The Writing of Acastons Locket

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How it Began | The Original Story | Sample Extract

 

The Original Story

There was something very wrong. Mysterious attacks were becoming more and more frequent. Then the world was divided into three lands. Serponia, which was the land of the serpents, was joined on to Shetan, the land of evil. This continent was surrounded by a vast ocean. The third land was by far the biggest, but with less people than either Shetan or Serponia. This was the Province of Peace. Here there had been no war for a hundred years since the Shetans had been banished to the barren land next to Serponia.

It was the one hundredth festival of peace, but oddly no one was celebrating. Everyone was scared and the atmosphere was very tense, and even I was not a comfort to my seventeen year old mistress, Anya. We hardly went out on rides and rumours were flying around like wildfire.

At midday it happened. I heard the drum of hooves coming into the village and I put my head over my stable door to greet the new horses, but to my horror the horses were carrying riders with no heads. The corpses were riding as though alive with their bloody heads tied to the saddle. In their hands they carried axes, stained with blood, their black cloaks flapping in the wind. The froth at the horses mouths was coloured red, and the black coats were soaked with sweat. The rumours were true, the Shetans had invaded.

I shot to the back of my stall trembling with fear. The village became complete chaos in minutes with people screaming and running for cover, but nothing except an army of powerful magic could have saved them. People were driven out of their homes by fire when they sought shelter there.

I was bought back to reality by a scream from my mistress. I saw a Shetan Rider raise his axe as he chased her, so with all the strength I had, I broke down my stable door and cantered to her, rearing up in front of the Shetan. The Shetan’s horse shied and backed away. When I came down, Anya vaulted on to my back and we set off and breakneck speed. I headed for open country and the caves of Elkest.

After what seemed like hours we reached the safety of the caves. A lady stood there as though waiting for someone. Gradually, as we came closer we realized that it was the witch Queen Europa, ruler of the province of peace. Anya immediately fell to her knees and I bowed my head, whickering in greeting. To my surprise she came over and stroked my neck.

“Well done Apollo, you brought her safely to me. She is lucky to have you,” the Queen whispered. Then she turned to Anya and said; “Get up child.”

Anya stumbled to her feet. The Queen smiled. “I thought that you would come here,” she said. “I was worried that you wouldn’t make it. Anya, I need your help. You must go to the city of Elkest. A girl, Melia, will meet you there in the Old World Inn. She will give you a saddle and bridle for Apollo and will accompany you on your journey.”

Anya looked confused.

“For the first time in a hundred years the Shetans have strayed from their land,” she explained. “They have joined forced with Serponia and have begun building a vast army. As you know, a small army of Shetans has already invaded to behead as many of our people as they can from the defenceless villages. The awful truth is that when a Shetan beheads its victim with one clean stroke, the victim becomes one of them. The Unicorns and our four remaining Dragons are in danger too. Although they cannot become Shetans, they are hunted down and killed because they posses strong magic and our army will be much weaker without them. I need you to leave Elkest at dawn. Go in search of the Dragons and send them to me. Then, find the Unicorn herd and bring them to my Palace to join my army at Logeron.

“Take my necklace. Show it to them to prove that you have been sent by me. Some cities will not let you in without proof of who you are, due to the danger that surrounds us. It is a locket and could save you from danger if you open it. It has powerful magic and the Shetans will want it. Spies brought me news that the Shetan King has become a powerful Wizard, he controls the Shetans and will find out who has the necklace and will come after you. Keep it hidden and be careful who you trust when travelling.

“Hurry now and ride to Elkest while it is still light. The fate of the Province of Peace may rest in your hands. Now go!”

Anya nodded and clambered onto my back. Afraid and weary, we arrived at the great city of Elkest. It’s wooden gates were at least twelve foot high with a stone tower on either side. Five soldiers armed with bows and arrows stood on the top of each tower. More soldiers were posted along the great stone wall surrounding the city.

The wall and gates were over 100 years old and had not been needed since the Shetans had been banished, but were now back in use. It was a new sight to Anya as she had never seen soldiers before and she was afraid.

“What business do you have here young lady?” yelled a soldier.

“I’m here on Queen Europa’s orders. I am to meet a girl named Melia at the old World Inn,” replied Anya.

“Have you any proof?”

Anya took out the Locket and the silver horse glinted in the evening sun. “Here is my proof.”

“Very well. Let her in lads!”

Slowly the heavy gates opened and hurriedly we went in.

“Kind Sir, could you direct me to the Old World Inn?” Anya called back to the soldier.

“I can indeed, Miss. You need to go down the road and take the first turn on your right. You can’t miss it,” he replied.

Anya yelled back her thanks and we rode on to the Old World Inn. A girl waited outside the inn door as we approached.

“Are you Anya?” she asked cautiously. Anya nodded and the girl looked relieved.

“I am Melia. Come, we must go and stable your horse. He can have the stable next to my horse who is called Promise. When he is settled we must fetch something to eat and go to bed.”

Melia handed Anya a head-collar as I had nothing after leaving our village in a hurry.

“I have put your new saddle and bridle in our room,” said Melia. “By the way, what is your horse called?”

“His name is Apollo. Thank you for helping me” Anya replied.

I was led into a stable next to a pretty palomino mare. This was Promise, Melia’s horse, and I liked her at once. We quickly became good friends and after I had been groomed, fed and watered the two girls left us for the night.

Just before dawn the two girls came into the yard. They loaded us up with food and blankets and we set off in search of the Dragons.

“We should go to the Dragon Mountains as it is the safest place for them to go. I have a map with us. The quickest way is across country and over the bridge before you come to Half Moon Sea. It will be hard but we’ll make it,” said Melia, obviously having thought the whole thing through.

“Good idea,”Anya agreed, apparently calm, “I suggest that we stay off the roads to avoid the Shetans that have already landed here, but we must stay close enough to the road to be able to follow it.”

“We must travel as far and as fast as we can each day and be careful where we spend the night.”

Anya nodded and for the next seven hours we walked on until midday approached and we stopped to rest. The journey was uneventful until a week had gone by. We came to the two peaks where to me something did not seem right. Promise sensed it too.

“Oh no, Anya, we’ve gone too far. We need to go back a few miles to the......” Melia trailed off.

Then we all heard it. The unmistakable drumming of horses hooves behind us. They had found us. I felt Anya look over her shoulder where about ten Shetan riders cantered towards us.

Melia screamed and Anya kicked me hard in the sides. I didn’t need telling twice. I ran like the devil was after me, which in a sense he was. Soon I began to tire but Anya desperately urged me on and I tried my hardest but the Shetan riders didn’t seem to tire.

We disappeared into the woods to try to lose them but they kept close behind us. Suddenly we came upon the largest river in the province. I skidded to a halt, nearly throwing Anya over my head. Promise stopped beside me, squealing in fear. I turned to go in another direction but we were trapped.

“We’ll have to cross the river!” yelled Melia.

“We can’t! It’s too far and the water is too strong. The horses would never make it, they’re exhausted!” Anya answered, panic breaking into her voice.

“So this is it then. The end,” Melia cried as the Shetans closed in, tears streaming down her already wet face.

“Not if I can help it.” Anya pulled out the Locket from under her shirt and opened it. A blinding white light shot out of it. I closed my eyes tight. The light vanished as suddenly as it had come, and with it the Shetans.

All four of us stood in shock at the power we had just witnessed.

“They.... they disappeared,” stuttered Melia, stating the obvious. Then she turned to Anya. “Where did you get that?”

“The Queen gave it to me. I was to keep it hidden unless we got into danger or needed proof of who we are. We must leave quickly. The Shetans will be after us more than ever, once they realize one of their scout groups has disappeared and they find out why. Come on, we’d better go and find that bridge unless you want to go all the way round Half Moon Sea.”

Melia smiled a little. “I think we’ll stick with our first plan then,” she said, knowing Anya was teasing her to try to lighten the situation.

It took almost an hour to get to the bridge. We walked at a slow pace and the girls gave both of us loose reins to relax us after our gallop. Anya’s tension had gone and I became contented and relaxed for the first time in days.

The bridge was a little rickety so Melia and Anya decided to dismount and lead us across to spread our weight out. I admit that I felt uneasy about it and was very relieved when we made it to the other side.

We camped by a stream that night and in the distance we could see Dragon Mountain. I thought I saw something moving in the bushes, but as I was tired I thought nothing of it, but I was very wrong.

I stood tied to a branch next to Promise, and both of us were asleep when we were awoken suddenly by a piercing scream from Melia. A giant snake about five meters long reared up in front of her its yellow eyes boring into her wide blue ones.

“Whereis its?” it hissed “Wheres is yourss hiddens powerss?”

Melia white with fear mumbled something that I couldn’t quite make out, but the snake did and turned to Anya who was now trembling.

“Wheres has yous hiddens its? Master knows thats yous has nos magicals powerss, hes wants tos knows wheres its comes froms”

Anya hastily shoved the locket inside her jumper, but the snake saw, and slithered over to her pulling the locket out and restraining Anya.

“Sos its is zes necklesses of zes Queenss Europass, masters wills be interested tos haves zis. It hass powerfulss magicks”

Anya could hardly breathe through fear, all my attention was focused on her, as was the snakes. I jogged nervously on the spot, jumping at the scrape of metal as Melia drew her sword, and with a single clean swipe she beheaded the snake.

Anya gasped “We’ve got to get out of here quickly! There could have been more and they will be going to tell their master where we are, and what our source of power is.”

We moved swiftly and by nightfall of the next day we reached the Dragon Mountains,

It was Echion who found us wandering cold and hungry, as we had no food through the mountains. Echion took us back to the cave where he and the other three dragons lived. As soon as he had seen our necklace, he welcomed us, and when we arrived at the cave so did the other three dragons. The other male dragon was called Inachus and the two females were Theia and Syrinx.

“So what brings you to our mountains?” asked Theia

“War. The Queen asked me to find you and send you to her” Anya replied.

“Yes, we need to leave in the morning.” said Echiori

“You must have travelled quickly if you were only at Stag Hill last night.”said Syrinx

“We did.” replied Melia “We had a surprise encounter with a Serponian who had been following us, and we suspected there were more.”

“You were probably right but they will have disappeared as soon as they saw that Echion had found you.” agreed Inachus.

The conversation went on into the night. The next morning we replenished our supplies and set off in search of the Unicorns.

We journeyed foe several days spending nights hidden in secret places. We came upon the forgotten woods, none of us wanted to go in but it turned out to be the quickest way. It would take us about four days to go around it, but half that to go through. Anya decided that it was a risk that we would have to take now the Shetan leader knew what we were doing.

We travelled for the rest of that day and the next day. In the evening of the second day we found what looked like a safe place to sleep.

In the early hours of the morning we awoke to the thundering of hooves. Anya and Melia scrambled around hiding our things as the hoofbeats drew nearer. Everything went into panic at the thought of a Shetan rider. Anya was already on my back when a warm glow filled the area. Immediately our panic subsided. Then the most beautiful creature I had ever seen came into view. She was a pure white horse with a silver mane and tail, as well as a golden horn. She was, of course, a Unicorn.

Anya slipped down from my back as though hypnotised and walked towards her. Anya reached out and touched the horn and was immediately blasted backwards. Melia ran to her and the Unicorn spoke.

“My name is Clymene, we have heard of your adventure from the Dragons. They also told us why you were here and we have been searching for you.”

Anya, who was a little dazed, looked surprised the Unicorn could speak her own language, and said “What just happened?”

“You touched my horn, and when a human touches my horn a magic power is drawn into them. This power is unique to them, but if you now touch another Unicorns horn nothing will happen as you already have your power.

We must go quickly, I will take you to Queen Asteria. We are all in danger here.”

Clymene led us out of the forest and by mid morning we had reached Unicorn Falls. We found the herd drinking from the river with several Unicorns standing guard. A handsome male called out to the others that we had been found.

Clymene took us to a beautiful mare with a sky blue mane and tail, who was followed closely by a colt foal who also had the same blue mane and tail.

Promise and I both bowed our heads,

“You need not bow.” she said “you are welcome here and we know why you have come to see us.”

“Your Majesty, I suggest that we rest here until midday and then travel as far as we can until nightfall.” said Anya.

“I agree, but as we now have you with us we are in more danger than before.” said the Queen.

Melia looked blank

“I don’t understand, why were you in danger before we arrived?”

“Our horns have a healing power. If you cut the tip off and swallow it, it will save you even from death. However you would have to kill the Unicorn as a live one would struggle and be impossible to hold. All Unicorns know that their power will be drained if the horn, or the tip of the horn is cut off. In times such as this, a Unicorn with no power is defenceless.” Clymene explained. Some of the Unicorns swished their tails nervously.

“Yes, and we have put you in more danger because we were followed by Serponians along the way. We killed one but there were others. They will have told their master by now, and they will know what we are doing. They may try and stop us.” said Anya.

For the next hour we rested by the cool water of Unicorn Falls. When it was time to go Anya was trembling with nerves. I had never expected her to be like this, but I wasn’t too surprised. The thought of the journey ahead made me nervous. Then out of nerves Anya pulled my girth too tight.

“Ouch.” I said, giving her a sharp nip.

Anya let go of the girth altogether and let it swing down hitting my leg. Anya turned to me wide eyed in amazement and said,

“Did you just say ouch?” she asked me.

“Anya don’t be stupid” said Melia “He just snorted and bit you.”

I was as surprised as Melia by Anya’s question, so I replied,

“I said ouch because you hurt my stomach!”

Anya stood looking at me open mouthed in shock.

“It looks like you have found your new power, Clymene told me you touched her horn.” came Asteria’s voice behind us.

Anya spun round “You mean I can talk to horses?”

“No, not really, its more that you can understand them” replied Asteria.

Anya looked even more surprised and confused, if that was even possible, so I explained “Horses have been able to understand humans for centuries, but it is not possible for humans to understand horses unless of course they have been given a power like you.”

“I never even knew that a Unicorns horn gave you power until today, and I never expected this.” Anya gasped.

“Magic even surprises us sometimes, and we will never know why you have that particular power.” said Asteria

“Hurry we must leave now, you four will ride at the front leading the herd with me.”

The ride to Logeron was tough but we made it and went triumphantly to the palace. The Queen met us on the great stone steps that led up to her palace.

“Welcome to Logeron.” she said “Come and rest, a great battle is ahead of us.”

We were led into the palace to eat and talk, Anya told the story of our journey.

“The Shetan army have landed near the city of Achus. They are less than a week away by now. We will fight them in three days time, when we meet them on the plains.” Europa announced. “The Unicorns and Dragons will join our army of men. Anya and Melia will remain here as it is too dangerous..”

Anya looked outraged “But I can’t! I must fight to avenge the death of my parents, I know I will be in danger but I can’t wait here while our army is fighting.”

Europa did not appear too surprised at Anya’s outburst, and after a pause she said reluctantly “You may go, but understand this is against my wishes. I know how strong willed you are and I know I cannot stop you.”

“Then I will be going with her and will protect her with my life.” said Melia, suddenly looking scared and amazed at what she had just said.

The Queen looked frustrated, “Very well, you will ride with us, but for now we rest.”
Winter had set in, snow lay on the ground in a thick blanket all around us. Numb with cold, we trudged into the battle which for some of us it would be the end.

When we arrived at the plains there was no sign of the Shetans, so we set up camp as fast as we could while battling against the blizzard. People had frozen fingers, and those lucky enough to have gloves did not fare much better. I was glad of a blanket that night.

It was not until mid afternoon that the Shetans appeared on the Horizon. It was a terrifying sight. Serpents seven meters long slithered alongside the Shetan riders and foot Shetans. They were led by Ladon, the Serponian king, and the wizard Ocnus. I was surprised to see he had a head, but as they approached you could see that he had once been headless, and had his head sewn back on.

The Shetan army was huge, they had at least twelve thousand men, as opposed to our nine thousand.

They charged, we stood our ground knowing full well that running now would get us crushed. The Shetan’s lead cavalry rammed into our ranks. The battle for peace had begun.

We fought long and hard, many were wounded and killed. Anya fought bravely. I shied away from a Serponian who snapped at my legs unseating Anya. She screamed and clung on, falling onto my neck and loosing her stirrups. A nearby Sheitan brought his axe down, aiming at Anya’s head. Anya blocked the blow with her sword. A shout of “INCENDIO!” came from behind us. I turned to see Melia, on a rearing Promise, throw a ball of flame from her hand. The Shetan turned, and was hit full on by the ball of flame, which consumed him rapidly cutting his scream short.

“Melia,” Anya gasped as she pushed herself back into her saddle, “I didn’t know you were a witch.”

“There are a lot of things you don’t know about me.” she replied.

I tuned to face yet another Sheitan, when suddenly all the Shetans disintegrated into dust. Astounded, I turned to face Anya, and to my horror I saw that a serpent had just sunk his fangs into Anya’s arm. Her scream cut through the sudden silence. At once Melia and Europa were at her side as she slid from my back. Now outnumbered the remaining Serponians fled having no one to protect them. Europa stood up and muttered something under her breath, a tide of bright blue fire swept the battlefield killing the remaining Serponians in its path.

A cheer started to grow from the ranks, the battle had been won!

Europa knelt down beside Anya and spoke urgently to Melia “We must get her to the tent quickly. The poison is spreading fast and without treatment she will be dead within the hour.”

Anya was taken away on a stretcher with a tearful Melia telling her to hold on. Promise and I were led behind by a young man of Anya’s age.

At the Queen’s tent she began to hurriedly make some sort of healing potion out of the herbs she had brought with her.

“Can’ t you take the tip of the horn of one of the fallen Unicorns?” asked a distressed Melia.

“Unfortunately by the time we find a fallen Unicorn in all this confusion, its powers will already have faded.”

Europa administered her potion and Anya slipped into unconsciousness, “Let us hope that she will pull through.”

Anya remained unconscious for a long two days. It was a full week after the battle and Melia was out giving us fresh water in the fields. When we heard the creak of the gate we all looked up to see a very pale Anya walking towards us. We had not been told she was allowed out of bed. Melia looked equally happy and astonished.

Anya ran across the field and grabbed Melia and hugged her, then hugged me.

“I was so worried.” said Melia who was now in tears of happiness, “I’m so glad you are back and safe.”

“I’m glad to be back, Melia.” Anya replied, “I’m glad to be back.”