This is late, but it is still Troubadour Tuesday!! I want to thank the participants who helped create the story last week. I have reworked the segments and added something new!!

The last glowing embers of daylight cast dark shadows across the countryside. Battle worn Sir Graylen, Knight of Hallensbrough, was nearing home. Weariness dragged at his bones. His valiant steed carried him through the growing darkness. The hoof beats kept time. Memories flooded his mind. He saw the bustling streets of his village. The scent of freshly baked bread permeated the air. Children’s laughter swelled forth, ringing out in the sweet song of prosperity and happiness. How he longed to see them again, to be home!

With a snort, his charger stopped short, pulling Sir Graylen from his reverie. A worn out old man stood before him, blocking his path. The knight set his hand on the hilt of his sword, not willing to trust that the old man meant no harm. “What cause have you to stop my travels?” He asked, his senses alert for an attack.

The old man looked up at the knight with milky eyes, “Sir Graylen the Fierce. I have traveled far and with great haste bearing a story and warning.” The old man paused a moment, catching his breath before telling the knight his story. He told of the seer, the girl who could read the stars. She foretold of a curse that would befall the land should she ever disappear from beneath the very stars she read. “Indeed she has disappeared from beneath the stars, and a curse has beset our fair country of Evimaria. Only if the curse is broken, shall our seer be returned and prosperity regained.”

Sir Graylen scoffed at the warning and continued toward the castle, leaving the old man behind. As he traveled, the stars disappeared, thrusting him into oppressive darkness. His steed kept on, hooves crunching as if through dead leaves even though it was summer. The night was silent, no animals cried, no insects hummed. He listened for the stream that signaled homecoming, but heard nothing. The knight instinctively drew his sword; his battle-sharpened nerves screamed that something was not right. The old man’s words played again in his mind.

Suddenly torches flared to life in front of him revealing an empty castle and unoccupied village houses. An unearthly moan sounded through the air making his steed toss his head and snort, eyes rolling in fear. The knight lept from his horse and looked inside one of the dwellings. Supper sat upon the table, half eaten as though the people had vanished while eating. He retreated and mounted his horse, wheeling it towards the castle only to find his way blocked once again by the old man.

“Heed me Sir Graylen, the curse has been cast. You are all that remains. Ride quickly a full day west, deep into Calasyne Forest. There you shall find an ally awaiting you where the river forks in two. Prepare for a battle unlike any you have fought before” The old man cautioned and then faded away as the curse stole him. The moaning faded away with the old man and the torches died out, leaving the knight once again in darkness.

With resolve in his heart, Sir Graylen turned his charger to the west and set off on his new quest. He traveled through the night, and as the garish red light of dawn broke across the land he was horrified to see that the once fertile farmlands and rich meadows had been transformed into a barren wasteland. He pushed on, despite the foreboding pall that hung in the air.

Finally, Sir Graylen saw the forest rising from the parched earth like a Phoenix from its ashes. Relief flooded through the knight as he entered the cool shelter of the trees. He continued west until he heard the sound of running water. Sir Graylen followed it and soon came to the river. At the fork, he found his ally.
He was taken aback , for peering up at him from the river bank was an ethereal woman. Her skin and hair were pure white, and her eyes an icy blue. Delicate silver veined wings fluttered behind her, gently stirring her light blue gown. As he pulled to a stop, she rose from the boulder she had perched upon, and moved towards him. Her feet didn’t touch the ground, though her legs moved as though she walked. The knight stared, transfixed by her beauty but also by fear. There was power here.

“I am Arashiel, Queen of the Winter Realm. Magic is the domain of the Winter Court, and so I shall help you right the wrongs of my subjects.” She spoke in a voice that rang through the air like bells, but held no warmth. “The only being powerful enough to have cast this curse is the ancient ice dragon, Schneebedeckt. We shall have to travel to his lair in the North Mountains if you wish to rescue your seer.” The queen turned and let out a whistle. From the thicket appeared a magnificent unicorn, saddled with silver tack.

Sir Graylen nodded, “I understand, your majesty.” Arashiel gracefully mounted the unicorn and turned north, not waiting for the knight…