The ward of castoria, p.42
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       The Ward of Castoria, p.42
 

           Robin Silverglate

  Chapter 1

  Castoria

  Bryn Thorner wondered if this was another one of her terrifying nightmares. A demonic-looking flying creature had just attacked her father and he was now rendered unconscious from the gooey pink venom that covered his face. Dane Stormwood was with her, as well. He always protected her from the feral danger in her dreams and tonight was no different. Dane had even taken them back to his homeland in order to find a way to save her father.

  Something about this situation made Bryn think that perhaps this was not a nightmare, but something altogether more terrifying. Her sanity was now in question. With her father’s lifeless body propped over his shoulder, Dane had just led them through a portal hidden inside of a water fountain. Now, they were somehow magically transported to a place she was pretty sure did not exist on earth.

  Even in her wildest dreams, she never could have pictured Dane as being from another world. What had Dane called it? The Elven World of Castoria?

  Her heart pounded loudly as she gazed upon the sudden change in Dane’s appearance. Gone were his unusually dark eyes and neatly combed hair. Instead, Dane had deep purple eyes and spiky brown hair. His ears had changed, too. Bryn doubted she was even seeing them properly, but they seemed to be pointed at the tip. This was most definitely not the Dane she had known last March.

  Bryn stumbled over her words as she spoke. “You’re an… an…”

  “An elf,” finished Dane.

  “Elves aren’t real,” Bryn said more to herself than to Dane.

  “In my world, elves are very real,” Dane said without sounding offended.

  “In my world, elves are storybook creatures,” stated Bryn.

  “As are humans in Castoria,” Dane replied as he moved toward the door. “We need to hurry if we’re going to help your father.”

  That statement called her to action and she followed Dane out of the cave-like room from which she had entered via the portal in a cascading water fountain. She found herself in a small passageway which was a continuation of the underground cave. It was quite dark and she could barely see a thing. Bryn reached out to touch Dane’s shoulder so she could follow him. As he led her down the hall, they passed several more doors. Bryn wondered what was behind them. Were they more portals to her world? What if they were portals to other worlds that she had never even heard of?

  At the end of the passageway, Bryn saw a ladder that led to an upper level and to a level below. She watched as Dane secured her father a little better on his shoulder and then he proceeded to climb down the ladder. When Bryn could no longer see him or her father, she sped along and followed behind Dane down the ladder.

  Dane waited patiently for her at the bottom. When Bryn reached the ground, he turned to lead them down another passageway. There was a door at the end of the tunnel that appeared to be made of a dark wood. She ran her hand against the cold, damp wall in order to help steady herself on the uneven floor. She watched Dane walk effortlessly down the tunnel. It amazed her that he could be so balanced on his feet even while holding her father. When Dane reached his hand out to open the door, Bryn noticed that he wore a large silver ring on his finger. He placed the ring in a circular indentation just above the door knob and she heard a clicking sound which signified that it was unlatched.

  Dane held onto the handle of the door and turned to Bryn before opening it. He looked at her with his piercing eyes and asked, “Are you ready?”

  Bryn nodded and he opened the door.

  At first, she was blinded by the intense sunlight, but once her eyes adjusted, she could see there was a lush, green forest outside the cave. She walked through the door and was overwhelmed by the sights and smells of the woods. The trees were taller than any she had ever seen before. Their branches were thick with leaves that ranged from pale to dark green. The trees’ close proximity to each other created a dense canopy overhead. There was a greenish tinge to the sunlight in the forest which she thought made everything even more attractive. She couldn’t help but take a deep breath in order to inhale the woodsy scent. It kind of reminded her of the lot where her father always bought their Christmas tree, but the smell was ten times better than that.

  “It’s beautiful,” said Bryn as she fell into step next to Dane.

  “I know,” he said with a wistful smile. He continued walking down a well-marked trail. There was not enough room for Bryn to continue next to Dane, so she moved behind him so he could lead. Bryn found herself looking more and more at Dane and less and less at the striking scenery which surrounded her. His dark brown hair had an almost wild appearance to it. The spiky disarray of his hair seemed so unlike him. But then, she realized she never truly knew him so maybe this was what he was really like. This was the real Dane she was seeing now. Bryn wondered why she was never able to see him this way before. She broke the silence that had fallen between them by asking, “Why do you look different now?”

  “We’re in my world. There’s no need for me to disguise myself anymore.”

  “So this is what you really look like? Not the way you appear in my world?”

  “Yes. I’m sorry if I scared you back in the tunnel,” Dane said kindly. “I probably should have prepared you better.”

  “You didn’t scare me,” explained Bryn. “I was just surprised, that’s all.”

  They walked for a few more minutes in silence while Bryn studied the other changes in Dane. His ears were fascinating. They were in the shape of a small magnolia leaf: smooth around the edges with a small point at the top. But his ears didn’t look silly as if he were dressed up for Halloween. They seemed exotic somehow. “Why was I was unable to see the real you before?” she asked. “Did you change your appearance with some kind of magic?”

  She saw him give a little smirk as he said, “I wouldn’t call it magic, but you might see it like that. I used a technique called projection. I created an image in my mind of how I wanted to appear and sent it out constantly. Everyone who saw me, saw me as I wanted them to see me.”

  Bryn felt that it explained how bows and swords seemed to magically appear out of nowhere. “So you always looked like you do now,” Bryn clarified. “I just didn’t see the old fashioned clothes and different eye color?”

  “My clothes aren’t old fashioned,” said Dane feigning insult.

  “I’m sorry,” Bryn stammered. “I didn’t mean to offend you.”

  “You didn’t,” said Dane. “I’ve had worse things said to me before.”

  Bryn blushed when she realized that she had said horrible things to him that night two months ago. She vividly remembered telling Dane she did not like him after he admitted he had loved her then. Bryn had even gone farther and cruelly told him she did not trust him. Now, she thoroughly regretted saying those things especially since he had saved her life and hopefully her father’s, as well. Bryn was completely embarrassed by her unfounded behavior on that night. She bent her head to stare at the ground on the pretense of keeping an eye out for tripping hazards.

  Dane stopped and turned around to face Bryn. She forced herself to look up into his bright purple eyes. He seemed sad as he said, “I shouldn’t have said that. It was wrong of me and I’m sorry.”

  “That’s all right,” Bryn said quietly. She felt like she deserved it anyway after everything that Dane had done for her. Bryn found herself gazing into Dane’s eyes. They were a deep shade of purple with small green flecks in the middle. She had never seen anything like it before. Once, she had seen a picture in a magazine showing a girl wearing purple contact lenses and thought it had appeared strange. But Dane’s eyes were strikingly beautiful.

  Bryn suddenly realized that she must have been staring at him for far too long after Dane turned away and said, “We should keep moving.” He continued to walk down the path and she followed him feeling more awkward than ever. She silently chastised herself for wasting time staring into Dane’s eyes when her father’s c
ondition was so serious.

  The trail widened and then ended at a dirt road. Dane turned onto the road and Bryn was finally able to walk beside him again. “It’s not much farther now,” he said when she moved next to him.

  “Can you tell how he is doing?”

  “I can still hear him breathing. But that is all that I can say for certain.”

  “Where are you taking him?”

  “To a friend’s house,” Dane replied. “Her name is Erudess and she is the healer in Castoria.”

  “Do you think she’ll be able to help my father?” asked Bryn.

  “I’m not sure,” he confessed. “I don’t know if she will choose to help him.”

  “Why wouldn’t she help?” Bryn was surprised that a healer would not help a patient in need. Her own goal in life was to become a doctor and she told herself that she would help anyone in need when that time comes.

  “I’m sure she will want to help,” he said. “Technically, humans are not allowed to be here. When the Vanguard was first given permission to travel to your world, we were expressly forbidden to bring humans back with us. Even if they were injured.”

  She couldn’t give up hope now. She had come so far and her argumentative nature took over. “Let me get this straight,” she said. “You come all the way to my world to protect humans, but if we get hurt, you can no longer help us?”

  “I know it sounds cruel, but the Queen felt it was enough to just kill the creatures. Usually, we’re able to kill them before they can attack the humans. In fact, the humans never even know they’re in danger. Once in a while, we don’t get enough notice and we are unable to get to the human in time. It’s regrettable when that happens, but the Queen will not allow us to bring them back. She feels we already have done far more than is necessary.”

  Bryn gave a sideways glance toward Dane and asked, “Are you going to get in trouble for helping us?” Bryn was selfish, however, and knew that no matter what his answer was, she would still want him to save her father.

  Dane smirked as he said, “I’ll be fine. Don’t worry about me.” He stopped and indicated to the right side of the road. “We’re here.”

  Bryn turned her attention toward where he pointed and was once again amazed by the picturesque view. A small stone cottage was nestled in the woods just off the road. Smoke came out of the chimney, making everything seem so warm and inviting. There was a lush garden next to the house filled with colorful flowers and plants. Floating pieces of dandelion petals sparkled in the air as they caught the light of the setting sun.

  “It’s beautiful,” she said in awe. “It’s like a fairy tale cottage.”

  “I’ve always liked her house, too,” said Dane with a smile. “When I was young, Erudess would let me play in her creek over there.” Bryn craned her neck a little further past the garden and saw a sharp ledge which must lead down to the creek bed.

  “It’s absolutely perfect here,” Bryn said in almost a whisper.

  When they reached the part that could be considered her front yard, Dane turned to her and said, “Let me do all the talking with Erudess, all right?”

  Bryn nodded. Then, Dane studied her face with an intensity that made her forget to breathe for the moment. His purple eyes were so beautiful. “There’s nothing I can do about your clothes right now, but you should put your hair down at least. Try to cover up those ears,” Dane said in a matter-of-fact tone.

  Bryn reached her hand behind her head and took off her ponytail ring. Her long brown hair cascaded around her face. Dane hesitantly moved his hand to position the strands over her ears. Bryn felt a tingling sensation as his fingers lightly touched the nape of her neck.

  “There’s no need to cover them now, Dane. I could see those rounded ears all the way down the lane,” said a woman’s voice from the doorway of the cottage. Bryn turned and saw a grandmotherly female regarding them. Erudess wore a long, brown dress with an apron on top. She held a broom and had the appearance of being in the middle of house cleaning. Her long white hair was braided and twisted around her head in an intricate knot. But even from where she stood, Bryn could see her pointed ears, as well.

  Dane turned to Erudess and approached her slowly. “Erudess, I have a favor to ask. I need you to heal a friend of mine. He was attacked by a nardoc.”

  They were both silent for a minute as they stared at each other. By the meaningful looks on their faces, Bryn got the feeling they were somehow having a private conversation she was not included in. Finally, Erudess sighed and placed her broom against the side of the house. She beckoned them inside. “When was the attack?”

  “About an hour ago,” replied Dane as he brought her father into the cottage.

  Bryn was relieved Dane’s friend was at least going to try and save her father. She followed Dane inside, but stayed near the door, not wishing to get in the way.

  Erudess pointed to a small cot in the corner. “Place him very carefully down there. Do not try to take the blanket off. Let me do that.”

  Dane did as he was told and then walked back toward Bryn and stood next to her.

  Erudess moved over to Bryn’s father and lifted her hands in front of her face. As she said, “Thaylemin,” Bryn saw a hazy white substance appear over her hands. She drew in her breath and looked over at Dane.

  He leaned over to quietly say, “She is putting a barrier over her hands so she does not touch the venom.”

  Bryn nodded and turned back to watch her father. Erudess knelt over him and carefully pulled the blanket off of him. She stopped when she saw the pink substance on his face and asked, “Is this the only place where he was infected?”

  “As far as I could tell,” stated Dane. “I didn’t see the attack though. I only arrived after he was on the ground.”

  Erudess quickly examined the rest of her father and then went to work. She took a wooden tool and used it to gently peel the pink goo off of his face. She scraped the excess substance into a wooden bowl. When all of the venom was off, she took the bowl over to the hearth and placed it in the fire. Erudess then walked to a large cabinet and took out several glass bottles filled with different colored liquids. Bryn noted the intricately carved leaves that adorned the cabinet doors, but then turned her attention back to Erudess. She poured the contents of each bottle into a new bowl and mixed them together to form a brown paste. Bryn watched with apt interest and could not resist the urge to ask, “What are you making?”

  Erudess glanced up from mixing and said, “It will neutralize the remaining venom. I’m going to spread this on his face and it will eventually harden. Then, tomorrow morning, I will peel it off.”

  “So, is he out of danger?” Bryn asked.

  “It’s too soon to tell,” Erudess stated as she moved back to her father. “He was exposed to the venom for a very long time. However, his breathing is steady and that is a good sign.”

  Bryn allowed herself to hope even more. She saw that her father’s chest was indeed expanding and contracting regularly now. Bryn was fascinated by the whole medical process as she watched Erudess generously spread the brown paste all over his face.

  When she was done, Erudess grabbed a nearby cloth in order to wipe her hands clean. She turned to Bryn and said, “He should not be moved for the next twelve hours or so. You may go to him now. Do not touch the paste though.” Bryn nearly ran to be by her father’s side and she sat in the chair Erudess had just vacated. She listened to his steady breathing and let out a sigh of relief.

  Erudess went to Dane and said, “I would like to talk to you outside.” He nodded and followed her out the door.

  AUTHOR’S NOTE

  I would like to start by thanking you, dear reader. I am truly grateful that you read my book and hope that you enjoyed reading about Bryn and Dane as much as I enjoyed writing their story. My editor, Marley Gibson, gets a huge shout out for all her insight and inspiration. I love Andreea Barbulescu’s amazing cover
design and want to thank her as well. I would like to thank my sons, Schuyler, Bennett and Graysen for fending for themselves whenever I was in my writing mode. There were many days when they had to put up with cereal for breakfast, lunch, and yes, even dinner. A big thanks goes to my Mom and Dad for their unfailing support. I am especially grateful to my Mom for being an early reader of my book and for always telling me to go write more. Finally, I am forever indebted to my husband, Dan. His help and support in every stage of writing this book was invaluable to me and I am daily thankful that he is in my life.

  TITLES BY ROBIN SILVERGLATE

  TIME TRAVEL ROMANCE

  A Date in History

  YOUNG ADULT PARANORMAL FICTION

  The Ward of Castoria

  Castorshade

  ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  ROBIN SILVERGLATE loves being both a writer and high school teacher. She lives in Orlando, Florida with her husband and three sons. You can connect with her online at:

  https://www.facebook.com/RobinSilverglateBooks

  https://robinsilverglate.blogspot.com

 
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