Changeling’s Choice by Rachael Ashdown

changeling75x99Vote at the end of this episode!

In the previous episode, Soren narrowly avoided a kitchen maid, successfully exiting the castle with only an old hound dog and some cakes. As the readers suggested, the maid finds him a second time, bringing him better provisions as he stops for lunch.

Episode 5

Soren was not meant for travel. He thought he could navigate the forest on his own. He was sure he would have no trouble disappearing amongst the trees. He was so sure of himself, so sure that he was a Faerie creature, that he made the enormously wrong assumption that he could somehow magic himself through the dense trees and thick undergrowth. It took him all morning and several hours of the afternoon just to reach the border of the kingdom, not even ten miles from his home. By then, his stomach was grumbling fiercely, demanding the multi-course meals he was so accustomed to from his life in the castle. He had skipped two such meals already, and it would not allow him to repeat this for a third.

Unfortunately for Soren, his hasty retreat from the kitchens had resulted in only a handful of old cakes being included in his travel sack, and by the time he sat down for a late lunch, they were nothing but crumbs. Balder, also tired and hungry, put his head on the boy’s knee, whining pitifully, his sorrowful eyes begging for something to satisfy his own hunger.

“Sorry, Balder, but all I have is this,” Soren said, holding out a handful of cake crumbs. The lack of cohesion amongst the cake fragments was of little concern to the dog, however. He quickly wolfed down half the contents of Soren’s hand, the other half disappearing into the grass below.

“Hey!” Soren complained, glaring as he snatched his hand away. “That was my lunch.”

Ignoring his companion’s protests, Balder turned away suddenly, a growl rumbling in his throat as he stared into the trees, back the way they had come. Soren, fearing his brothers had tracked him down, drew his small knife as he leapt to his feet. He had no chance against his brothers or any of the palace guards sent to find him, but that did not mean he was going without a fight.

Much to his surprise, he instead watched as a slight girl in a tattered grey dress pushed through the shrubs that blanketed the forest floor, her low voice not so low as to disguise the swears flowing freely from her mouth.

“Who are you?” Soren demanded, calling over the profanity.

“You should be a little more grateful,” she replied back, ignoring his question. “I am the one who is going to keep you from starving on this little trek of yours. Besides, you owe me after you stole those cakes I was cooling on the counter.”

“Watch your tongue, girl. I am your prince.”

“You will be a dead prince in two days if you keep up the attitude,” she snapped back. “Here.” She threw a sack at Soren, who promptly missed it. Adopting a dark look, he opened the bag, finding bread, dried meats, cheeses, and even some heartier pastries inside. “I am Linnea, by the way. Your new best friend. I will be coming with you.”

Linnea has brought food and invited herself along on Soren’s trek. But that is the least of his worries. Vote below on what will happen next or if reading in email click Take our Poll.

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