Daniel was awoken abruptly as Olivia touched down inside the tower.
“Wha? I was asleep?”
It was then he noticed that many of the great owl’s feathers had gripped him and held him in place on her back while they were in flight. They had also kept him warm since soaring through the snowy mountain passes was quite chilly.
“We’ve arrived, Daniel. You can get down now.”
Still disoriented from just waking up, the ten year old almost fell to the floor. He looked back and saw a large, open window which obviously granted the owl entrance to the tower. He looked out the window, down at the vast castle below, and the sheer drop beyond that.
“You might want to step away from there, Daniel. You aren’t gifted with wings as I am.”
“Yes, Olivia.” He walked back to the owl. Then he heard a voice address them.
“Come with me, please.”
It was a rabbit, a white rabbit, though not dressed in a waistcoat, nor did she pull a pocket watch out and declare that she was late. However, her size would have made even the largest hare back home envious.
Olivia and Daniel followed as requested and were led through many rooms. The tower was vast, made of a white stone the boy couldn’t identify. Where windows did not exist to allow light to enter, torches sufficed. As they passed from one chamber to the next and then up long flights of stairs, Daniel noticed numerous other white rabbits scurrying about, presumably performing various tasks. The owl took no notice of them.
Finally, at the very top of the tower, they entered a room with cushioned chairs and sofas.
“You will wait here please. I will inform Her Highness that you have arrived.”
With that, the rabbit turned and faced the large double doors, which seemed to open by themselves, permit the rabbit to enter, and then close of their own accord behind her.
“Sit on that sofa, Daniel.”
The boy did so and Olivia wrapped a great wing around him. “The tower is always cold and this should help.
“Thanks.” Daniel hadn’t noticed the temperature too much given that he was tired, hungry, and fascinated by his surroundings.
Presently, the doors opened and the rabbit reappeared. “Her Highness will see you now. Follow me.”
Daniel and Olivia rose and followed her through the doors. At the far end of the room, with windows on each side of her throne, was the Queen. She was a beautiful lioness with fur the color of burnt amber. True, she could not recline on a traditional throne, but she sat regally on a dias possibly made of pure ivory. A simple crown was upon her noble head, and across her shoulders rested a purple robe of royalty.
“You may approach,” the Queen commanded. “Cheryl, you may wait outside.”
The white rabbit bowed her head. “At once, your Highness.” The rabbit left and the doors closed behind her.
“We are alone, at least for the moment. Please refresh yourself with these morsels and then sit.”
This was the first time Daniel noticed platters of food resting on a counter to his right. There were fresh strawberries, cream, a bowl of some sort of grain mix, melon slices, and grapes. At the sight of the grapes, he was reminded of Aunt Abby’s kitchen and a wave of homesickness momentarily rushed over him.
He served himself and then turned. The owl had dined on the food stuffs placed on a counter to the left, though he tried not to think of what would satisfy the night hunter’s appetite.
The owl made herself comfortable sitting on down and soft branches placed on the floor for her, while Daniel sat on an ornately carved cushioned chair.
Her Highness waited until he had finished his breakfast and returned the leavings to the counter. Then he sat before her once more.
“Dearest Olivia, thank you for safely bringing me this important visitor. I have long wanted to meet him.”
The owl closed her eyes and bowed her head but said nothing. Then the lioness turned to the child.
“Daniel, I know you have come here at great cost and effort, but I must tell you the need of you is urgent. Secrets must now be revealed to you, so that one day, we may be free.”
Daniel was reminded of the saying “sitting on pins and needles” as he waited for the Queen to continue.
“I am Queen Areille and am the rightful ruler of this realm. My position was usurped by a powerful upstart long ago, and the order of my world and yours was upset.
“Unfortunately, I am a prisoner in my own high tower and am unable to resume my rightful place as ruler. Instead, a dictator has control.
“Years ago, one was discovered with the gift, a child of your world able to see into ours. Guardians were appointed to encourage the gifted one until he was ready to assume his role and begin the return to balance.
“Of course, I’m speaking of you.”
“Guardians? My Mom and Dad are involved?”
“You are now of age to fulfill your destiny and break the bonds of tyranny that have been strangling my realm and allowing yours to be invaded. You must defeat our enemy and find the passage back to your own world. Only then can we regain our freedom and resist the evil.”
“The Lion. I must defeat the King. But how?”
“No, dear one. My mate, was only a figurehead, though he never realized it. He can be defeated without your intervention, and I suspect he already has been. No, your real adversary is Gerald the Roc. He is the true Emperor of evil. He is the one who seeks your death.”
“But when William kicked him…how could that have happened if Gerald is so much stronger?”
“Gerald is not invincible and besides, you were there. His power wanes as yours waxes. That said Daniel, do not underestimate him. He can yet slay you, and plans to do so in short order. If you are slain, his power will become limitless, and he will not need to keep me alive in the high tower any longer.”
Daniel looked at the large open windows to either side of the Queen and then turned to Olivia.
“You’re large enough to carry Her Highness. If she’s in danger…”
“No, Daniel. Even Olivia cannot effect my escape, for my guards are everywhere and we would be stopped in an instant.”
“Guards? I haven’t seen any guards.”
“Then turn around and see for yourself.”
Daniel stood and turned. They were silent as the grave and more numerous than grains of sand on a beach. Their eyes glowed red.
This concept is loosely based on Iain Kelly’s recent A to Z Challenge 2017 story series. Every day, Iain crafted another puzzle piece to his murder mystery that had me and his other readers spellbound. I doubt I can create the suspense he conjured up, but when my wife got a giant A to Z jigsaw puzzle for our two-year-old granddaughter, I thought I’d give it a whirl.
I don’t have a lot of time, so I think each “letter” will be shorter and I’m not sure I can write one every day, but I’ll do my best.
The previous story is P is for Pig.
The next story is R is for Rabbit.
I’m back home now, and I have a little more time to write. I took photos of each of the remaining puzzle pieces, so I should be able to continue writing regularly. My schedule will be interrupted again next Thursday, but hopefully, I’ll have several other chapters published by then. Enjoy.