This story is by Jennifer Martinek and was part of our 2020 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
The door slowly creaked open as a small, grey mouse appeared. He was wearing a black ‘gentleman’s’ hat, and a tiny black and white tie. Looking around the dark room he located a figure crouched down in the far corner. The mouse scurried across the floor and climbed up onto Analea’s right shoulder.
As he whispered something into her ear, she stood up and quickly made her way over to the window. She leaned on the windowsill and tightened her jaw as she spotted torches moving back and forth in the distance. Analea was trapped!
It was too late to try and sneak out the front door without them seeing her. As she searched the one-room cabin for another way out she quickly realized there was no other means of escape. If they captured her then she would never be able to free her parents, and lift the evil curse that blanketed the kingdom by the Sorcerer.
Just as she thought all was lost, a faint tapping could be heard coming from within the room. Analea slowly walked around to try and locate the origin of the sound. As she neared the table she noticed the tapping was getting louder. She bent down and put her ear to the floor. The noise seemed to be coming from underneath. But how could that be?
She looked around under the table and saw something sticking out from under the carpet. She got up and moved the table. When she pulled the carpet back there was a concealed door underneath. Not wasting any time Analea grabbed the handle and pulled as hard as she could. Surprisingly, the door swung open easily.
Peering into the hole, she could barely make out two figures in the darkness below. “Hurry Analea, there’s not much time!” Analea recognized the voice to be Mrs. Whoo, a long-time friend and servant of his majesty’s court.
She hurried to the window ledge and grabbed her backpack. Outside, the guards were almost to the cabin.
She ran over and threw the backpack down the hole. As Analea made her way down the ladder, she grabbed the handle to close the door just as the little grey mouse climbed onto her shoulder. As she neared the bottom she could barely make out the silhouette of a boat.
Once there, she hugged Mrs. Whoo. She turned around and saw that the second person was none other than Captain Lazaar, the infamous pirate. Analea thanked them both for rescuing her. As they started making their way down river there was a loud crashing sound from above. The guards had broken down the front door of the cabin!
As the trio moved farther away, they heard the trap door open, and the blazing fire from the torches suddenly lit up the darkness. Analea turned back around and lowered her head into her chest. She was shivering. Not from the cold, but from fear. Fear from almost not making it out. Fear of knowing that they would absolutely NOT stop until they found her.
Mrs. Whoo sensed that Analea was frightened, and sat down next to her. She put her feathery wing around her shoulder. They sat in silence for what seemed like an eternity.
As Captain Lazaar navigated the boat through the twists and turns of the river he began to sing songs of the sea. They seemed to lull Analea into a restless sleep. Mrs. Whoo felt Analea tossing and turning under her wing. She figured that she was having the same dream about what happened that night. The reason she started this dangerous journey in the first place.
In the dream . . .
“The guards broke down the giant front door of the castle, and searched every room until the King and Queen were found. The sounds of glass breaking, doors opening and slamming shut echoed in the halls.
High up in the South tower the Queen and Analea headed to a small round room. Once there, she followed her mom over to a large full-length mirror. The Queen reached up and pressed a button on the left side and the mirror sprung open to reveal a secret room behind it.
She gave her daughter a quick hug and kiss as she explained that she was to stay in the room and not make a sound until the guards were gone.
Analea stepped through the opening as the tall, slender brunette closed it behind her.
Only a few minutes went by when she heard the sound of the door being kicked in. The young girl could hear her mom screaming as the guards rushed in and overtook her. The sound of the heavy chains being dropped on the floor was deafening as they placed them on the hands and feet of the Queen.
Analea could hear her dad yelling at them from the hallway to leave his wife alone, but they didn’t listen. The guards dragged both of them kicking and screaming all the way down the steps of the South tower. Within moments, the castle was silent.”
Analea sat up, shaking uncontrollably, bathed in a cold sweat. As she turned her head she could make out a small light in the distance. “We’re getting close to the end of the tunnel.” Captain Lazaar told her as if he read her mind.
Suddenly the little, grey mouse appeared over the side of the boat. He was Analea’s friend and lookout. He quickly made his way over to where Analea was sitting, and hopped onto her lap.
He had gone ahead, by means of a small ledge, to see if the way was clear. He heard movement in the trees and feared the guards (or something worse) would be waiting for them when they exited the tunnel.
The woods surrounding the Dark River were filled with the Sorcerer’s spies. Everything from tree nymphs to giant Ogres. If they weren’t careful they could be cut off and all be captured.
Captain Lazaar agreed with the grey mouse. But he assured the ladies that there was one thing about his boat that would guarantee safe passage out of the tunnel and down the river. Analea and Mrs. Whoo looked up at the captain. What could be so special about a boat?
He moved in closer to them and shared his secret. “This boat is not like any other. It’s capable of cloaking itself and anyone on board when it senses danger. After a few years, I was able to tap into its energy and manually cloak it before heading into dangerous situations.”
Seeing that the ladies looked puzzled, he explained that the boat could become invisible with a simple command. If anyone (or anything) was waiting for them outside the tunnel they would be able to slip past undetected.
The captain stood up and asked Analea if she was ready. Her stomach was knotted up, and her whole body was shaking, but she knew they had to chance it. By rescuing her parents, it would break the Sorcerer’s evil spell on the land. She slowly nodded her head signaling she was ready.
He walked over to the boats wheel and proceeded to say something inaudible while he made a circular motion with his arms. When he placed his hands on the wheel there was a sudden charge of electricity, and it began to glow. The captain indicated that the boat was ready, and they slowly began to inch their way forward.
Analea and Mrs. Whoo huddled close together as Captain Lazaar put a finger up to his lips and motioned for them to stay quiet.
As soon as the boat cleared the opening it began to shake violently as the sound of heavy footsteps could be heard coming towards them. The trio looked towards the direction of the sound and could see trees being knocked down one by one. Whatever it was, was very large. Possibly an Ogre or a Rock Giant.
The forest seemed to come alive. Shadows weaved in and out of trees, witches cackled, and large black ravens screeched overhead. Meanwhile, Captain Lazaar focused on moving the boat as far away from the tunnel as possible.
The Sorcerer’s guards suddenly appeared out of the darkness and formed lines on either side of the river. Analea feared they were spotted, but the captain assured her they didn’t since their attention was still focused on the tunnel. As they rounded a bend the danger was behind them. The rest of their journey was uneventful.
As they neared the North Woods, Captain Lazaar slowly maneuvered the boat close to the riverbank. Analea picked up her backpack, and gently placed the grey mouse in the side pocket. It was here that she had to leave her friends and continue the journey to the Sorcerer’s castle alone. As princess, the burden rested on her shoulders to restore their land. By rescuing her parents, daylight would be restored, the evil curse finally broken, and the Sorcerer – vanquished!