“The Gatekeeper”

Copyright Jack Sutter 2018-2020

Prologue

The sun was setting in the west, casting its last rays upon the face of an enchanted alien world.  The rolling fields of the Kingdom of Linster radiated like a rippling sea of pale gold, and the woodlands were silhouetted darkly against the amber sky.  In the little village of Tresham the whitewashed cottages of the peasants were bathed in a warm red light, while farther away in the mighty city of Larchester the stained glass windows of the great cathedral gleamed like bright fires in the reflected light of the sun.

 

Not far from the village of Tresham, a lone woman was running through a field of barley.  All around her the darkness of the night was closing in fast like an army of black clad soldiers armed with chains and traps with which to snare her.  The sun had at last forsaken the sky and fled beyond the horizon, and as the woman ran her blonde hair streamed behind her like yellow grass whipping in the gale of a typhoon.  

 

At length, the woman at last stumbled breathlessly to a halt before the fringes of a small wood.  Her chest heaved and her knees fairly shook as her eyes searched frantically in the gloom beneath the dark trees which brooded menacingly above her.  

 

“Sykes!”, the woman cried softly.   “Sykes! Where are you?”

 

At first, there was no reply.  Then, somewhere amidst the shadows, something stirred.

 

The woman caught her breath for a moment, and then released it a momentary sigh of relief as a man’s voice called softly back to her.

 

“Joan!  Joan is that you?”

 

A moment later, a man stepped out of the woods.  He was dressed in yeoman’s clothes, soiled and bedraggled with many days of wandering, and in one hand he carried a great quarterstaff.  As he sped to her side the woman Joan reached out and grasped the man’s hand. As his fingers closed tightly around hers they quivered slightly with barely contained agitation, and in his eye there was a wild gleam of excitement.

 

“They’ve come!”, the man Sykes said with a hoarse whisper.  “They’ve come at last!”

 

Joan drew a sharp breath as her heart began to race.  After all this time, it couldn’t be true. It just couldn’t.

“Where, Skyes!”, she whispered back, “Where are they?”

 

“Come, I will show you!.”

 

Joan followed as Sykes turned swiftly back to the woods, still holding her hand.  Sykes pushed his way aggressively through the trees, as though the pair of them were being pursued by some unseen peril with the might of kings at its command.  In a few minutes, Sykes at last stopped, and shaking slightly with excitement he pointed out into the gloom beneath the trees.

 

“There Joan, just over there!”

 

A faint light was now visible a little ways into the woods ahead.  As the pair began to approach, Joan was soon able to make out several orbs of green, yellow, and red light hovering in the air like little floating lanterns.  And standing in their midst, only just visible in the faint light, was a small group of robed people. 

 

Tears were now streaming down Joan’s face.  It had been so long. So many years of suffering and heartbreak.  So many long years of searching, waiting, and hurting. Now, at long last the search was over.  At long last, all her frantic hopes had a chance to become reality. As Sykes led her slowly into the light, Joan began to cry with joy.

 

For now at last, the fairy folk were listening.

 

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