Changeling’s Choice by Rachael Ashdown

changeling75x99Vote at the end of this episode!

In the previous episode…the water spirit Aksel offered to help the travelers out of the swamp and to bring them before the Troll King and Queen. But Soren is skeptical. As the readers suggested, he will wait until they make camp during the night and then attempt to escape.

Episode 15

Soren waited in silence, but he was not idle. There was less than an hour left of sunlight, and he spent the entire length of time devising ludicrous ideas of how to escape from the clutches of their deceptively generous guide. But Dania had also been deceptively generous. Look where that had gotten them. Nearly eaten, according to Linnea.

As darkness fell, their guide pulled what appeared to be a handful of fireflies from within his silvery-blue tunic. He did not even pause, but simply kept on moving, taking them along a path that appeared to rise up from the bog under his feet. Soren swore that there was nothing there before he stepped into the murky waters, but a winding path appeared before them, illuminated by the soft natural lighting. It was pretty, and Linnea’s face reflected her appreciation. Soren, however, did not appreciate the fact that it seemed their guide had no intentions of pausing for the night.

“Pardon me, Aksel,” Soren called out, stopping as they turned into another impassable labyrinth of low, mossy branches and fetid water. “But should we not stop for the night? It is getting quite late.”

“Oh, but if we continue on now, we shall reach the borders of the swamp just after midnight. There we shall be far safer, closer to the Royal Halls.”

“We have had a long day,” Soren said with a yawn to emphasize his point. “I do not think I can continue on another step.”

“Feet hurting, little princeling?” Linnea asked with an unkind chortle. “Perhaps you should just stay here. Aksel and I shall continue on.”

“No, no, it is alright. We can camp here,” Aksel said quickly, coming back towards the two youths. Much to their surprise they now appeared to be in an open clearing, a patch of earth beneath them that was unusually dry for the location. “It is best that neither of you are left to wander. This is a dangerous part of the Wildlands.”

“Wonderful,” Soren said, plopping down promptly, clearly demonstrating his disinclination to continue further. “I will take first watch.”

Much to his annoyance, though everything annoyed him these days, the young prince heard the bubbling of musical laughter from Aksel. Why was he laughing?

“There is no need for either of you to take a turn on watch. I shall guard you during the night. I have no need to sleep.”

“Really?” Soren said, feeling his plans faltering. “Are you certain?”

“Oh absolutely. Both of you go to sleep. I shall keep you safe.”

Reluctantly, Soren began settling down to sleep. Or at least to pretend to sleep. He waited until Aksel had taken up a perch in a nearby tree before quickly leaning over and whispering to his companion.

“Be ready,” he hissed.

“For what?” Linnea asked, looking completely content but confused at his question.

“To escape. We have to get away from Aksel!”

“Are you crazy? We cannot escape by ourselves.”

“We will find a way.” Vote below on what will happen next or if reading in email click Take our Poll.

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