29. Choose Your Goat Path Wisely

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What happens when four princesses, a prince, a knight, ten royal guards in scarlet tunics, and one maybe witch take to the skies on a fleet of unicorns on a rescue mission to the top of an insurmountable mountain?


You're going to have to read the rest of the chapter to find out.


What? Did you think I was going to tell you in the first paragraph?


A full day passed before the rescue squad could assemble its supplies, plan the operation, and give orders to keep the castle running in Ashley's absence.

Three drafts of the expedition's announcement were painstakingly penned and set aflame before the wording was deemed adequate. A messenger on horseback delivered the final draft to the village crier, who then donned his frilly crier blouse and too-tight velvet coat and read the proclamation in his loudest, most authoritative voice. The villagers cheered at the news of the rescue mission, and the crier spent the rest of the day slipping shots of hot whiskey down his sore throat.

You may take a moment to be grateful for email.


Ashley and her band of mostly merry rescuers arrived at Mount Dolorem after only one major setback, which occurred somewhere over the Fireforest of Flint. Princess Layyin and her daredevil steed, Charmaine, conspired to have a go at loop-de-loops over the forest's infamous randomly-erupting firespouts. Apparently, straight-ahead flying had become so "utterly boring" right before the Fireforest flyover that Layyin couldn't help herself.

Charmaine's mother, Louisa, grumbled about the "total lack of judgment from her offspring" and promised there would be "consequences of supreme pain" once they returned to the Ever After stables.

After determining Layyin had suffered no more than a few first-degree burns, the group proceeded to the mountain. By the time our heroes arrived, cold, tired, hungry, windblown faces dreadfully unmoisterized, the sun had already sunk beneath the horizon, and the only light came from a smattering of weak distant stars. The moon evidently didn't have the heart to watch Mount Dolorem's latest victims, so it hid behind a mocha-whip souffle of clouds.

Although the bulk of the mountain lay shrouded in darkness, Ashley felt its massive presence looming beside her, taunting her, biding its time. A landmass could afford to be patient, having a longer shelf life than a human. But Ashley would not allow herself to be daunted. They would rescue the children.

Nothing could stop them!

Ashley leaped dramatically from Louisa's back into a snowbank and sunk neck-high.

Make that 'nearly nothing could stop them.'

"My Princess, may I help you?" Terrowin said after lifting the bandaged Layyin from her saddle to the ground, as gracefully as a dancer.

"I got this," Gerald proclaimed, all knightlike, striding toward Ashley.

"I'm good," she lied, pawing at the snow like a drowning pup. Each attempt at freedom caused more snow to slide into her hole.

"Perhaps this might be the time to summon your inner witch," Gerald suggested.

"Hasn't she been doing that for a long time?" Derek said, dismounting his beast and fondly scratching her neck. "Oh, you meant literally."

Ashley, heart-pounding, muscles aching, skin utterly frozen, took a break in her futile digging. "Derek, whose side are you on?"

Derek looked pointedly at Gerald's behind and said nothing.

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