Five Enchanted Roses: Stone Curse Review

Five Enchanted Roses, the collection of five novella-length retellings of the beloved fairytale Beauty and the Beast from Rooglewood Press, releases today!

Aren’t you excited? Of course you are. Because Beauty and the Beast retellings! And let’s be honest: I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more downright beautifully gorgeous breathtaking cover than this one. ALL THE PRETTY. ❤

Today I’m reviewing the third story in the anthology, Stone Curse by Jenelle Schmidt.


stonecurseStone Curse

by Jenelle Schmidt

5 stars!

in the Five Enchanted Roses anthology

Fantasy / Young Adult / Fairy Tale Re-Telling / Beauty and the Beast / Novella

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in return for my honest review. It was not required to be positive, and these opinions are entirely my own.


As a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, STONE CURSE surprised me with its originality while still clinging to the familiar threads. The reader is plunged directly into several intertwined mysteries that it’s wonderful to try to unravel. I predicted just enough of the answers of the mysteries to feel excited and elated whenever I was right, but there were more than enough surprises and twists to keep me on my toes, which I loved!

The writing was excellent and flowed beautifully in an effortless fairytale-ish way, and I loved the “feel” of the story and the world. It’s exactly the sort of feel that I like best in the fantasy tales I read! I can’t really describe it but it’s gorgeous and makes me feel at home, while still keeping me on the edge of my seat about what will happen next, because even (or especially) the most lovely of fantasy worlds contain a measure of uncertainty and danger! Something about the feel reminded me of a couple other favorite authors of mine, especially Patricia C. Wrede. This makes me happy and I’m looking forward to reading more by Jenelle Schmidt.

I’ve decided I enjoy novellas. I was able to read this in a sitting but it felt more fulfilling than a short story, and yet it was close enough to a novel’s depth, without the extra fluff, that it was extremely enjoyable.

It’s a very fun adventure, with some banter and journeying through a gorgeous fantasy world, tangled woods, homely (and not so homely) inns, and dark mysterious crumbling castles surrounded by roses… (I almost felt like a couple other fairy tales were subtly hinted at as well as Beauty and the Beast, which of course only made it cooler.) And then it got so exciting and epic. Yes! I basically loved this story a ton and had such a great time reading it. (Also, Ritter’s horse was cool. I think I want a horse now please. And a Beast like Barend too. Thank you.)

All of the characters were awesome and felt so very real. Characters are important to me and these definitely rank up with my favorites!

I actually loved the heroine! This may not sound odd to most people. But I’m notorious for disliking most female main characters, and even if I tolerate a heroine, it’s extremely rare that I like her as much as I liked Karyna! She was so extremely sturdy and nice and determined and helpful and useful! It was marvelous how she always had that satchel of hers that she would pull things out of and fix someone up or do a bit of gardening or pruning. She’s also so full of hope and won’t give up, which I loved. I just adored Karyna.

Our Beast, Prince Barend, was fabulous! His story was unique and I so enjoyed reading about him! Like the best Beast characters, sure he had some problems but ultimately you love him. I loved his loyalty and protectiveness, bit of stubbornness, and his willingness to go so far for the one he cares about. Just… yes. Barend! He’s so awesome. And he’s a little uncertain and gruff and awkward but also determined, and was wonderful. I especially liked getting to see his thoughts from time to time, as well as Ritter’s.

Much as I loved the other characters, I think I might have liked Ritter even better! He’s my favorite. His endearing charm, quick tongue, humor and bravery. I just loved Ritter! Considering how much I loved both Karyna (unexpectedly) and Barend (of course), it’s incredible that another character could surpass them and become my favorite, but Ritter definitely earned that place. I was super intrigued by him from the moment he entered the tale, and simply loved how he factored into the story. As soon as I figured out what was up with him I may or may not have actually made a squealing noise. I was also addicted to quoting his lines aloud. Ha! Quotable characters are the best, but he was also such a great all-around guy and one of my very favorites!

I’m always a big fan of humor and great dialog, and I loved the characters’ journeying and interactions and banter! One of my favorite parts involved reminiscing about the mischief young royals got into as children. That was HILARIOUS. They’re a really great cast of characters! I just love them all so much and they feel like my friends. I’m looking forward to reading this again to be with them once more and re-experience this wonderful story and its beautiful and shadowy world.

I do wish Princess Bellenya had been gone into more. Her part of the story wasn’t as developed as I’d have liked, especially considering how it all ended up (which I really liked! I just… wanted more). I was okay with it, I just wish she’d been more delved into so I could understand her more or something? That being said, it’s basically the only thing I have a complaint about in this otherwise fabulous tale!

The ending felt a tiny bit hurriedly wrapped up, but I didn’t mind because it was still awesome. The final scene was absolutely perfect and made me cry. (I’m not much of a book-crier, but this was wonderful!) At the end, when I finished reading and sat back with a little sigh of happiness and wiped my eyes, with a smile on my lips that I couldn’t seem to get rid of even if I’d wanted to, I would have hugged the book if it had been a physical copy. As it was, I settled for hugging my laptop which contained it.

Overall, I positively loved STONE CURSE and it left me with a happy, smiling, in-the-clouds feeling of contentment. I don’t know what else I can ask of a fairytale! It had a little bit of everything.

I look forward to reading the other four novellas in this collection, but I can tell you that FIVE ENCHANTED ROSES is well worth picking up if only for this delightful story.

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Back Cover Copy

From Goodreads:

STONE CURSE
By Jenelle Schmidt

Years ago a terrible curse swept over the revelers at Thorndale Castle, turning them to stone and transforming Prince Barend himself into a hideous beast. But Karyna, a former lady-in-waiting, will not abandon either her father, who stands in the throne room among the other statues, or the prince. Indeed, she sets out alone on a dangerous quest to find the one responsible for this dreadful spell. If she can but discover the reason why the stone curse was cast, perhaps she can also discover the solution.

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Five Enchanted Roses released July 27, 2015

Find it on:

Publisher | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

About the Author of Stone Curse

Jenelle is one of those rare and elusive creatures known as an “author.” She enjoys hanging out in darkened corners of coffee shops, sipping hot chocolate and carrying on animated conversations with those strange and invisible beings known as “characters.”

As most other authors, Jenelle is a bit shy and timid, though her friends would disagree with that statement. Her favorite genres to read and write are fantasy, sci-fi, and fairy tales.

Learn more about her on her blog/website:

www.JenelleSchmidt.com

Find her elsewhere online:

Goodreads | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest

Corroded Thorns

ctcoverCorroded Thorns
by Emma Clifton

5 stars!

Young Adult / Fantasy / Steampunk / Fairy Tale Re-Telling / Beauty and the Beast / Novella

Sequel to Broken Glass (review here) in Five Glass Slippers

I received an e-copy of this book from the author in return from my honest review; I was not required to be positive; these opinions are entirely my own.


As the sequel to BROKEN GLASS (found in the FIVE GLASS SLIPPERS anthology), I was so excited to read CORRODED THORNS to experience the rest of Darcy’s story! And boy does it ever not disappoint!

I loved this book so much that I read it twice in one week. I have an occasional urge to do that with other books, but almost never follow through. But this time I just couldn’t help myself! Fortunately it’s a novella so I was able to read it in a sitting, and it’s one of those perfect novellas that feels exactly the right size.

As a Beauty and the Beast retelling, I so enjoyed watching the plot unfold and picking out the similarities and twists. It’s a favorite fairytale of mine, particularly that it shows how even really horrid characters can find redemption. I LOVE fairytale retellings, and this has to be one of my favorite versions of Beauty and the Beast! I simply adored it.

The plot behind the normal Beauty and the Beast part of the story was so awesome — I loved that there was so much more going on under the surface than meets the eye and it TOTALLY made sense for the story; plus, fascinating fairy godmother politics! Isn’t that just cool? It was all so interesting to read about!

It was a gorgeous world, the settings felt so alive and real and everything was extremely vivid in my mind, despite the relative shortness of the tale. I really felt like I was in that old dark castle on the lake! The touch of steampunkness was SO cool and original (steampunk Beauty and the Beast? Yes please!), and I don’t usually notice this but I LOVED the magic in this story! It was just… I can’t describe it but it was perfect and seamless and interesting. Just… really well done.

In the interests of being fair and looking at both sides… Complaints? Umm, it took me a moment to think of any. There’s hardly anything wrong with this book! I did sometimes have a hard time visualizing exactly what the Beast looked like. I wished there had been a little more description on that, since my mental image kept changing. That being said, it was still an extremely awesome idea the way he was done!

At first as I started out, I was slightly disappointed that it didn’t feel just like the first one, BROKEN GLASS, which was hilarious and mad-dash and there were so many characters running around making a mess and being fabulous. But that’s only a partial complaint, because I quickly grew to love CORRODED THORNS just as much, despite its different feeling, and perhaps more because this one was much more straightforward of a plot, mostly following the one storyline, so I ended up more invested and just loved watching Darcy and Madeline’s story unfolding!

So don’t expect CORRODED THORNS to have exactly the same feel as BROKEN GLASS. This one is a little less whimsical and has a darker, more serious and epic feel to it (but there are still fabulous characters and some hilarious parts, never fear!). But I ended up loving that about it. They’re just different stories but you can still feel that they’re connected as well.

And now we get to the best part. The characters! I LOVED THEM.

  • Madeline is such a sweet, insecure, mousey thing and I found myself really really liking her. She’s so used to being a failure and yet she KEEPS TRYING and I love that about her. I can’t even quite describe it but… Madeline’s just so likeable. (Also tea and cucumber sandwiches.)
  • Young Niles was an unexpected but splendid (and rather important) addition, the one servant who stayed behind for the Beast. Gaahh, I just adored him! He was such an original, cheerful, stubborn, friendly fellow and was just fabulous! Yes, yes and yes. His role in the story really surprised me and I thought it was so cool!
  • Darcy… Ah, Darcy. What does one even say about him? DARCY. That is all. Despite his somewhat beastly tendencies, you still love him and it’s just incredible watching his story-arc leading from BROKEN GLASS and progressing through this one. It was amazing to read about, quite believable, awesome, and extremely well done. DARCY IS MY FAVORITE. I just loved loved loved reading this story about him! Especially his snark. So much fun.

Darcy, Niles, and Madeline make for a splendid main cast. Their interactions are just the best! The humor, the gems of hilarious lines… I loved it all! The other characters were interesting as well. Basically look forward to a great cast of characters in this book.

The ending. THE ENDING! There was one of those moments near the end where I suddenly stopped reading and went oh no — it’s about to be over — I don’t want it to END!! But then it stayed just the right extra amount of time to wrap up the things I wanted addressed and it felt… I don’t know… like a reward and it was just PERFECT! AAAHH. I loved it so much! Also, the glimpse of some characters from the first at the end totally made the book!! It made me so very very happy!

And not to give anything away, but this book contains my favorite proposal scene EVER. Yes, it was that good. ❤

Gaahh, how can I say enough wonderful things about this wonderful book? I feel like I’m falling woefully short! For such a small tale, it was packed to bursting with fabulousness. There was much incoherent squealing and babbling about its awesomeness on my part after finishing it. EEEK! ❤ And then I had to reread it only a few days later because I couldn’t help myself — I had to enjoy its loveliness again!

Basically it was glorious, epic, funny and full of characters I loved a ton, plus a setting I was completely immersed in (I want to live there!), and of course Beauty and the Beast! What more can you want?

I adore it and love it to bits and it just made me indescribably happy!

Back Cover Copy

From Goodreads:

A fairy godmother—in prison? Madeline can’t remember even being a fairy godmother, let alone doing something bad enough to land her in a cell. When a mysterious lady sends her back to her old village with cryptic instructions and no answers to her many questions, Madeline must find a way to free her father, who has been imprisoned in a tower by a terrible beast.

First banished by his father the king, then cursed by an angry fairy, Prince Darcy will do anything to escape this fate and achieve revenge and power. Just when he thinks his chance has arrived, by some cruel trick of fate a girl from his past returns and once again wreaks havoc on his life. Worse still, he begins to question what he truly desires.

Published July 14, 2015.

Amazon | Goodreads

About the Author

Emma Clifton has been thinking up stories before she knew how to type them out. Reading books such as the Chronicles of Narnia, The Door Within Trilogy, and Redwall inspired her to take her writing more seriously. Though her rigorous homeschool education keeps her busy, she also enjoys sewing, reading, and spending time with her family in beautiful Northern Virginia.

Emma won a place in the bestselling Five Glass Slippers anthology of Cinderella retellings with her enormously popular novella, “Broken Glass.”

To find out more about Emma and her work, visit:

www.PeppermintandProse.wordpress.com

(You can also find her on Goodreads.)

Glorious Broken Glass!

5gsTo my delight, I was recently asked to review the just-released Corroded Thorns which is the sequel to Broken Glass, Emma Clifton’s contribution to the Five Glass Slippers anthology. Said collection had been languishing on my Kindle app, collecting pixel-dust for longer than it deserved, so needing to read Broken Glass in order to read and review the sequel was the perfect excuse to actually start reading it!

Below you will (hopefully) find some semblance of a review for Broken Glass (if you can successfully read between the lines of fangirling… Ahem).


Broken Glass

by Emma Clifton

(in the Five Glass Slippers anthology)

5 soaring stars!

brokenglasscoverThough I was not actually required to review Broken Glass (and in fact don’t tend to review books on my blog unless I’m “supposed” to), I found I loved it so much that I simply HAD to review it and tell the world about its amazingness because OH MY GOODNESS, SO MUCH LOVE. ❤

It may tell you something to say that I adored it so much that I read it aloud to my younger siblings after reading it the first time, just to have an excuse to read it again. (Not to mention the immense fun of getting to narrate such a delicious cast of characters and witty lines aloud! Scrumptious.)

I had not a single complaint about this story. Which, lately, is indeed a rare find among the books I read! I loved everything.

As a novella, it was a quick read that I devoured in a sitting (both times). A nice bite-sized story that held SO much in it, despite its relative smallness. It felt neither too short nor too long; neither stretched nor squished. It was just perfect!

The writing was amazing, brilliant, and witty — every word was intricately yet effortlessly woven together with its neighbors, creating sentences that packed a punch and I was just staring in awe half the time because of how simply fabulous it was.

The characters. THE CHARACTERS!!! They were such a glorious bunch who often had me hysterical with laughter! All the humor and snark and banter and gaaah I loved these characters so much! The three princes were so awesome to read about, different as they were! I just loved reading about that entire messed-up family. It was a delight! Spoiled, full-of-himself Marius, dark and shadowy Darcy, endearing and wonderful Henry… All favorite characters in their own right! (Despite certain failings on the part of some… ;)) Rosalind and the cinder-girl and the (quite surprising!) fairy godmother were all great too! Each were distinct and fully real. I LOVE THEM ALL. The whole story was bursting at the seams with this spontaneous crackling cast of characters. I can’t even EXPRESS how much I loved the characters and the humor and their interactions!

The story itself was awesome. I loved how it feels like a Cinderella retelling, and yet at the same time like its own tale, especially how it starts in an unusual place — when the slipper is being tried on . . . and fits the wrong girl! The twists were wonderful. I was just amazed at how many different story threads were going on, weaving together seamlessly. It was fantastic!

I loved the setting! It’s fantasy with a dose of magic and some fabulous steampunk — surprising, but actually incredibly well fitted to the tale! It just all felt so awesome and I loved feeling a part of this lovely world.

The story and characters had a “British” feel to me, which is basically the highest compliment I’m capable of giving a book, and I really can’t describe it any other way. (If that makes sense to not a single person in the world besides me, I do apologize…) But something about the writing and style and dialog reminded me in some indefinable way of beloved books like Entwined and Howl’s Moving Castle.

Between a twisty retelling, a beautimous setting of steampunk and magic, a cast of colorful characters that you’ll find yourself falling in love with despite their bickering, some mad schemes and uproarious disasters, a touch of superb EPICNESS by the end, hoards of humor and wit and snarky dialog that just begs to be quoted aloud, not to mention the tea and cucumber sandwiches — why, what is not to love about this, quite simply, incredibly fabulous, rollicking, hilarious tale?

I have yet to read the other four Cinderella tales that share space with Broken Glass in the Five Glass Slippers collection (though I look forward to hopefully enjoying them as well), so I don’t know if they’re any good or not . . . But I can tell you that the collection is well worth grabbing a copy of if only for this one story.

Keep an eye out for my review of the sequel, Corroded Thorns, in a day or two!

The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest

HuntressOfThornbeckForestThe Huntress of Thornbeck Forest

by Melanie Dickerson

5 stars

Adult / Christian / Romance / Medieval

Retelling of Robin Hood and Swan Lake

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher–thanks, Thomas Nelson!–for reviewing purposes, and wasn’t required to be positive or anything. These are my personal opinions.


THE HUNTRESS OF THORNBECK FOREST is quite an enjoyable read, one I accomplished in most of an afternoon. The writing seems at times almost deceptively simple, but perfect for the book, painting a rich tale of a young woman and a young man as they seek love, purpose, and God’s will amid mysterious plots against the gorgeous backdrop of medieval Germany.

I loved the main characters, Odette and Jorgen, and their well-written struggles. Odette had a little bit of growing on me to do, but I soon found myself quite fond of her. Jorgen was positively fabulous. His strength, humility, kindness, loyalty, all-around awesomeness… Plus he’s something of a writer/poet! That was adorable, despite how little it came into the story. He’s reason enough to read this book. 😉

The story itself was great. How Jorgen and Odette were pitted against each other had me quite worried, I can tell you! It was wonderful to watch their story unfold, and I loved how it switched often back-and-forth between both of their viewpoints. The romance is quite well written, sweet, heartfelt, amusing, and at times adorable. The rest of the plot I found to be quite well twined together, with much more going on than at first meets the eye, and a few surprising plot-twists. I was rather on the edge of my seat about how some of it would turn out!

It was a well-paced, quick read, and I enjoyed almost all of it, but the best parts were probably the dancing scenes–so gorgeous–and the final scene with the margrave near the end, which I positively LOVED! That whole scene completely made the book for me (although it was already awesome) and was just perfect. Allow me to just fangirl here for a moment…!

The setting is a well-drawn medieval one, detailed but entirely natural-feeling. I felt quite immersed! The village, the forest, the castle… all the gorgeous “costumes” if you will… and the many side-characters who added so much depth without getting confusing. I really felt as if I was in the community of the Thornbeck village and had known it always, as the heroine had.

As a double retelling, THE HUNTRESS OF THORNBECK FOREST felt at once delightfully retold, and yet original at the same time. The whole weaved together as a new story twined from parts of old ones reborn. The forest, archery, hunting, and helping the poor gave it a very Robin Hood feel, and there were several great nods to the old versions. I loved that both Odette and Jorgen had fairly Robin-Hood-like roles, which only made it more awesome. (Throughout, much of it put me in mind of BBC’s Robin Hood TV show–the good parts of it!) The Swan Lake areas were mostly in the second half of the book, and while I don’t know that fairytale super well, I think I noticed the key things and found them extremely well done, especially considering the lack of enchantment. The similarities to both old tales were fairly subtle but noticeable. I just loved picking out the retelling aspects and how uniquely they were handled!

Drawbacks? There were hardly any, to be honest. And the ones I found might not apply to most prospective readers… Odette grated on my nerves a few times and occasionally seemed selfish to me, but on the whole I loved her as the heroine. It’s set in medieval times, which as a whole I enjoy, but there is a tendency toward more realistic, gritty details, which I could do without, myself. That may just be me, though! It definitely made it feel more “real”, I suppose, but I prefer more fantasized medieval settings… I normally read YA, but this book is classified as Adult, and there are reasons for that; for one thing, a subplot I could have done without involving a house of prostitution; tastefully written, not much stated, but implied. As a reader of YA, this book is a tiny bit outside my normal reading zone; just thought I would mention that and say I recommend it for older teens/adults.

Overall, though, there’s not much I found to complain about in this book! Aside from my personal preference toward less realistic/gritty, and not reading much adult fiction, this book was otherwise basically flawless in my opinion. So if you don’t mind those, then it should be perfect. 🙂

THE HUNTRESS OF THORNBECK FOREST is a marvelous tale of adventure, mystery, re-tellings, love, and God’s amazing hand in life.

HuntressOfThornbeckForest

The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest – by Melanie Dickerson

Back Cover Copy

A beautiful maiden who poaches to feed the poor.

A handsome forester on a mission to catch her.

Danger and love are about to unite in Thornbeck Forest.

The margrave owns the finest hunting grounds for miles around–and Odette Menkels spends her nights poaching his deer to feed the hungry orphans of Thornbeck. By day, Odette is a simple maiden who teaches children to read, but by night this young beauty has become the secret lifeline to the poorest of the poor.

For Jorgen Hartman, the margrave’s forester, tracking down a poacher is a duty he is all too willing to perform. Jorgen inherited his post from the man who raised him . . . a man who was murdered at the hands of a poacher.

When Jorgen and  Odette meet at the Midsummer festival and share a connection during a dance, neither has any idea that they are already adversaries.

The one man she wants is bound by duty to capture her; the one woman he loves is his cunning target . . . What becomes of a forester who protects a notorious poacher? What becomes of a poacher when she is finally discovered?

Published May 12, 2015.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest is the first in a new series of fairy tales for adults by Melanie Dickerson. I can’t wait to see what else is in store! She has also written several delightful books for young adults, also fairy tale retellings–what can I say; she has a talent in that direction–some of which I’ve read and greatly enjoyed! I’ve also reviewed The Princess Spy and The Fairest Beauty.

Find out more about Melanie Dickerson and her books:

Author Website | BlogGoodreads | Facebook | Twitter

Heartseeker Snippets – Part the 2nd

*drumroll*

Here by popular demand are some more snippets from my 2014 NaNoWriMo novel, Heartseeker.

…Seriously, I wasn’t planning on a Part 2 post. That first post of snippets was all y’all were going to get. 😉 Your quests requests have been heard!

(All pictures are from my Heartseeker board on Pinterest, except the cover, and therefore do not belong to me etc.)

Enjoy!

CoverHeartseeker

***

bardillustrationThe boy drew his knees up to his chin and folded his arms around his legs, watching the Bard; knowledge-questing eyes and ears ready to hear even beyond the words the Bard spoke.

The fire flickered and shadows danced about the dell, and the very trees seemed to be lowering their branches to listen as the Bard’s voice started to weave a tale in the darkness under the stars for his captivated audience of the single boy who had asked for a story.

“Once upon a time . . .” the Bard began.

***

Princess Evanna stood very still, taking this in. “But… why then do you lock yourself away?”

Prince Haldon looked away again. “I am heartless now, and so if I go out in the world I am sure to do more harm than good in it. That is why I do not come down.”

“Then you cannot be truly heartless, for a heartless man would not care if he caused harm.”

“You know nothing of the matter,” Prince Haldon growled from the shadows.

***

trillumTrillum got things done, though, and before Evanna knew what had happened or could protest, he had effectively gotten the next fellow down from Sir Kern and Sir Dagget kicked out of his chair and relocated further down the table so that Evanna could sit while she talked with the knights.

“Would you care to sit, my lady?” Trillum asked.

“Well . . . thank you, but you did not need to do that,” Princess Evanna said, sitting in the chair he had cleared.

Trillum said nothing but merely bowed slightly and went to stand behind Sir Dagget again.

***

“What a perfect morning to start an adventure!” Sir Kern said with a merry twinkle in his eye. “Pleasant and fair; just right to get underway in the right frame of mind. Do you not think so, my lady?”

Before Princess Evanna could answer, Sir Dagget grunted and said, “It will rain tonight.”

***

knight2“Ah, fighting talk is it, now?” Sir Kern laughed. “If we were not traveling in the company of ladies, I should have my sword out now and beat you soundly in a fight within five minutes.”

“Only if I accepted,” Sir Dagget said mildly. “More likely I should decide it was not worth degrading my noble sword in a fight with you, and should have Trillum take the fight for me and best you within a mere two minutes. Is that not right, lad?” He glanced behind at his white-haired squire, who had spoken not a word since they had started.

Trillum smiled a little, and only said, “Perhaps. But I should not wish to harm Sir Kern’s dignity.”

“This whole business gets worse and worse!” Sir Kern said. “Atop of the remark about my lack of wisdom, now it is presumed that I could not hold my own against a mere squire.”

***

Then he wheeled his horse around and paused facing the rest of the Shadow Folk, who had withdrawn a short ways in caution. The knight pulled his helmet off, and although he was facing away from Princess Evanna, she could see a head of dark golden hair, so that for a moment she thought it might be Reldin. But the voice was not right for the bard.

“You know me!” the knight said in a loud and rather angry sounding voice to all the Shadow Folk who stood as if gathering for another attack, but had drawn back a little more when he pulled his helmet off. “Now be gone this very moment, before I slay the rest of you!”

***

knight“Might I know your name?” she asked, for it was tiring to think of him always as “the strange knight”.

He looked down at her with his grey-blue eyes from his horse for a moment, expressionless, and finally said, “I am called Sir Durand.” He paused, before dipping his head and adding, “My lady.” He shook his dark golden hair out of his eyes and glanced around once more, scanning the area. “Now gather your people and let us be gone from here.”

***

“But broken or not, it is far better to have a heart than to not care. He was so… cold. And I think that coldness touches other people, and goes deep inside him so that everything he does is cold, even if he does not want it to be (for so he says, but I am not so sure).”

Prince Haldon had been very cold, as if touched with ice; it was not a cruel cold, only an indifferent one and just… frozen. Now that she had said that aloud, she realized: she wanted to bring warmth back to him. It was as if he had locked himself in a castle of ice and did not want to be freed from it because he had once been burned by warmth. She too had been burned, but she did not want the cold of the ice to replace the feeling of natural warmth.

***

riders“That is only a myth, my good captain,” Sir Durand said.

Princess Evanna looked over and found that he had been leaning against the rail behind her, apparently listening to her conversation with the captain.

“And what do you mean by that, sir knight?” the captain asked.

“I mean that it is not true.”

“Then you might have said it that way, for many myths are true.”

“Perhaps; but not this one.”

“And how do you know that, sir knight?”

“Because, my good captain, I know that it is not possible.”

The captain smiled a mysterious smile, a spark of good humor in his eye. “I have long since learned that there is nothing that is impossible.”

***

Reldin meanwhile had taken up his harp of dark polished wood that gleamed in the flickering light of the fire, and began softly playing on the strings, his fingers coaxing out silver notes to fill the hollow. Princess Evanna hoped it would not wake Sir Durand, but it did not seem to.

She closed her eyes and listened.

The bard did not sing, but only played a melody Princess Evanna had not heard before, that was both fast and slow, beautiful and wild, but filled her soul with calmness. It made her think of the golden place of light with flowers.

horseharpA wind rustled through the leaves overhead, stirring the branches. Princess Evanna opened her eyes and looked up, and saw the boughs of the trees she could just see above in the firelight, moving in the wind a little. Reldin too looked up, and glanced around at the forest in the dark outside the light, but continued playing the melody without looking at the strings as his fingers moved deftly over them.

Then Reldin began to sing, but they were words that Princess Evanna did not know, words that had no meaning to her in the language she knew, but at the same time held somehow more meaning than anything she had ever heard said in words she understood. It made the song still more wild and beautiful and calm.

She did not care that she did not understand it, she only wanted to listen to it forever, for it seemed to be made of light and warmth; the very feel she had been trying to express when she was speaking with Sir Durand about warmth of heart and coldness of heartlessness.