A Clearing in the Forest
by Kim Love Stump
Genre: YA Fantasy
Princess Adriana is about to leave the Kingdom of Ayrden on the Journey of her sixteenth year.
If she is ever to ascend to the throne, Adriana must go—alone and unarmed—into the unknown. She’s been trained and gifted for the journey, just like all the royals who preceded her—even the ones who never returned.
About the Author
Kim Love Stump has loved to read and write ever since she can remember. Whether it was writing a story in third grade called I am a Date, or curling up in her swinging chair reading The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, fiction in all its forms has always been the fastest way for her to transport herself somewhere else. Now, as an author, Kim strives to transport others in that very same way. She and her husband of more than 30 years make their home in Charlotte, NC.
Adriana walked softly down the stairs and through the silent castle. The clothes felt foreign, but they were comfortable and they also somehow made her feel free. And though that aspect of the Journey had not occurred to her before, she realized that on this Journey she would be free in ways she had never been before. There would be no lessons to attend and no parents to please. For the first time in weeks she felt happy rather than nervous at the thought of what lay in front of her.
She exited the castle to find Beecher standing beside a fully saddled and bridled Sultan in the almost-light.
“Princess, as requested, he’s saddled and ready to go. Your day’s provision is packed and in the bag,” Beecher said, patting the small leather bag hanging on one side of the saddle.
“Thank you, Beecher. He’s a fabulous animal and I’m glad to have him. Take care of Alexander while I’m gone. I dare say he’ll be a bit lonely with Sultan and me both absent.”
“Absolutely. Don’t you be worrying about anything back here. Ready for a leg up?” Beecher stretched out his hands.
But just as Adriana was about to mount, she saw her brother Ty running out the castle door and down the stairs to the lawn.
“Ty, what are you doing up? It’s not even first light yet. And you’re barefoot as well,” Adriana said with concern as he stopped beside her and grabbed her hand.
Ty, saying not a word, pushed a piece of paper into her hand. It was a drawing of last night’s Pronouncement of the Gifts. But the breeze, instead of being invisible, was drawn with silver-winged warriors circling and moving through the air, swords and daggers drawn in preparation.
As always, there was enough reality to his drawing to make Adriana wonder if Ty was a See-er, one who saw both the visible and the invisible realms, and occasionally the future as well. Or perhaps he was just a little boy with a vivid imagination. It was a hard thing to discern, as Ty, though nine years old, had never spoken.
Kneeling down so she could look into his face, Adriana touched his cheek gently. “The drawing is nice, Ty. I’d like to think that my gifts have some power to protect me, since I can take neither sword nor dagger for my Journey. Thank you for showing this to me.” She handed him back the drawing, then pulled him close and kissed his temple, holding him to her for a moment before standing and accepting Beecher’s help in mounting Sultan.
She turned Sultan toward the woods lining the back of the castle grounds where she’d been assured the path for her Journey would open before her. But because she did not look back, she did not see that Ty’s drawing had two sides. While the drawing she had seen was colored in silver and white, the other side was bitterly black and bloodred.
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