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Welcome back! Hopefully you had a lovely time on Sunday regardless of your personal mommy-status. To those of you for whom such holidays are bittersweet or just plain bitter, here’s a hug: ((YOU))

And now, a wave of the hat to our lovely hostess, K.L. Schwengel, and I’m off on my WIPpet. We last left Arvid and Oya following a cocky gatekeeper down a village road. I snagged the ones from today’s date to get 11 short paragraphs.

 

He led them down the only road the village boasted, past miniscule huts. People appeared at doors, eyes wide with curiosity. Their clothes, while made of perfectly good fabric of which even Mother would approve, were the dull tan of fabric stained and washed too many times, with patches of duller cloth. Whenever someone noticed the donkey, brows drew down and furtive whispers flew.

Oya fell back to walk beside Arvid, waving and smiling at everyone. “Don’t worry. The gatekeeper may not recognize you, but someone else will.”

“I’m not sure it will help.” Arvid waved at a staring toddler with a tuffet of dark brown curls. “I think these people believe the story about the monsters in the mountains.”

Oya studied the nearest foothills. “That’s just an old fairy tale. There’s nothing to it.” Her tone sounded confident, but her mouth turned down speculatively.

“Whether it is or not, I don’t think they’re going to let us keep going if they can stop us. There’s supposed to be a treaty or something isn’t there? No one takes weapons into the mountains. Even so, I can’t go back home without a wizard.”

“Treaty or no, they’ll have to make an exception. I’ll help. I don’t think they can stop both of us. Getting the donkey out will be the problem.”

“You need to go back to Kiano.”

“It won’t take long.”

Arvid opened her mouth to argue further and snapped it shut again. The gatekeeper waved proudly at the pale-wood hut sprawling in palatial elegance next to its neighbors. It occupied little more space than Arvid’s hut back home, but in this remote hamlet the gatekeepers pride was justified. A hawk-nosed woman with skin like gathered suede and a receding line of iron-gray hair sat in a chair by the door.

“Evening, Great-Grandmother. I’d like you to meet Prophecy Girl, her friend, and her heavily armed donkey.” The gatekeeper spoke loudly and slowly, enunciating each word carefully. “They’ve come to visit you tonight.”

The old woman smiled toothlessly. “Well, isn’t that nice! Come in, Girls. I just finished roasting a duck.”

 

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Detail of Howard Pyle illustration from the 1903 edition of The Story of King Arthur and His Knights

Detail of Howard Pyle illustration from the 1903 edition of The Story of King Arthur and His Knights

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