper appeared in the doorway. His words were a frantic flurry of apologies, his hands fluttering like birds in front of him. Luckily, Lyra was able to shake off her fright and give the innkeeper whatever words he needed to hear. The body was dragged out and we were left alone to process the encounter.
“Who taught you to fight?” Her gentle question cut the quiet and I felt grateful for the distraction.
“I was to attend my master at all times,” I explained, “that included watching him work with the royal sword master for hours a day over the years. I would sneak away at night and practice them in secret too.”
“At great risk I imagine. You are incredibly skilled for someone that has not had proper training,” she complemented and I felt my cheeks heat. “Master Collin would be more than happy to take you under his wing if it interests you.” I nodded, still reeling from the rush of adrenaline. “You should get some rest,” she continued, “it is unlikely we will be attacked again tonight, but I will stand watch anyway. Besides, I doubt I could sleep after all that.” Nodding at her sound logic, I stripped off my shirt and boots and climbed into bed, the sheathed knife tucked easily within reach. It took awhile for the adrenaline to ebb, but eventually I slipped into slumber.
A gentle touch on my arm roused me and I blinked up at Lyra. The sky was just starting to lighten and we quickly got ready. Breakfast was a collection of salted meat, hard cheese, and an apple eaten in a rush as we dressed and collected our belongings. Much of the perishable items that had been stored in a special ice box were gone as we had exceeded the planned trip I had packed for. Lyra, perhaps unsurprisingly now that I was growing accustomed to her kindness, made no complaint at the lackluster food and we were soon leading our horses to the ship.
Once aboard, I found myself fascinated by the sailors scurrying like monkeys along the ropes and beams. The captain chuckled beside me, his blond braided beard glinting like gold in the dawn light.
“First time I take it,” he commented warmly, then pointed to a coil of rope that was nearly as thick as my arm. “You’ll be out of the way and able to watch if you sit there.” I sneaked a quick glance at Lyra, who smiled and nodded encouragingly, before sitting myself on the ropes. I watched her get escorted to below deck by the captain then returned my attention to the sailors. Each one had lightly tanned skin matching my own and hair colors ranging from dark brown to blonde with two sporting coppery red like myself. A warmth filled me as I realized I was surrounded by my people, an extended sort of family I hadn’t known existed.
The giant sails unfurled above and were pulled taut by the stiff breeze. The whole ship lurched forward, throwing me backwards. Whoops and joyous shouts came from the various sailors aboard and I found myself smiling, their elation at being underway infectious.
“You got a fear of heights?” I startled at the voice suddenly beside me, but shook my head. Some of my fondest memories were of my mother’s exasperated shouts for me to get down from whatever tree I had decided to climb. The boy grinned in response and beckoned me to join him up a rope ladder. Two more sailors joined us, both looking close to me in age, and excitedly taught me how to traverse the ropes, rigging they called it, and soon I was enthusiastically scampering alongside them, helping with the various tasks.
“I could barely tell you from the rest of them,” Lyra laughed as we sat with the captain for lunch. Indeed, after an hour in the rigging I had decided to go barefoot and shirtless like the others. Even the captain had mistaken me for one of his crew a few times, his booming commands easy to hear even over the whipping winds and roaring surf.
“He is a smart lad, able to pick up tasks in a few hours that I’ve had some struggle weeks to manage,” the captain beamed to Lyra and I felt myself sit a little straighter at the praise, “if he ever grows tired of land life, he’s welcome on my ship, any captain would be lucky to have him.” The captain smiled and I realized the offer was genuine. A part of me wanted to accept, the feeling of belonging amongst the crew was a heady rush of warmth I had not realized I’d craved.
“It is common for lords to have their sons apprentice with a trade for a few years to broaden their understanding of those they will rule one day,” Lyra replied diplomatically, both to the captain and to my unasked request, “I’m sure he will keep you in mind when he decides on his own apprenticeship.” I felt my heart leap at the thought of such freedom. The captain nodded and gave my shoulder a squeeze before leaving us to finish the remainder of our lunch in private.
“Freedom suits you,” she said quietly, “My older brother pursued three separate apprenticeships, each for a year, his favorite one by far was sailing. Your grandfather will likely want you to stick close to home for a while at first, but he won’t deny you the chance to sail if that’s your wish.” I blinked back tears, overwhelmed to suddenly have so many opportunities before me. A warm hand took mine and I was grateful for the grounding contact as powerful emotions swept through me. “We will be at sea for about five days according to the captain,” she explained, gently squeezing my hand, “feel free to enjoy that time as you wish, you’ve certainly earned it.” I nodded, unsure I could even speak around the lump that was suddenly in my throat.
Enjoy them I did too, becoming good friends with many of the crew during those five days. I now know dozens of knots and the various unique names given to items around the ship as well as the parts of the ship. There had been a brief storm on day three and I had slipped and slid alongside the crew as orders were thrown rapidly from the captain and rain pelted from all directions. Lyra had looked a bit green from the violent rocking, but I found an energy in the wildness of the storm that banished any seasickness I could have had.
I pull myself out of the hammock, wishing for another day with my friends amongst the rigging. Above deck the flurry of activity is new, ropes cast towards the dock and sails securely tied. More sailors run along the deck than in the rigging, a few leaping over the gunwale to the dock to anchor the ship into port. Those I pass take the time to bid me a quick farewell and wish for a safe journey. The gangway is soon in place and our horses are expertly guided onto the deck and then off the ship. The captain bids us both a slightly reluctant farewell, clasping my arm and reminding me of his offer. I find myself returning the firm grip and nodding, knowing that I will be seeking this captain out again someday.
I make my way down the gangway and mount my horse. I take a moment to look up at the ship and see many of the crew waving. I return the parting gesture, tears brimming in my eyes. Lyra soon joins me and guides us through the streets. The road slowly winds up and away from the bustling docks and I can see a castle perched on a hill before us. The pale gray stone gleams in the sun and rich blue banners snap in the breeze. A silver fish with a sharp slender nose and huge dorsal fin is frozen mid-leap upon them, the house emblem of Glenbrooke. I feel nerves fluttering inside me at all that possibly awaits me within those walls and beyond, but alongside the nerves is an excitement. No longer am I a ghostling slave to the supposed chosen one. I am the chosen one, a Ghael prince, slayer of dragons, heir to the Briarwood throne, and my future is now finally mine to control.
After finishing this story, I bleached my hair, expecting it to be blonde like the box promised before I added my usual purple hair color. Instead, I ended up more of a redhead for a couple days which I found fittingly ironic.
Thoughts, suggestions, and critiques are, as always, more than welcome.
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Hey Elly, this was good! I'm glad you participated in the writing prompt. This definitely exhibited a ton of fantasy tropes: destiny, prophecy, chosen one, unlikely hero, damsel in distress, dragon's lair. Many of which were flipped in their own unique way such as the slave being the chosen one, the damsel in distress more or less rescuing the prince from a foreign land and being his guide/mentor, the welcoming nature of the people to a supposed outsider was also nice to read (wholesome). I'm sure I missed some that you snuck in there. Maybe others can find them and comment as well. I'll be sharing this next Saturday!
P.S. I also like that the hero was a red-head, as they seem to be getting erased from all of Hollywood's main characters lately. That's definitely flipping a modern trope! haha
NOT SO GOOD. TOO MANY CLICHES. DULL