The following is the third chapter of Dawnsong, a middle-grade noblebright novel and first in the LadyStar Series by fantasy adventure author W. Scott
“Wait! Where are you going?” Jessica followed Enken to the door.
“I must return to her Excellency’s mission. If I am not careful someone will notice my absence.”
“Why do you have to be so careful around your own ruler?” Alanna asked.
“Reina’s enemies are everywhere. You should be safe if you stay out of sight. Avoid the scarecrow. And stay out of the village if you can.”
“Wait, what about the scarecrow!?” Shannon asked with a hint of urgency.
“But–” Jessica desperately tried to think of something to say.
“I will return and help guide you to safety. You have my word as a Thesian.”
And then he was gone. Jessica watched him hurry towards the road, then gently closed the shack door.
“He didn’t even tell us how to get home. Wait, he didn’t tell us about the scarecrow either! Now what do we do? How are we supposed to find that gate?” Shannon asked impatiently.
Talitha straightened her glasses and turned to page 23. By now Ranko was also trying to understand the book, just like Cici.
“I would like to make a suggestion,” Alanna said. “If this place really is a farm, surely we can find someplace to go that isn’t a cramped wooden shack.” As the oldest of the group and the only high school graduate, Alanna had at least the authority of a big sister, if not quite that of full-fledged adult. She was also almost as tall as Shannon, so the other girls literally had to look up to her.
“Is there a barn? I’ve always wanted to see a real barn!” Cici said with a hopeful expression.
“If there is, I hope it’s full of food,” Shannon said. “Let’s not forget we left our dinner behind when Miss ‘Never May Care’ over there decided to zap us all into dream world.” Ranko made a dismissive gesture at Shannon and kept reading. Well, trying to read. The only person who seemed to be getting anything out of the giant book in Talitha’s lap was Talitha. Ranko and Cici were only able to keep up with the drawings.
Jessica was on her toes looking out the window. “I bet we could run to that house over there.”
“There’s a house?” Alanna asked. Sure enough, on the opposite side of the barley field, it was just possible to see the shadowy outlines of a one-story structure that appeared to have a covered porch. “Looks spooky.”
“Okay, Shannon has a new rule. No more spooky talk or ghost talk or any of that stuff until we get home.”
“Good luck with that scarecrow running around out there,” Ranko replied.
“Where?” Jessica asked, lifting back up on her toes and looking out the window again.
“If we can’t figure out how to get home soon, we’re going to need to make provisions to stay here a while,” Alanna said. “Shannon’s right. We need water, food and a place to sleep. If this place has the same basic calendar as home, I’d guess we’ve got a few hours before we’re going to be sitting out here in the dark.”
“With a scarecrow running around,” Ranko added.
“Alright that’s it. Rain or not. We’re going to the house,” Shannon said. “Come on.”
Alanna opened the shack door. It was still raining, but by now it was more shower than deluge. The ground was sopping wet and mud at least a couple inches deep. There was no chance any of the girls were going to stay dry.
“Run for it!” Jessica shouted.
Alanna and Jessica ran ahead. They tried to cover their hair for all the good it did. Cici couldn’t resist a footrace if she were restrained by an iron and concrete wall, so she ran even faster than the two older girls. She got to the covered porch first and celebrated her victory by landing on the damp wood with both feet as loud as possible. All she accomplished was to cover herself in mud from her shoulders to her feet in the process. She even managed to get dirt in her light brown hair, but didn’t seem to care much.
“Hmm?” Talitha asked.
“Hold the book with the spine up, then the rain won’t get on the pages as much,” Ranko said. Talitha turned the book over and wrapped her arms around it. She, Ranko and Shannon ran for the porch next. The bespectacled girl was left behind, naturally, since Ranko was a lifelong athlete, and Shannon was nearly six feet tall. Talitha did her best.
Jessica carefully worked the wooden handle and latch and opened the door. She and Alanna peered inside. The main room was thankfully much larger than the little shack they had just left. It was sparsely furnished and dusty.
“Enken was right, huh? This place really is abandoned.”
“Looks that way,” Alanna replied. “Let’s take a walk around. You all wait out here while we scout the house.”
“Roger wilco, boss,” Ranko said as she made her way to one end of the porch to see what was behind the main structure. Talitha, Cici and Shannon sat in a circle and continued looking through the book. There were only about 700 pages to go. Talitha was quietly explaining what she understood of the strange language as she read.
Once inside, Alanna ducked into what looked like a kitchen of sorts while Jessica wandered down a long hall. It was a little warmer inside. The air was thick and stale. There were several rooms, each darker and dustier than the last. Some had windows which weren’t in much better shape than the one in the shack. The smaller rooms were sparsely furnished with simple wooden beds, armoires and shelves.
The kitchen area looked relatively clean, which surprised Alanna. In one corner was an enormous barrel of murky water. There was an exit which led to an open field surrounded by trees to one side of the house.
The older girl went back to the main room and froze. Jessica was still at the far end of the hall, and from this distance, it looked as if there was a golden light around her. It was visible on the floor and walls. Alanna didn’t say anything. She stepped into the hallway and watched carefully. Jessica crossed from one room into another, looking around as she walked. The glow was visible all around her, as if she were at the center of a sphere of energy. The only problem was the younger girl wasn’t carrying any light.
“Do you see that light?”
Jessica looked around and then finally down at the floor. She jumped back and the light followed her. “Hey look! I’m glowing! How did that happen?”
“Let me look at your ring,” Alanna said. Jessica took it off and handed it to the taller girl. Alanna tried to take the ring from Jessica, but the moment she touched it, the ring disappeared! Jessica gasped. Alanna looked around. The glow hadn’t disappeared. It was still just as bright. Then she noticed the ring was back on Jessica’s hand. They tried again, but each time Alanna tried to take the ring it silently vanished and re-appeared on Jessica’s finger.
“Maybe it likes me?”
“Well, it’s certainly a convenient way to keep the thing from getting stolen. I wonder if the power from this ring is what is causing this glow around you?”
Jessica nodded. “I think so. Enken did say it was a weapon. Maybe it’s more powerful than we think.”
“I want you to remember something, okay?” Alanna said gently. “I want you to be careful about this Enken. We don’t know this guy or anything about him yet.”
“Why wouldn’t I be careful?” Jessica asked sincerely.
“I saw how you looked at him. He’s tall and he’s handsome, and it’s pretty obvious how you feel. He did walk right up to you first. You’re getting a little fluttery.”
Jessica blushed and looked down at her ring. “I am not. I mean–”
“Jessie, give me a break. I’ve known you too long. He’s a hunk. You’d make a cute couple. Believe me, I get it. But we’ve only known this guy for five minutes. I just want you to be careful. He’s telling stories about haunted farms and evil monsters. If we’re in danger around here, we need to look out for each other first.”
Jessica nodded, still blushing. She had always considered Alanna a mentor of sorts, and often went to the older girl for advice. Alanna’s bobbed hair and height gave her a confident appearance, and her calm, measured personality just made Jessica and the other girls feel better sometimes.
Alanna smiled. “In the meantime, let’s get the others and figure out what we’re going to do with this place.”
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