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Parlee and the Dragon Keys
Fantasy Adventure with a Twist of Faith
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They continued on the path and were just entering a wooded area when they saw someone coming toward them. They watched as a man in a hooded cape, on a brown horse, approached. For the first time Parlee noticed that Kig put his hand on his rapier. The thin sword had been exchanged for his walking stick and hung at his side since they left Martyn’s Ferry. Parlee hadn’t paid much attention to it until now. She felt Kig’s body tense and his eyes take in his surroundings, so as to be ready for anything that may happen. The man seemed to be moving even more slowly once he became aware of the black horse ahead of him. Kig turned his head to address Parlee, “I may need to dismount suddenly, be prepared to take the reins and ride off quickly.”
They looked back at the path, but the caped man had vanished. Kig pulled his horse to a stop and listened. Parlee listened too. She tried to hold her breath so as not to disturb Kig, unfortunately that seemed to cause her to breathe more heavily when she did need a breath. They moved forward cautiously. There was a snap of a twig at their left. The black horse was startled but maintained his ground. Kig and Parlee attempted to see through the woods, but they were thick and dark. A second snap of a twig at their left caused Kig to draw his rapier. Better to have it ready in case he needed it. Parlee wasn’t sure how best to stay out of the way and she prayed it wouldn’t come to a fight.
“Stay where you are, and don’t move, or you’ll feel the sting of my crossbow,” the deep voice of a man said from behind the trees at their left.
“What do you want?” yelled Kig forcefully. “If it’s money you want, we have very little, but we’re willing to let you have it if you are willing to allow us to be on our way.”
The man in the woods seemed to be considering the offer. His voice now came from a few feet away from the first contact, “How much do you have?”
“Between the two of us,” Kig replied, “about six silver coins,” .
“And three copper,” offered Parlee.
“What about the lady with you?” the man said with interest. “Perhaps I just want her.”
“I’ll give you the coins only. Anything else will bring about your demise,” answered Kig firmly.
“Why are you here?” asked the man from a few feet the other direction.
“We’re only passing through on our way to Nim’s Port,” said Kig truthfully.
“What’s she doing here?” the man’s voice had moved towards them. “Is she yours?”
“Yes,” answered Kig sternly.
The man was silent again. Kig and Parlee could hear movement in the woods behind them, and then in front of them.
“Then sell her to me,” said the man from the woods.
Kig turned his horse to face the direction of the voice. “She is not for sale.”
“I’ll give you 5 silver coins for her,” said the man.
“No. I tell you she’s not for sale,” insisted Kig.
“Okay, okay,” said the man from further away. “7. That’s more than you offered me.”
“I’m not trying to negotiate with you,” said Kig.
“I tell you she’s not for sale. Not for any price,” yelled Kig in frustration. Kig began to turn his horse slowly listening to the man move about in the woods and trying to see him.
“9.” The voice of the man changed positions so quickly that it almost seemed like there was more than one man bidding for Parlee.
“Show yourself,” called Kig into the woods, “show yourself like a man.”
“Then what, you run me through with your sword?”
“No, so we can talk face to face like men.”
“I am not a man one can reason with,” came the answer from the woods. Then he laughed a silly laugh, but it had a frightening feel. Parlee clung tightly to Kig at the sound. The man’s voice turned inhuman and vicious as he repeated, “I am not a just a man. I am the heart of your darkest dream and you are my prey.” He paused a moment and his voice softened, “I offered you money for the girl. Now it is too late to beg for mercy.” The woods seemed to come alive from all around them. Branches snapped and shook, birds broke cover and darted to upper limbs of trees, squirrels chattered and scolded. Parlee looked one way and Kig another, but there was no sign of the man in the cape, just the continuous sound from the woods and the shuttering of leaves and scurrying of the animals.
Then, only loud enough for Parlee to hear him, Kig said, “Enough of this, hang on tight, Parlee.” In a loud voice Kig yelled, “Haw,” to his horse and they began a mad dash for the edge of the woods to the north of them. They could hear the laugh of the man and the thrashing of branches but could still see nothing.
“You’re mine, girl, mine!” the man laughed. “You have no protection from me.”
Time collapsed into a motionless state and the edge of the woods seemed to move further not closer, even though they were going as fast as the black horse was able. When they finally cleared the woods Kig leapt from his horse, rapier in hand and looked up at Parlee. “Go. Ride north and I’ll find you.”
“No, I’m not leaving you this time,” said Parlee.
“I’ll be able to handle him better alone, go.” Kig slapped the hindquarter of the black horse.
The horse trotted ahead a few feet, but Parlee reined him in and said, “No, I’m staying.” Kig was visibly unhappy with her decision to stay, but he also respected her for it. She knew that he wanted to protect her, but as of yet neither of them was sure what he was protecting her from. Kig turned his attention to the woods and the unknown. They could hear the crackle of wood, the snap of branches and the sound of hoof beats coming toward them. Kig stood his ground in the middle of the road. The hoof beats grew louder and the brown horse came flying out of the woods towards Kig, but there was no rider.
A hand grabbed Parlee’s arm and a voice hissed in her ear “Not a sound.”
“Kig!” screamed Parlee despite the warning. Kig spun around in time to see the caped man pull Parlee from the horse and hold her in front of him with her hands behind her.
“Look what I have here, a free gift,” the man laughed that horrible sickening laugh beside Parlee’s cheek. “By the way, Kig,” the man said smugly using Kig’s name, “I withdraw my offer of money for the girl. The Shadow Dragons will give me much more than that for her.”
Kig charged forward, rapier in hand.
“Stop, don’t make me hurt her,” the man said as he raised a knife to Parlee’s chest and held her fast, “the dragons will only take her alive, but if you force me to kill her now...” the man paused holding his knife in place until Kig backed away a few steps.
The man continued to taunt Kig with much enjoyment at having the upper hand. He lowered his knife and traced Parlee’s waistline with it. “Did you know that Shadow Dragons use people in their caves? I’ve heard that they put them in cages to detect if the air isn’t safe to breath. The dragons are able to get out safely, but the humans in the cages are not so…fortunate. Of course, they’re only put in the cages if they fail to be good at foraging and bringing water. Do you think she would make a good water bearer? Or will they put her straight away into a cage?”
“What do you want?” asked Kig, “You must want something or you’d have taken her away already.”
“Nothing,” the man continued to mock Kig, “There is nothing you can do.” He held Parlee tighter and raised his knife again. “I just wanted you to know her fate before I take her away. I want you to dream about it every night wondering what you could have done differently to protect her. I want you to wonder if she is their slave, their prisoner...or even alive.”
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About the Book
Before being betrayed and imprisoned, Parlee must find her way through sleepy villages, a guarded bridge, a mysterious cove and an enchanted forest on her way to Braunfield Castle. In her pocket she carries one of the three Dragon Keys which legend says holds the freedom of her world, and a scheming Generals power in check.
No truly noble quest would be complete without an entourage of diverse companions, and Parlee and the Dragon Keys provides them.
Miles: a humble donkey cart driver who offers Parlee a ride and has a familiar face that she can’t quite place. Through Parlee’s youthful eyes he seems old and worn, but in his case looks are deceiving.
Kig: a dashing swordsman, with questionable credentials, is Parlee’s soul-mate, but true love never follows a straight course which puts their devotion to one another to the test.
Smolder: a Moon Dragon who is eager to learn more about humans and quickly forms a bond with Parlee; but even this sweet-natured friend has an agenda of his own.
One of these three friends will betray her, one will deliver her to the enemy and the third will desert her for a pretty face. Knowing all this in advance will not help you to untangle the web of intrigue and plot deceptions that will lead you on an adventure with a twist of faith.
About the Author
PJ Waldeck is the writer of numerous poems, short stories, and children’s books. In her debut novel, Parlee and the Dragon Keys, she has created a central character who the author admits is far braver than she would ever dare to be. PJ was born and raised in Minnesota and currently lives in view of the mountains with husband Carl, son David, and a border terrier, Millie.