This is it!!!
I hope you’re all as excited as I am! After a year of waiting, this is it! I decided to just surprise you all, and not tell anyone it was coming. 🙂
I’d like to thank all my friends that helped me break up writer’s block–the ones I e-mailed and snail-mailed (love you girls, Ellen and Savannah!) and everyone who commented on posts like this. And my parents, who proof-read this story and helped me sift the typos and inconsistencies. I really appreciate you guys!
Okay, quick note and then I’ll let you read: I’m going to be posting twice a week, on Tuesday and Friday. There are close to thirty parts, so even posting twice a week this could take up quite a bit of the summer! The Mushroom Feast was the longest story before, with thirteen parts, and The Sacrifice is over twice as long!
Anyway, I’ll stop now. Enjoy!
Part First: When the Flowers Bloom. . .
The great mountain-range stretched far South; running hundreds of miles, peak after snow-capped peak. Very near the center of the long line was a wide valley, green with grass. It was surrounded by mountains, and in the middle of it was a city. Around this city ran a high wall of gray stone, with great black gates facing West. Inside the wall were houses and huts and small gardens, and smooth, narrow streets, where the townspeople lived; and in the very center of it all stood a castle, its tall, gray towers rising high into the air like the mountain-peaks around it, topped with fluttering, white flags like the snow-crowned crags of the range. In this castle dwelt the King and Queen of the Valley, Cedric and Eleanor. They had two children: Prince Henry, who was the heir to the throne, and his younger sister, nineteen-year-old Penelope.
Small, tree-clad hills crouched at the feet of the mountains, and near the City they made a ring about the Valley, inside the ring of mountains. In these foothills lived the Shepherds. The people of the City were often fair of face, but the Shepherds were tall, and dark-haired, and had olive skin. The Shepherds often sought (and found) shelter in the City when the Summers or Winters were harsh, and the people of the City—even the King and the noblemen—bought woolen cloth and goat’s milk from the Shepherds.
Neither the Shepherds or the city-folk could remember the last time any of them had left the Valley: they lived there with each other; their quiet, happy lives, in the Valley that provided everything they needed.
Princess Penelope’s black riding-boots clomped loudly on the stairs as she skipped down them, her scarlet cloak trailing on the steps behind her. She ran through the castle and out the huge, gilded front doors and across the road to the stables. Her white mare, Snowflake, stood saddled and bridled; waiting patiently. Prince Henry stood a little way off, saddling his caramel-colored stallion. The Princess looked at her mount, and then at her brother.
“You saddled my horse!” She flung herself on him and hugged him. “Thank you!”
“Ow!” he said, gently untangling himself. “Don’t strangle me—or I might stop helping you!”
Penelope smiled. “Thanks anyway. Are you ready?”
Henry nodded as he pulled the last strap tight and walked over to Snowflake. His sister followed, and he went down on one knee next to the tall horse and linked his fingers together. Penelope gently placed her left foot in his hands and grabbed the saddle-horn. Her brother lifted her up, stood, and brushed the straw off his knee. The feather in the old hat he always wore to go riding quivered slightly as he swung himself onto his own horse. “Run, Captain! To the Gate!”
Snowflake and Captain raced through the City side by side, carefully maneuvering around people and animals in the street. The guards at the Gate recognized the Prince and Princess and opened it without a word, except in greeting.
Penelope smoothed her short, brown dress over her white leggings. “The Valley is so beautiful this time of year! Imagine what it will be like when the flowers bloom!”
Henry smiled. “I suppose you’re going to try and convince me to come riding again when they do?”
His sister laughed knowingly. “And I’ll succeed. There is nothing you would rather do than ride with me, though you will be a king someday!”
“See that rock over there?” He asked, not denying or confirming her statement.
“Yes. . .” she answered suspiciously. “Why?”
“Race you! Captain, run!”
“Snowflake, run!” Penelope couldn’t help laughing with happiness as her horse shot forward and the wind caught in her golden hair and flung it out behind her.