Damsel Knight Part 1: Chapter Four

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After all this time, is all Bonnie can think when they finally arrive in Dragon's Bay. Finally, after all this time. Her heart thrums with excitement. She steps onto wet sand cautiously, half expecting this all to be a dream.

It's a small cove. A short stretch of sand that quickly gives way to grass. To her right the Dark Forest goes on and on as far as she can see. The trees are densely packed together like they're whispering about the secrets they hide. Straight ahead the hill gets steeper and greener with every step.

Somewhere over that hill is the castle. It's the only building on the bay. From the stories the fishermen told her it's supposed to be on the outer tip of the island overlooking the sea. Of course, it's not really an island. Everyone just says that because it might as well be with the only ways out being the sea and through the forest.

All the champions that come here to slay the dragon arrive by sea. No one comes through the forest, not even knights.

Neven steps out of the boat and falls to the ground on his hands and knees. He grips the wet sand with fervour. "Land!" He shouts, tears in his eyes. "I'm sorry I left you. Please never leave me."

"Get out of my way lad!" Jack stares at Neven with an expression part way between frustration and astonishment. "I have to pull the boat in."

The past two days have not been a happy time for Neven or Jack. Turns out Neven does get sea sick, and it turns out Jack is allergic to whining. Bonnie's just glad that what happened in the village hasn't taken all of Neven's spirit, though sometimes when he thinks she's sleeping, she'll catch him staring over the edge at the water with a haunted look on his face.

Neven scurries out of the way, moving up the hill to admire the grass. Jack pulls the boat up the small beach, muttering. Bonnie does her best to help.

"Are you going to bring that to the castle?" Bonnie asks as Jack heaves one of the boxes up the hill. She has her sword and her pack. She's a little hopeful. It would be a good excuse to get close to the castle, and the dragon.

"No one goes near that castle," Jack says, giving her a hard look over the wooden box. "Least, not anyone not half mad for gold, glory, and the girl."

Neven looks up from his spot on the hill, a wistful expression on his face. She's only ever seen him look like that when he's thinking up an experiment he wants to try. "The princess is supposed to be very beautiful, isn't she?"

Jack snorts, dropping the box heavily beside a gnarled looking tree that sits at the top of the small hill. The contents clatter. "Not sure how they can say that when she's been locked in that castle since she was a child. But I'd wager they're right. The King has more than enough gold to buy beauty for his daughter. And he has no problems buying magic to serve any of his other whims. I hear he brought his jester back to life when he couldn't find a good enough replacement. Course I imagine he's a lot less funny now being undead and all."

Bonnie frowns at the crate. "So how do you get that to the castle?"

"This does it for me," Jack pats the gnarled trunk with a certain fondness. "Magic my lad Boone. Watch."

Bonnie and Neven watch as Jack pries off the lid. Unease washes over her. She can't help but think of the crate her father brought back from one of his quests for the King. That one little crate that changed everything, and led her here today with her father's sword over her shoulder and neither of her parents by her side.

With a practised movement Jack eases off the lid, letting them see the contents. Neven screws up his nose, face turning as green as it had in the boat. "Are those teeth?"

"What did you think I'd be delivering to the castle?" Jack asks with a raised eyebrow. "Cream cakes and pasties?"

"Well, yeah," Neven says, sitting up straighter on the grass. He frowns at the gleaming contents of the crate. Disgust falls away to interest on his face. "Is it a trade? I thought you needed gold for that?"

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