Fire in the Forest

And now, evil lifted its head at the noise of chaos. As smoke billowed from Great Park, dark figures began to advance out of the Enchanted City. . . .

Caretaker rushed into the cottage carrying Princess Amanda in his arms. He laid the child on a cot. Mercie gasped to see her. “What has happened?” she asked.

“Fire fighting,” the old man answered, and the look he gave his wife told all: Because of Princess Amanda’s disobedience, Great Park was now vulnerable to danger.

Croi-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e! Croie! Croie! The Ranger horns blasted the warning over and over. Fire! Danger!

“Do what you can for her, but quickly!” Caretaker ordered, hurrying toward the door. “Then come to Inmost Circle. The Enchanter’s men are rushing the gate. You will be needed right away.”

Immediately, Mercie turned and went to the fireplace where she quickly mixed together a basin full of herb salves. “Hero,” she called, “I need your help. Dip these clean rags into the bowl. Then cover the child’s burns. Like so.”

Mercie cut away Amanda’s singed clothes and covered her with a blanket. Hero watched as the old woman patted compresses into place on all the scorched and burned skin. She took a mug and filled it from the jug of healing draught. Gently, she poured it down Amanda’s throat.

Croi-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e! the horns sounded, urgently.

“I must go,” Mercie said to Hero. “Danger has breached our gates.” The old woman paused as she went out the door. “If you are threatened in any way, do not be afraid. Speak the Ranger cries to give you strength: ‘To the Kingdom! To the King!’”

Then she was gone.

Hero watched the wounded girl, so still on the cot. What had happened? Her blistered skin, her closed and swollen eyes frightened him. She scarcely seemed to be breathing.

Frantic noises from outside intruded into the silence of the cottage. All the able people of Great Park were hurrying toward Inmost Circle where the Sacred Flames were being lit. Hero heard Ranger shouts, heard the warning horns sounding over and over. Then from far away, he heard the ominous, low beat of the death drums of Enchanted City. His ears picked out another sound, too: Nay-nay-nay, nay-nay-nay, nay-nay-nay.

It was the battle song of the Naysayers, who held the power to freeze people’s minds by speaking “no” into their hearts. Hero knew that Burners, spreading fires of destruction with their glowing pokers, and Breakers, carrying cudgels to beat to death those who resisted them, would be creeping behind the marching army of Naysayers.

To read the rest of this story and many more gripping stories like it, go here and back our Kickstarter campaign to revise, re-illustrate, and re-publish the Kingdom Tales Trilogy. If you want to order the classic, original editions, go here.

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