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The Mysterious Minstrel

Chapter Three:

Escaping the Vines

Stomping wildly, I slashed at the vine with my dragon dagger. It was no use; it kept growing back—stronger! It wound itself under my cloak and around my body, then started weaving its way around my left arm, locking it to my side.
My fear choked me, making me gasp. A small light beamed into my eyes from my pendant, and an image of Crimson’s calm face flickered through my mind, soothing me. Of course—my pendant! But the vine was all over me. If I burned it with the pendant’s light I would be burned too. I hesitated, my free hand hovering over the pendant. It felt like it was getting hotter—I would have to trust it. I wrapped my hand around it and…and nothing happened. It didn’t send out a light to destroy the vine!
Instead, an overwhelming sense of peace filled me, and a memory rose in my imagination. A memory of Tanglegreen telling me about the elves’ growing powder and how I could destroy the plant. A manic laugh escaped from my lips—I only had one free hand—how could I do it? Dropping my knife, I yanked my right arm up, tearing it away from a few vine tendrils that were wrapping themselves around my forearm. I reached inside my cloak and felt for the pocket holding the unicorn rope and took it out. How could I wrap it around the vine with only one hand?
A vine reached for my outstretched arm. Twisting away, I placed the rope in its path. A few seconds later, it had wound itself around the rope. My legs were bound together, so I shuffle-jumped until my foot stood on the dangling end of the rope. Then I yanked the other end with all the might I could muster.
The unicorn magic in my rope made it glow blue as it reacted to the elf magic in the plant, and then the plant shuddered. A few moments later it began to wither and die, as if I had pulled it out by its roots. Just like Tanglegreen had said. Thank the Creator of All! I let out an enormous sigh and leaned against the wall, then pulled off the limp vines that encircled me.
After I’d stopped shaking, I grabbed a torch off the wall and ran down the passage, trying to catch up with Basil. A few turns later, I heard the clang of a door up ahead. Running around a few more corners I spotted an iron door, which opened easily. I ran outside, but couldn’t see Basil anywhere.
“Kinsey!” I heard Crimson call. “This way.” Her head was poking around the far corner of the castle.
“How did you find me?” I asked her when I reached her.
“The pendant. I can sense it. And it was telling me you were in danger. Are you all right?” She nosed my shoulder.
I held onto her head with both hands. “I had a fight with a vine, thanks to the Basil, the shoemaker.”
“Ah. He’s not alone. He’s working with the minstrel. Did you notice how everyone listening to him singing went so still? He put them all into a trance, then came out here and rode off with your shoemaker.”
Dropping my hands, I looked around. “Which direction? Let’s follow them.”
Crimson snorted as I climbed into her saddle. “I’m not so sure we should do that, m’lady. What on earth would your father say?”
Was she really going to tease me now? “If you don’t think we should go, how come you’ve got your saddle on already? Just planning on an evening stroll, were you?” I tugged hardon a clump of her mane.
“Ouch.” She turned and walked in the direction she’d said Basil had taken. “I thought you might like to see the stars. They’re so lovely tonight. Then you can try to embroider them tomorrow. I would so hate for you to miss your needlework lesson.”
I dug my heels into her side.
“I hardly felt that. Where are your new boots?”
“I’ll tell you on the way. Can we just go, please?”
She nickered. “Always in a hurry, Guardian.” She started to trot, only stopping at the guardhouse to ask them to pass me some boots and tell her which way Basil had gone. Once we cleared the village, she broke into a gallop and all thoughts of needlework and noble manners flew from my head. We were off on an adventure!

***

A few hours later, the adventure didn’t seem so exciting. We’d splashed though a stream, and I’d got quite wet; the boots the guard had found me were a little small; and we had no idea where Basil and the Minstrel were. Plus, I hadn’t told anyone where I was going. “Liliana’s going to worry about me,” I blurted out.
“No, silly. I told her I was taking you riding for a few days,” Crimson said.
I fell down on her neck. “Thank you.”
“Let’s rest under those trees. You sound exhausted. We’ll be able to pick up the trail in the morning.” I hopped off her back, and she lay down under a tree.
She was right; I was exhausted. The warmth of my cloak soaked into me as I wrapped it tight around my tired body. Sleep took me only a few minutes after I settled against Crimson.

***

Someone was pushing me. “Wake up, Kinsey, wake up! Put your hood on!” Crimson. It was Crimson, nuzzling me. Instinctively, I yanked on my hood as I jumped to my feet. Something was crashing through the trees. The branches parted and out stepped a:

A. a Troll (supposedly they had all been banished from the kingdom)
B. a Jagotchy (large creatures with ape-like bodies and four-eyed heads shaped like a wild pig; with mouths filled with three rows of teeth).

Medieval Vocab

Word: Barbican
Definition: any tower situated over a gate or bridge which was used to defend against attack

Word: Barber Surgeon
Definition:  The monk who shaves faces and heads and performs light surgery.

Word: Earl
Definition:  The highest title attainable by an English nobleman who is not of royal blood.

Word: Horse Bread
Definition: Bread made from beans (not wheat)

Featured Pets

My friend Gabrielle shared some her photos of her pet rabbits—and some fun facts for this month’s Pet Corner. If you want to see more, you can find her, and her rabbits on instagram at:@only1thistle. The rabbits in the buckets are called Movo (first pink bucket); Koala (blue bucket) and Snickers (in the right pink bucket). Click on the photo to view it in a bigger size.

If you would like your pet featured on the next chapter page, please email me at: “kc at karencossey dot com” and send me a photo and a few details. I’d love to share them with our book club community.

Book Review

Picture of my cats

Right from the start when the unlikely heroine, Freya cleverly escapes some village boys intent on tormenting her, you see that she is resourceful and independent. As a baby her face is disfigured in an accident with scalding hot water and she loses sight in one eye. All her childhood she is bullied because of this and so she has learned how to be content in her own company.

The story begins when Freya is nearly fourteen and her family is selected to live in the Golden City – which was “a ticket out of poverty and into a better life’. I liked how the world Freya lived in was presented by the author; I could see it all in my mind and it fitted together well. I was excited for Freya’s family as they left their impoverished life behind and was excited to see the Golden City. Unfortunately Freya never makes it into the Golden City as she is stopped at the Gate and her true past is revealed, and then she is separated from her parents and destined to die, her rescue coming only minutes before she was to be thrown to her death in the pit.

As the story unfolds, Freya’s resilience and determination serve her well. There are clues in an ancient prophecy to be followed and understood, each of them with dangers to overcome, making it an exciting and adventurous story that tweens and young teens will love. I especially appreciated the family aspect to the story, and how Freya’s being torn from her family affected her mother, father and brother. The shift between their story and Freya’s built the tension and made for a page-turner of a book.

I thoroughly enjoyed getting wrapped up in Medar—Freya’s world—it was engrossing. The author has done an excellent job with this, the first book in her series and I’ve already read the second book in the series and found it just as appealing.

Find it at Amazon here.

Crimson the Unicorn
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Kinsey Our Heroine
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