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'Faerie of the Whispering Woods' - Novel Extract

After a long, tiresome day of searching through fields for clues and questioning village folk for any witnesses, Ariel laid on his cold, hard bed, staring straight up to the cobbled ceiling with still, sharp dead eyes. With his body as stiff as stone, shivers ran down his spine and shocked his soul from the lingering smell of rotting flesh. Sweat dripped down his face and his skin shriveled, his small, shrinking frame shivering and shaking in the stale air of the night. The sight of the blood-soaked cow carcasses haunted him, twisting his tormented mind with torturing thoughts. Ariel groaned and turned in his bed, rubbing the sweat off his face. Drip. Drip. Drip. He could still see and hear the cow’s blood slowly drip down the pile of bones, staining the dirt below. As his heart shook and drummed against his tightening chest, the sight of the cow’s blood in his head slowly turned to the haunting horror of his mother’s still, bloodied body lying in front of him. With his frail frame frozen, the young wide-eyed Ariel blankly stared at his mother’s blood drip, drip, drip off her angelic skin and slowly stain the wooden floor below the bed.

As a horrific hand gripped around his heaving heart and another hand grabbed and twisted his soul from within, Ariel’s body moved without thought, jumping out of his bed as his feet screamed to run. In the small, cold, cobblestone room, whispers surrounded him as his mind raced and spilt over into the world around him. His mother’s screams bellowed through the halls and ate at his heart, making Ariel pace around his room and jolting his head in every direction as the whispers slowly consumed his mind.

“Come, Ariel,” a wild voice whispered into his ear. “Let me save thee.”

Clenching his face and clawing at his skin, he slammed open the bed-chamber door and ran through the castle halls, running down the steps and crashing through the doors into the courtyard. Gasping for the fresh, cool air of midnight, he jumped up onto his stallion and bolted out of the castle gates, galloping down the mountain with hollowed eyes of all-consuming fear, alone and pale. Riding on quiet, empty trails down the mountain, Ariel looked up to the bright, bold shine of the red, waxing moon shimmering in the void and staring into his soul, lighting up the world in a ray of red light and pulling him in like the look in a lustful lover’s eye. Galloping through the bellowing, brutish crowds of drunkards in Kurlfurd, Ariel emerged out of the black clouds of ash and soot into the light air of the meadows at the base of Mount Bloodstone. Tearing through the tall, towering grass of the fields of St Braevs, Ariel rode straight towards the Forest of Faeries, lead by the rainbow, neon glow of thousands of fireflies and bright, fluorescent butterflies.

“Keep going, Ariel,” the wild whisper called him closer, echoing across the fields and pulling in his soul. “I can feel your presence.”

Coming to a trot at the edge of the Forest of Faeries, the sea of towering trees lit up the land with their glowing blue and green leaves and their silver bark shining around Ariel with the pulsating shimmers of faerie sap flowing around the veins of the trunks. Dismounting from his stallion, Ariel limped over towards the trees as his limbs shook with every small step. Taking a deep breath to slow his racing heart, he plunged into the sea of wonder and followed along, winding trail deep into the Forest of Faeries. Bright, glowing red fire-birds sang songs of summer in melodic beauty and surrounded Ariel as they swooped with ease, free from the chains of Earth. On the soft, sweet-smelling dirt beneath his bare feet, colourful toads with stars shining on their body watched Ariel with wide, omnipotent eyes, watching his every step.

“Ariel,” a wild whisper echoed in the wind, the leaves billowing as the soft, soothing voice shook Ariel’s soul.

Jolting his head up and looking through the waves of thousands of fireflies, Ariel spotted the soft, violet stare of the faerie that called him forth. Their gazes locked as the birds and fireflies and toads and trees moved around them, turning Ariel’s fearful, pale face into wide-eyed awe.

“Follow me, Ariel,” she called out, gesturing him closer. “I shall save thee from torment. Come rest thine weary soul.”

Swiveling around and floating off into the forest with light, faerie steps, her glowing, graceful skirt and bright, blonde hair danced through the wind and blew faerie dust behind her. Without thought, Ariel ran through the forest and followed the faerie, his weak limbs finding strength from the faerie dust. Running through the clouds of fireflies down the winding trail, he followed the swooping fire-birds that circled around the faerie and faded away further into the forest cover, forgetting the fret and woe that he left behind. As the trail came to an end, Ariel made his way through thick forest cover, following the flashing lights in the consuming sea of glowing leaves and bloodying his feet from the floor of thorns. Emerging from the maze of trees and thorns, he found himself in an opening of the forest with the Lady of the Lake stood on the other side of a shimmering lake of life with a soothing stare. Smiling at Ariel, she gestured him over as she waited, surrounded by lilies and roses.

Walking around the luscious lake of miraculous manna, Ariel limped towards the faerie, kneeling down in front of her and resting his weak and pale limbs.

“Tell me,” the faerie said softly, placing her saintly hand onto his face and stroking his sickly skin. “What weighs on thy soul, sad, scared knight?”

With wide eyes, Ariel looked up to the faerie and sighed, dropping his shoulders and softening his harsh, sharp gaze. As his stone walls came crashing down, he let out a whimper, unable to find the words to describe his woes.

“What is your name, wondrous faerie?” he asked, turning his head and studying her shining, violet eyes in which he saw a bright fire burn.

Running her hands through his sweat-soaked hair, her eyes sharply stared through Ariel’s skin and sifted through his soul.

“My name is Vianne,” she revealed, smiling at his awestruck gaze. “I am the Faerie of the Forest and Lady of the Lake.”

Gulping down the thousands of questions on his mind, shaking off the sickly horrors that weighed on his soul and tormented his twisted mind, Ariel turned his head at the faerie’s words.

“H-how do you know my name?” he enquired, falling over his words. “Why d-did you call me here?”

“I know many names,” she replied, giving away no answers. “I have known your name for some time and have long awaited your arrival. I called you here to soothe your scared soul, Ariel. I see a child within you yelling out for help, screaming and clawing for escape.”

At Vianne’s word’s, Ariel’s soul no longer screamed. In place of the harsh clasp of a hellish hand, he felt the faerie’s soft-touch soothe his soul.

“A child?” Ariel questioned, his face full of consuming confusion and looking up to the faerie with hope. “H-how can you heal my soul?”

“With a potion, Ariel” the faerie spoke, her soft, testing gaze slowing his hardened heart. “A potion of deep-delved flora, a fire-bird's feather and manna from the miraculous Lake of Life. A kiss shall, at last, bring ye back to life.”

Above the faerie and through the trees, the fire-birds swooped around them, singing melodic bliss throughout the night.

“Fetch a feather, Ariel,” she continued. “And thee shall be saved.”

Knowing his quest, he stood up on his bloodied feet and stared up at the flock of birds, clueless at how to achieve his task. Picking up a stone, he threw it at a flock of birds above him, missing his target.

“Ariel,” the faerie called. “Let the fire-bird fly to thee. They hear my calls and know thy name.”

Perplexed, Ariel held out his arm, walking beneath a the swooping birds and softening his breath. As the faerie sang a song of soft, saintly beauty, a bird swooped out of the flock, flapping its wings as it slowed in the air, slowly coming to a stop and perching itself on Ariel’s arm. The fire-bird chirped to match the faerie’s song and its red and orange plumage glowed brighter, with bright white, shining eyes on its tail feathers, staring up at Ariel. Slowly, with cautious care, he plucked a feather before the fire-bird flew off back into the air, disappearing into the flock once more. Holding it in front of him between his fingers, Ariel looked at the glowing fire-bird feather with wide-eyed awe, turning around to the faerie and holding it out to her. From behind her, Vianne pulled a wooden bowl out of her satchel. She pulled up lilies and roses from the forest floor and placed them in the bowl, taking the feather from Ariel and placing it on top of the flowers.

“Take this, Ariel,” she commanded, placing the bowl into his hands. “Now, go and fill the bowl with the liquid of the Lake of Life.”

Without question, Ariel took the bowl and limped over to the lake, leaving a trail of blood behind him as he wobbled over to the whimsical water. With the faerie behind him, he knelt down by the Lake of Life, staring at his own sickly sight in the lake’s reflection, his soul shrivelling at his pale, dirty skin and sunken, dead eyes. Filling the bowl with the glowing, blue water, he watched the flowers and feather mix in with the water, turning into a luscious, elusive potion that glowed with all of the colours of the rainbow. From over his shoulder, Vianne sprinkled faerie dust into the potion, finishing the wild concoction with a lock of her hair and the sweet sight of manna dew.

“Now, drink,” the faerie instructed.

Putting the bowl to his lips, Ariel gulped and gulped down the potion, feeling the miraculous liquid soothe his throat and fill his empty stomach. He placed down the bowl and looked into the Lake of Life once more, watching his pale stare turn into a faceless reflection. As the winds whistled around him and the waters waved, the faceless reflection morphed into the soft, angelic sight of his mother, smiling at him with her same soothing smile.

“My brave ariel bird,” his mother spoke, her long-forgotten voice awakening his soul. “You shall turn into a gryphon. You shall avenge me.”

Without a thought in the world, Ariel stared into the Lake of Life with eyes forced wide open. Weighing up the words of his mother, safe from her soft stare and smile, his heart soon raced as the reflection morphed again, warping into a towering monster of Hell, turning the waters violent as electricity sparked across the lake. As Ariel’s soul sank, he looked into the red, sharp, sickly stare of the Stormcrawler that slew his mother in her sweet innocent sleep.

“I see you, Ariel,” his deep, brutish voice bellowed, clutching at his heart. “I shall torment your soul, control you and slay you like I did your mother.”

Clenching his fists and heaving at the horrors in the lake, Ariel’s skin shriveled and his frame shrank as he rocked back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. Once more, the waters waved and morphed the reflection of the hellish beast into a figure Ariel had not seen before. In front of him, in the Lake of Life, an old man, cloaked in half-white and half-black cloth, stared into his soul with one white, wild eye and one black, bleak eye.

“Ariel,” the old man croaked, wagging his frail finger at him. “If ye be brave, ye shall be crowned.”

Shaking his head at the sight of consuming, chaotic confusion, Ariel looked back at the Lake of Life and watched the unfamiliar face wave away and turn back to his sad, scared reflection.

“O’ sad and scared knight,” the faerie called out, placing her soft hand onto Ariel’s shoulder. “Come forth and let me heal thee with a kiss.”

Crawling on on his knees, Ariel looked up to the graceful, god-like faerie, halo’d by the red moon. As the faerie leaned over him, holding his sickly face in her hands, her soft, lustful lips of life met his own, tasting of sweet manna dew. Closing his eyes and holding his breath, his mind fell quiet, his soul stopping once more from the horrors of the lake. As he opened his eyes and the faerie pulled back, her moonlit eyes turned from a vivid violet into devilish red and her soft, sacred gaze morphed into a murderous, sharp serpentine stare. Her blonde hair fell off her head and her soft, saintly skin shriveled up and turned pale, revealing a sickly sight of a half-dead devil. With his soul sucked out from the faerie, Ariel fell into the thorns of the rose bushes beside the lake, bloodied and pale, heaving for air. Standing back up straight, the faerie turned away from Ariel and flew off into the forest, leaving him alone on the damp ground, surrounded by the whispers of his mind and left alone in the wild woods.

This is an extract of a chapter from an unreleased fantasy novel named 'The Stormslayer'.