The Songbird

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic
I've never written fantasy before, so this is new for me. My friend asked write a story about penguins and "delicious popcorn" and for fun this is what came of that. Also, she asked to use part of a poem that she wrote, so I used that part as the Songbird riddle. The result was a fantasy children's short story. The main character, Isabella, is a princess (although she doesn't know it) and must call upon the Songbird to help destroy all evil that threatens her land. She is faced with many dangers but protected by a penguin army. Like all children story's, there are some cliches, but I tried to make this a very unconventional children's story. Although on surface the story seems very childish, I wrote it in a way where anyone who enjoys fantasy and adventure would hopefully enjoy it. Like I said this is new for me, so please leave feedback and suggestions.

Submitted: June 11, 2014

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Submitted: June 11, 2014

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 The morning brilliance of the sun's illumination tiptoed over the crest of the Aurora Mountains.  The glacial surface glistened as the ice mirrored a reflection of the sunlight.  Stillness swept throughout the void of the mountains, lifeless and abandoned.  The cliffs soared far beyond the clouds into the Heavens above.  Below the base of the mountain, there rested a green valley known as the Shorewind Forest.  The Shorewind Forest was full of life and mysteries.  Its area spread for thousands of miles, and within were creatures that resided in solitary and peace.

About twenty miles into the forest, away from the base of the mountains, their lived a colony of gnomes in a patch of jumboshrooms. Jumboshrooms are, as you could guess, mushrooms of extraordinary size; so large that they stood as tall as most pine trees within the forest.  The stems of these jumboshrooms spread out to be as wide as forty feet at the base, enough to house a family of four or five gnomes comfortably.  Oh so you thought gnomes were small? Think again.  The Shorewind Gnomes are about as tall as your average human, maybe 5'5'' or 5'6''.

The jumboshrooms were created very efficiently, with multiple floors connected by ladders.  Each floor only had one room, getting smaller as you got closer to the roof.  Each room was about fifteen feet tall, so the average jumboshroom of one hundred and fifty feet could have fifteen floors.  Four bedrooms, two bathrooms, two playrooms for the children, a living room, dinning room, kitchen, an attic, and three rooms for storage.  In this particular jumboshroom patch, there were about a hundred jumboshrooms, all housing gnome families.

There was one other that lived among them.  Her name was Isabella. Although she wasn't a gnome, she was a human.  One day one of the gnome food-gatherers, Giffy, went out of the patch into the forest to gather some berries and herbs for dinner.  He heard a cry coming from with a tree-hollow from within a weeping willow tree.  Curious, a characteristic of most gnomes, Giffy crept towards the tree-hollow and saw within it, a small abandoned baby.  It was Isabella. She was wrapped in a red silk blanket, with a diamond pattered.  In gold, her name was stitched in cursive across the blanket. Also, on her wrist was a silver tattoo, more like a birthmark, of a large treble cleft.  Giffy took the poor girl back with him and brought her into his home.  Giffy and his wife, Driel, could never have a child.  They tried for years, but they were never blessed with the gift of a child of their own.  Giffy and Driel saw this as their gift from the spirit of the forest.  For the past twenty-one years, Giffy and Driel, raised Isabella as their own child. Isabella became one of the gnomes, and grew to be six feet tall, significantly taller than most gnomes. She lived happily among them, although no feeling could every fill the void of not knowing her birth parents.

The gnomes were peaceful folk.  They calmly waltzed through life, taking joy in simple gatherings around campfires and storytelling’s of the heritage of the Gnome race.  They would sing folk songs, dance, and fiddle until the campfire sizzled into smoke.  Life and laughter whirled within the air of this jumboshroom patch.  But like all good things in this world, things were going to take a turn for the worse.  Gnome-life as we know it, was going to be changed forever.

There was a rustling within the Shorewind trees surround the patch.  The gnomes picked up their pitchforks, rakes, and shovels as they approached the edge of the patch. 

"Who's there? Show yourself!"  Giffy commanded.

"We know you're out there! What do you want?" Baliff, another patch-folk exclaimed.

The sound of sticks snapping and branches cracking grew louder and closer with every passing second.  Suddenly appearing out of the trees, on great black horses, rode in a legion of goblins.  They were in studded black armor and armed with swords, axes, and bows.

"Goblins!" A gnome screamed. 

"Everybody run! Seek Shelter,” A woman cried manically.

The gnomes began to retreat away from the goblins, when the leader of the legion took off his helmet and spoke. 

"Stop! All of you! Or we will destroy you!" The goblin roared.  His flesh was an oily, murky green color, his eyes bright yellow, and nose long and pointed.  His ears were small and sharp, and he teeth were corroded and decayed.  They were short creatures, but still very strong, and one of the angriest creatures in the forest.

"My name is Krishneck. We are not here for all of you! Only one. Where is the one named Isabella?" The goblins began to scan the crowed to see any indication of which of them could be the girl they are looking for.  Isabella took a step forward out of the crowd and faces the goblins. 

"I'm Isabella." she bravely spoke. 

"Isabella no!" Driel dove towards her to pull her away from the goblins, but Giffy grabbed her to hold her back. Krishneck smirked and got off of his horse.

"Ah, of course. The most beautiful, Princess Isabella." Princess, What? Isabella thought.

"I'm not Princess, I'm just a patch-folk just like everyone else here. Just leave us alone, we have nothing here for you."  Isabella tried her best to force the goblins to leave and protect her family and friends, but the goblins were not going anywhere.

"Oh that is where you are wrong lovely!  There is something here we desire. You, Princess. And we are not going to leave without you, you see?" The goblin took a step forward towards Isabella, but she took a step back in fear.

" Let me put it this way lovely. If you choose not to come with us, then we shall rain fire down upon your precious patch, and your entire family and friends. You know what I mean?"  The gnomes because to weep and shed tears of terror, even the brave Isabella.

" I'm growing impatient lovely. Come now, or you all will burn. Now!" Krishneck commanded assertively.  Isabella knew what she must do; she had to leave to protect the ones she loved.

"I will go, just keep my family safe."

"No! Isabella, you mustn't go! You can't leave us!"  Driel broke away from Giffy's grasp and embraced her daughter.  Giffy, drowning in tears, approached his family and embraced them both.  Then little Gustave, a young halfing from the neighboring shroom to Isabella, wiggled his way out of the crowed and embraced Isabella.

"Isabella, you can't leave me! Who will play in the forest with me and fight the dragons!" Isabella looked at little Gustave and spoke to him. 

"You can defeat all the dragons you desire.  You can do anything as long as you believe in yourself.  I will still be with you." And Isabella, knelt down and put her hand on little Gustave's heart.

"But I must go, it is the only way you will be safe."  Her family knew it had to be done; with great strength they had to let her go.

Isabella approached the goblin and he tied her hands behind her back with extra strong rope, and then locked her in a steel cage that was being pulled on wheels by two horses.

"Now take me away and never come back to this place again! You have what you want!" Isabella fiercely snapped at Krishneck.

"As you wish." Krishneck nodded. He looked at his legion and gave an order. 

"Burn it down!" Krishneck raised his hand and a purple force field created a dome around the patch, that none of the gnomes could pass through. They were trapped. The other goblins lit torches and arrows and fired amongst the patch.

"No! You promised! You said you'd leave them alone!" Isabella shouted, in fear. 

"No lovely, I said I would never come back again.  Trust me I will not, there will be nothing left here but dust and ash. Legion! Ride out!" The legion began to ride into the forest.  Isabella, caged, was taken away as she gazed upon her patch ignited in smoke and flames.  The last thing she saw was the panicked face of Gustave, and her parents.  Within moments, Isabella was within the deep of the Forest and was out of sight, only to be haunted by the distant echoes of her burning home.  The screams grew fewer and fewer, until they shortly were completely silent. Her home, her family and friends, were gone.

 ? *** ? 

After a long journey, dismal and distraught, Isabella and the goblins reached the base of the Aurora Mountains. They approached a dark, murky cave that sank below the mountains.

"Welcome to your new home, my love." Krishneck smirked at Isabella, who was still weeping in the corner of her cage. They made their way into the cave, and as soon as they entered there was a sudden jolt of loud crashing, and banging noises.  Isabella lifted her head from her hands and peered around her surroundings.  There were goblins everywhere, mining, and digging, making armor, weapons and artillery.  The air was thick with fumes that smelled like smoke and iron.  The lighting was very dim, only illuminated by few torches along the walls.  The goblins brought Isabella, to the dungeon of the cave.  As they retrieved her from the cage and threw her behind the dungeon bars, she was weak and motionless.  Her eyes, giving off a blank stare of shock and grief.

"Make yourself comfortable lovely.  You are going to be here for a very long time."  Krishneck, locked the dungeon and left with the rest of the goblins.  There were no torches in the dungeon, and Isabella was left in utter darkness.

Many hours later, Krishneck came back with food for Isabella.  He fit a bowl through the cell bars and left it one the floor. He laid his torch on the ground and took a seat.

"So I'm guessing you are wondering why you are here lovely?" Krishneck ask. But Isabella gave no response.

"You are here because you are the only one that can stop us.  You see there are more important things in this world than jumboshroom patches and gnomes my loves.  Up in the peak of the Aurora Mountains, beyond the clouds, there lies a kingdom. This kingdom has a very strong army that guards something special, the Emperor's Staff. Magic can do many things, but it cannot take lives away, or give lives back.  All magic spells have their weakness; all magic spells can be stopped.  But with this staff, I can be the giver and taker of life.  I can cast spells that are invincible, spells that can never be broken or stopped.  I can do anything I wish, and with that come the power to rule the Shorewind Forest…or the entire world." Isabella looked up at him with her bloodshot eyes that have been dried out of any more tears. 

"How can I possibly stop your entire army?" Isabella wondered why she was so special.

" That birthmark on your wrist… that is no ordinary birthmark.  You hold the power of the treble cleft, the power of the Songbird.  This spell has been passed down throughout generations of your family.  Your family thrived with the power of the Songbird.  You see, the Songbird is a creature that can only appear when the most genuine music is played and listened to by one who carries the treble cleft spell. You carry that spell, you can harness the Songbird. "  Krishneck's eyes filled with fright, just with the slight thought of the Songbird. 

"What is so special about this Songbird?" 

"Oh my love, you know so little.  My Goblin Army has joined forces with the Ogres, and the only Fireheart Dragon in all the land.  We wish to acquire the Emperor's Staff and control the world.  But if the Songbird is harnessed, then it will fly over us and sing a song so pure, so divine, that any evil that hears it will be destroyed forever.  The Fireheart Dragon, was created at the beginning of days.  When the world was created all the evil was placed in one source, the Fireheart Dragon.  He is made with all of the original and purest evil.  Nothing can destroy him except the melody of the Songbird.  Not to mention, all my army and me will be destroyed.  But luckily I have cursed this cave to be sound proof and no sound will leave the exit. "

"And what if I escape?" 

"Oh my love, even if you do escape, you won't be able to summon the Songbird.  There is something else in the Kingdom of the Aurora Mountains, a necklace.  A necklace of pure silver, with an illuminating pendent of a treble cleft.  Only when one who bares the mark of the treble cleft wears this necklace, can the Songbird be summoned.  You are out of luck lovely." And with that Krishneck took his torch, and went to leave the dungeon, and Isabella alone in darkness again.

I'm a Princess. A Princess that can harness the most powerful creature in the land. Krishneck turned around before we was out of sight and made a last remark. 

" You're parents, the King and Queen of the Kingdom of the Aurora Mountains, were a threat to us for years, your mother carried the spell as well.  But one night I was able to stealth my way into the Kingdom and I killed the precious King and Queen while they were asleep.  However I did not know they just gave birth to a daughter who carried the spell as well. Once I found out, the Kingdom new we would be back to destroy you so they brought you into the forest and left you to be safe with the gnomes.  Now I've got you."  And with that Krishneck left. 

My parents are dead. Giffy, Driel, and Gustave, the entire patch….they're all dead.  Isabella fell to the floor and starred into the void of darkness that consumed her.

?*** 

The traffic in the cave began to suppress as night befell upon the land.  Isabella fell asleep in her prison cell and the goblins cascaded into slumber.  Within the darkness there were footsteps that awoke Isabella from her dreams, and brought her back into this nightmare of a reality. The footsteps were getting closer, and it sounded like there were many of them.

"Who's there? What do you want?" Isabella cried.  But there was no answer; shuffle of dirt and rocks just began to grow louder as the footsteps crept closure.

"Close your eyes, Isabella. Don't ask questions, just close your eyes." A voice commanded out of the darkness.

"What reason do I have to trust you.”? Isabella ask. 

"You don't, but we are your only option. Are your eyes closed?" 

"Yes." And with that Isabella closed her eyes and there was an extremely bright flash of white light with a sudden freezing chill that filled the air.  Isabella heard the gates of her prison cell crash open and out of the darkness a hand grabbed her arm.  It wasn't a hand.  It felt, wet, and cold, and it seemed to be covered in fur.

"What are you?" Isabella fearfully questioned. 

"Questions are for later Princess. Alright gents, lets move out."  Isabella, her guide, and the rest of the surrounding creatures shuffled their way out of the cave.  It was difficult in complete darkness.  They snuck passed sleeping goblin guards, and made their way of out the cave without making a sound.  Once they exited the cave and were at the base of the mountain, the moonlight revealed Isabella's saviors.  They were penguin knights! About ten of them only two or three feet tall, dressed up in cast iron armor and armed with unique penguin-forged swords.  The one guiding her was holding a staff wearing a cloak with a wizard's hat.  His beard was long and white and barely dragged on the ground when he waddled. The wizard turned to her. 

"Hello Princess Isabella, I'm am Waddles the Warlock. We are here to rescue you." For the first time since Isabella was away from home, she was able to smile.

" Is that… the Emperor's Staff?" Isabella asked to the wizard with a sense of fear.

"No, no my dear.  The penguins protect the Staff, we don't use it.  Such a power should never be used.  We have tried to destroy it but it has never worked, so to keep the lands safe we guard it for no one else to use."  Isabella sensed the loyal and genuine nature of the penguins.  She felt safe and protected.

"Where are you going to take me?"

"Well to our Kingdom of course! We must keep you safe.  It is time to fulfill your destiny my dear.  The prophecy has been written, and the time has come.  Everyone on the toboggan!"  The penguins climbed aboard a large wooden toboggan and Isabella was placed right in the middle. The last person to get on was Waddles.  He yelled out to everyone. 

"Is everybody ready? Lets go!"  Waddles took his staff and touched in against the ground.  Suddenly a burst of snow blew the toboggan forwards as it propelled up the mountainside.  The spray from the snow and the biting wind sent chills through Isabella's body, but she felt so alive in that moment with adrenaline pumping through her veins.  She peered ahead as they were reaching beyond the clouds and she saw the Kingdom.  It was completely made of snow and ice. Walls, the height of ten jumboshrooms, surrounded the boarders and in the center was a magnificent ice castle, so beautiful like the ones described in the campfire stories back at the patch. How could little penguins build such vast structures? It was truly a remarkable sight to see. They approached the gate and Waddles stood up on the toboggan, raised his staff and released an energy that opened the gates.

As they entered the kingdom, Isabella scanned the city and it was filled with igloos. Igloos that were penguin homes, stores, even schools, and restaurants! She looked towards the school and saw a huddle of penguins, playing games with each other.  She saw other penguins that set up shops to sell fish, lobster, and all kinds of other food.  Everyone seemed so full of joy. This place was truly a kingdom.

"You must be cold! Take this cloak.  It was made with the finest of penguin linens, it will keep you warm even under the most chilling weather."  A penguin handed Isabella a special yellow silk cloak to wear.

"Thank you very much, and what is your name?"  Isabella, had not met this penguin knight before.

"My name is Tux. I am the Captain of the Penguin Knight Brigade.  I'm at your service whenever you need me Princess."  Tux, had a kind smile, and was very compassionate to Isabella.  She was so relieved she was out of that dreadful cave, and safe with the penguins.

"Well thank you very much Tux."

"It is my pleasure Princess. Now you must come with me, our Emperor wants to meet with you."  Isabella became nervous once again.  She has never met an Emperor of anything before.  She never knew she was a princess either.  Tux escorted Isabella to the Kingdom's Ice Castle to meet the Emperor.  When they arrived there was a very long staircase, maybe up to two hundred steps.  After a very tiring climb up, they came to a set of thick ice double doors.  They immediately opened and they stepped forward into the Great Hall of the castle.  At the end of the Great Hall, Isabella could see the Emperor Penguin sitting on his throne.  She made her way across the room with Tux at her side.  Once they reached the Emperor, Isabella knelt down and bowed to him graciously.

"Do not bow to me Princess, it is I who should bow to you." The Emperor stood up from him throne and waddled over to Isabella, bow to her and kissed her hand softly.

"It is my honor to have you in my Kingdom Princess Isabella. I am Emperor Winston “ Isabella didn't know how to respond. The Emperor just bowed to me.  He is honored to meet me… just me?  

"I'm very gracious for your help in freeing me from imprisonment and letting me stay in your kingdom."

"Well I hope you will be very happy here.  But for that to be so, there is work to be done.  I assume that by now you are aware of the vital role you play in the future of this land.  Come with me." The Emperor took Isabella's hand and walked her through a door behind his throne.  Tux waited in the Great Hall for when she returned.  When they entered the room there were jewels and treasures beyond imaginable.  At the end of the room there was an ice pillar in which on top of it rested a white staff with a bright cobalt blue crystal on the top of it.

"Ah, you know of the Emperor's Staff.  Yes, we keep it locked up here in our fortress. No being should be allowed to yield such great power.  But you don't need to be concerned with the Staff, you need this."  The Emperor opened an icebox and within it was the silver necklace with the treble cleft pendent.  He had her knell down as he put the necklace around her neck. 

"At last, the necklace is returned to its rightful owner."  They walked out of the room and back into the Great Hall where hundreds of penguins were gathered.  When they saw Isabella wearing the necklace they all cheered and clapped for her in triumph and victory.  Isabella stepped forward and spoke.

"Thank you very much for the necklace, and your kindness.  But I'm not a Princess.  I have lived in a jumboshroom patch for the past twenty-one years.  I don't know what to do with this necklace or how to even use it."  Isabella, felt disappointed in herself, because she knew she wasn't fit to be the savior of the land, or at least that is what she thought.

"All you have to do now is sing the melody of the Songbird, and he will arise and save us from the Fireheart Dragon!" Tux exclaimed out to Isabella. 

"But I don't know the melody of the Songbird.  I don't know what to sing or how to summon him!"  The penguins went completely silent.  Out of the crowd arose Waddles.  He shuffled over to her and spoke. 

" Do you know what the Songbird is, Isabella?"

"Yes it is a bird that can only be summoned…"

"No the Songbird is more than what people describe.  The Songbird is hope.  Hope for all of us, that one day this land can be rid of evil."  Isabella truly began to realize what this Songbird meant to the penguins of the Aurora Mountains.

"Hope is the thing with feathers, 

That perches in the soul, 

That sings the tune without the words, 

And never stops at all

This is all you need to know Isabella, the rest you will find within your heart.  You can do this.  We all believe in you. Now you must find strength to believe in yourself."  These words echoed in Isabella's head.  She knew now that she was truly the only one that could save this land that could save these penguins from the terror they are soon about to face. It's only a matter of time until the goblins and ogres march upon The Kingdom with the Fireheart Dragon.  Isabella must find strength, and the way to summon the Songbird soon, or else it will be chaos forever.

"GOBLINS! GOBLINS APPROACHING THE KINGDOM!" A penguin knight alerted the entire Great Hall that there were goblins marching.  Tux drew his sword and gathered warriors to leave the gates and go into battle.  He looked toward the direction of the goblins, there were only about ten of them.  What could they want? Tux and ten his brigade of penguin knights stormed out of the castle to meet the goblins who looked very enraged.

"What business do you have in the Aurora Mountains…goblins.”? Tux inquired to the enemy legion. Among them was Krishneck.  He stepped forward and replied. 

"Don't play coy with me, you took something of mine and I want it back."  Krishneck had a tight grip on his bow.

"I don't believe we have anything here that is rightfully yours."

"You broke into my cave, destroyed my dungeon, and stole my lovely Princess Isabella.  I saw your penguin footprints everywhere. Give her back, or you are asking for war."  The evil in Krishneck's eyes pierced straight into Tux.  Tux was not phased in the least, and stood strong against Krishneck.

"Then war you shall get. Now leave our land."  The Goblin army slowly retreated. 

"Oh we are leaving, but first…” And then Krishneck drew and arrow and shot it right at Tux and struck him in the chest.  With that, Krishneck waved his hands and green smoke bursted into the air.  When it dissolved away, all of the goblins were gone.

"TUX! NO!" One of the knights, shuffled over to his fallen captain.

"You will make it Tux, hang in there." the other knights held him and carried him beyond The Kingdom's walls.  Isabella ran over to Tux and held him in her arms.

"Waddles! Waddles! We must help him, what can we do?" Waddles went over to Tux to examine the wound.  "We were shot with a poisoned tipped arrow.  Goblin poison is very nasty, I only know of one cure. But it is too far away from here." Isabella's eyes widened to the fact that there is a cure out there that could save Tux. 

"Well what is it, where can we find it?" Waddles answered.

"Down into the Shorewind Forest, there is but one tree.  A popcorn tree.  If popcorn is picked from this tree and ingested, it is so pure that it can heal goblin poison. But it is far."

"I have been there before, I will take her there.  It must only be us though, we need to be as stealthy as possible." Another penguin, named Igloo, stepped up to help. With no time at All Isabella followed the Igloo and headed toward the Shorewind Forest.  When they exited the kingdom, Igloo lay on his stomach, and Isabella paused for a moment wondering what he was doing.

"Well what are you waiting for Princess, get on!"  Isabella was unsure what was happening but she sat down on the back of Igloo. 

"Hold on to my fins, and hold on tight because he we go!"  Igloo pushed off with his feet and began to toboggan down the mountain on his stomach.  They are going violently fast, but it seemed that Igloo had everything under control.  Isabella was screaming and praying the entire way down the mountain, petrified for her life.  With a bit of luck, grace, and skill from Igloo, they made it down to the base of the mountain in hardly any time at all.  Igloo drew his sword, and began to lead the way into the Forest.  After hours on search and journey through the trees, there was an opening.  In the center of the opening, Igloo and Isabella starred upon the last of the popcorn trees.

"There it is! You found it Igloo!" Igloo rushed over to the tree. 

"Do you still have the basket?"

"Yes, I will start filling it up now."  Isabella began to pick popcorn off of the stem of the tree.  Once she got the basket completely full they knew it was time to get back in time to save Tux.  Isabella took a step away from the tree and an arrow whipped past her head, gently grazed her hair, and pierces the trunk of the popcorn tree.  Isabella was stunned and didn't know what to do.  Four goblins game out of the woods armed and attacking. 

"That's the Princess! Snatch her!" One of the goblins screeched.  Igloo drew his bow and shot one goblin straight between the eyes.  They were getting too close.  He threw down his bow and picked up his sword and attempted to fight off the other three goblins.

"Isabella run! And don't turn back!" Isabella turned around and ran, but caught her foot on one of the roots of the popcorn tree. She took a hard fall to the ground.  One of the goblins weaved past igloo and sprinted towards Isabella.  She tried to get up and move but the goblin got their too fast and held her down with his boot on his back.  He raised his blade, but as soon as he began to strike down an arrow went through his head and drop him dead on his back.  Isabella look towards igloo but he was still fighting the other two goblins.  Two more arrows were shot from the west side of the forest and hit the other too goblins that Igloo was battling.  Igloo immediately ran over to Isabella to make sure she was safe.

"Where are you? Show us who you are!" Igloo roared into the distance.  Bushes began to rustle and out of then appear a man.  He was tall, a little over six feet.  He had blonde hair parted at the side, blue eyes, and a fair skinned face.  He was dressed in all back leather gear, and had a strange looking pendent hanging from his neck.  His bow was bright silver, a very high-grade weapon.

"Looks like I made perfect timing."  He stranger said. Igloo stepped between him and Isabella. 

"Keep your distance. Who are you?" The stranger was surprised at the penguins distrust in him. 

"I'm Jay. I was in the neighborhood and heard fighting.  Thought I'd come take a look.  I mean you no harm." His eyes looked kind and his words seemed true, but Igloo still suspected him to be dangerous.

"Get away from the Princess, and leave us alone."  Igloo Commanded. 

"Princess? Well where are my manners. Majesty."  And Jay got down on one knee and bowed to Isabella in praise and stood back up.  Isabella gazed upon him and sensed truth.

" We must be going now, come on Isabella." Igloo took Isabella's hand and started walking her away from Jay.  Jay was startled to she them leave so he jolted towards them.

"You might need an extra hand, especially if you run into anymore goblins.  I promise I will keep you both safe, on my honor." Before Igloo could decline is request, Isabella quickly answered him 

"Yes, we could use the extra hand."  With that Jay lead the way out of the Shorewind Forest.  They briskly hiked up the Aurora Mountain side, beyond the clouds to the Kingdom.  They rushed through the gates with the basket of popcorn.  When they reached the infirmary they spotted Tux barely breathing, falling into an abyss.  Igloo too the popcorn and a goblet of water.  He placed a couple pieces of popcorn in Tux's beak and used water to help him swallow it.  Tux's breathing stopped.  There was no pulse, and no signs of life.  They were too late.  Igloo dropped his head on Tux's bedside, weeping for his fallen companion.  Isabella, too familiar with death, held in her tears.  Her eyes were swollen red, but she didn't shed a tear.  She couldn't show weakness again, there is no pain, no loss that could ever cause more grief than what she has already experienced before.  Jay folded his hands in front of his body and he bowed his head as if he was praying for the departed penguin knight.  There was a silence that dissolved through the room.  Isabella, Igloo, and Jay quietly recovered themselves and began to walk out of the infirmary.

As they were walking away they heard a cough from behind them.  Isabella turned around to see Tux gasping for breath.

"Tux!"  Isabella ran over to his bedside and embraced him gently like a fragile treasure.  Igloo swiftly waddled over to his fellow knight and had tears of joy as we gazed upon Tux breathing and alive.  Tux peered into the eyes of Igloo and Isabella and spoke. 

"You saved me, thank you."  Isabella and Igloo smiled at him.  Isabella grabbed his hand. 

"You must eat this popcorn Tux, it is pure and it will heal you very quickly.  You must rest now, we will be back to visit you soon." Isabella, Igloo, and Jay then left the infirmary and entered the Great Hall.  Igloo but up a seat and pushed Jay down aggressively. 

"Alight Jay, tell us who you are.  Where do you come from?" Jay quickly responded.

"I'm from a small village deep within the Shorewind Forest.  I left my family a long time ago and I have been living on my own.  I was hunting a beast for dinner when I came across you two in trouble." Isabella looked at him curiously, and then spoke to Igloo. 

"He is telling the truth, and he is probably very tired. I will escort him to his resting quarters. We will find out more in the morning, he is safe." Igloo trusted Isabella and agreed with her request.  Isabella escorted Jay to his room with a candle to find their way in the long dark corridors of the castle.  When they got there Jay opened the door and wished Isabella a goodnight but she pushed him into his room and entered herself and shut the door behind her.

"You are not from the Shorewind Forest, I know there are no more humans that live there.  Where are you from? Speak or I will inform the penguin guards." Jay smirked at Isabella's cleverness.  He sat down on a wooden bench in the corner of his room.  He took a deep breath and began to speak.

"Well there is nothing that can get past you is there? You want the truth? I'm not a hunter and I'm not from the Shorewind Forest.  I come from a different land, I'm a pirate."  Isabella's eyes were consumed by terror when she heard the word pirate pierce her ears.  She was startled and took a quick reflex away from Jay.  Jay's slight grin appeared on his face again as if it were all a joke.

"Oh there is nothing to be afraid of Princess. I'm completely harmless now.  I have no crew, no ship, and no treasure.  You see I was a captain of a crew and a ship, a very large vessel.  We sailed across many seas, and raided and pillaged many lands.  We flourished with fortune.  But there was a mutiny, you see.  I wanted to stop, I wanted to take port for good, and live off what we had.  The crew didn't agree.  They made me walk the plank and I swam from three miles to find myself on the shores of the Shorewind Forest.  I have been on my own for years now, living near the shore."  Isabella lost all of the trust she had for Jay.

"If you have been living near the shore, why were you this far into the forest.  There is no way you tracked a beast for that far."  Jay, once again smiled at the great powers of observation that Isabella possessed.  It was like she couldn't be fooled. Jay looked straight into her eyes, as he was about to reveal the truth.

"  I was on the shore until I saw a great black cloud of smoke rising from deep within the forest.  I have been alone for so long, I thought I could find other people there.  I ventured into the Forest for many miles, following the smoke.  When I arrived to the source I saw a patch of very large mushroom incinerated, with dead villagers.  I looked for survivors but there were none that saw.  I saw horse tracks leading into the forest, I decided to follow them.  I lost the track and I have been lost in the forest ever since, until I found you and Igloo."  Isabella knew now that Jay was telling the truth.  Once again she held in her emotions and look at Jay. 

"That village is where my family lived.  They are dead."  Jay was shocked, and filled with grief due to the fact that he just revealed to Isabella that none of her village had survived the fire.  Isabella told Jay all about what happened, and they talked for hours about what the future had in store.  The night grew late and Isabella stood up to leave Jay's room.

"Thank you for saving me today Jay, have a goodnight." Jay smiled, placed his hand over his heart and bowed. 

"The pleasure was mine, Princess. Goodnight." Isabella left the room and shut the door behind her.  Jay sat quietly on the bench as he listened to the sound of Isabella's footprints get further away down the corridor.  He stayed up for hours looking out of his window upon chrome-colored stars, filling the void of the dark blue night sky.  He remained fixed, pondering about the adventures that were yet to come.

 

 

*** 

 

The sun arose and there was a loud crashing sound on Isabella's door.  Isabella violent jolted out of her bed and opened her door to Waddles standing the doorway.

"Good morning Princess! Come, Tux has asked to see you."  Isabella's face illuminated with joy as she rushed out of her room, down the stairs, through the Great Hall, and into the infirmary to see Tux.  He was standing out of his bed with a basket of empty popcorn at his side.

"Tux! You looked so recovered...so quickly!"  Isabella was astonished by the power of the popcorn.  Tux smiled at her and replied. 

"Why of course, the popcorn you retrieved for me does wonders.  You saved my life Princess, I thank you again.  By the way, not all of the popcorn is gone; I saved a little bit for you to try.  Here you go, take it."  Isabella took a small goblet filled with popcorn from Tux.  She grabbed all of it in one handful and eagerly ate it.  She smiled with great delight. 

"This is delicious! I've never had anything so remarkable before!"  Isabella felt completely rejuvenated and awake. This popcorn really does work!  Emperor Winston then called tux to the Great Hall. He promised Isabella that we would meet up with her afterwards and the waddled away into the Great Hall.

Isabella peered around the castle and noticed Jay was not out and about yet.  She went to his room and quietly opened the door to his room, just incase he was still asleep. When she opened the door she found Jay sitting on the same bench in which he was in when she left him last night.  Jay turned his head sharply, smiled, and greeted Isabella.

"Well top of the morning to you Princess, did you sleep well?"

"Yes, fine, thank you.  Did you stay up all night?" Isabella asked Jay sounding quite concerned. 

"Oh yea, sleep and I aren't don’t really agree with each other, you know what I mean?"

"Why not? Is everything okay?"  Jay looked back out the window and responded. 

"Yes, lets just say is the repercussions of a haunting past." 

"Is there something you want to tell me? “Jay looked back at Isabella, and stood up from his bench.  He gathered his affects and made his way to exit the room.  He stopped in front of Isabella and gazed deeply within her eyes.

"I'm not good with revealing backstory.  That's a tale for another time.  Right now we need to figure out how to summon this Songbird you told me about. " Jay left the room and began to walk down the corridor, and Isabella followed him.

Suddenly there was a very large crash, and the entire castle rumbled like rolling thunder.  The violently shaking made Jay and Isabella loose their balance and fall to the floor.  More crashed began to shake then castle as if it were going to collapse from an earthquake.  Ice from the ceiling came crashing down.  Jay aggressively crawled over towards Isabella and dove upon her to shield her from the falling ice.  Large plates of ice came crashing on Jay's back, and he screamed in pain.  After a short moment the earthquake stopped only to be filled by the sound of chaos in the Great Hall.

"Are you alright Princess?" Jay asked very worried. Isabella looked at back at him. 

"I'm fine. You saved me again. Thank you."  Isabella's eyes illuminated when she starred upon Jay.  Jay kindly gazed back into her eyes.

"The pleasure is all mine, Princess."  Isabella laughed at Jay.

"You know, you can call me Isabella, I don't need a constant reminder that I'm a princess."

"Okay, I will keep that in mind...Princess."  Jay smirked like he always did, rose up and helped Isabella to her feet.  They ran into the Great Hall the see what was going on. When they entered, Igloo ran up to both of them in a great panic. 

"The goblins! They are here! All of them are attacking the Kingdom, even the ogres!" Jay put his hands on Igloo's shoulders to calm him down. 

"Igloo, we must rally the knights, get Tux. It's time for war." Jay gazed into Isabella's eyes, frightened. 

"Isabella, you must go to the tower of the castle and remain in the keep.  Lock the doors, and don’t open them for any reason. Promise me?"  Isabella snapped back at him with persistence. 

"No, I'm going to fight! I need to help you!." Isabella, jolted to get past Jay so she could make it to the armory, but Jay threw his body in front of her and grabbed her by her arms. 

" No Isabella! You are the only one that can save us.  Just stay safe and try to find the song to summon the Songbird.  I've lost everyone who I've ever loved; I've lost anyone that has ever gotten close to me.  I can't let that happen to you. Stay safe, please."  Isabella still argued. 

"I don't know the song! I will be wasting my time not fighting." Isabella began to try and break away from Jay's grasp, but she couldn't over power him. 

"Listen to your heart, it will guide you to where you will find.  You are the chosen one. You can do it. Now go, please! I will find you again, I promise."  Jay gently held Isabella's hands, and helps them up to his lips where he gently kissed her fingers.  He gazed into her eyes for one final time, let go of her hands and ran to the battlefield.  Isabella hesitantly, made her way to lock herself in the castle's keep.

 

*** 

 

After many hours, the battle escalated swiftly.  Many soldiers, from both armies, were killed on the battlefield, but the armies of the goblins are far greater than those of the penguins.  The penguin knights had to retreat behind the kingdom walls.  However the walls were only going to stand for moments longer.The Jay and the knights braced themselves for the walls to collapse and a rush of goblins and ogres to attack the kingdom. 

Within minutes the walls began to crumble.  Goblins and ogres started sprinting into the kingdom, attacking everyone they came in contact in.  The penguin knights fought with great valor but there is no way they would be able withstand such a great army.  Jay took the lead, trying to push the goblin army back as much as possible.  He started to get overwhelmed and surround by the enemy.  Jay fell back and retreated as many goblins attacked him.  He was slashing and hacking away with his sword as chaotic as ever, fighting for his life.  One goblin rushed him and took a mighty swing with an axe, which knocked Jay’s sword out of his hand.  The goblin gave Jay a great punch to his jaw and Jay fell down helplessly on the solid ground.  The goblin stood above him and raised his axe to strike down on him.  As he began to thrust down, an arrow struck the goblin straight between the eyes, and he dropped dead.  Jay looked up to see who saved his life and standing before him was Isabella.

Jay jolted up and ran over to her.  He placed his hands on her face.

“You saved my life. Thank you. You shouldn’t be here, you should be locked in the keep.”

“I was just returning the favor.” Isabella replied with a smile.  Jay was extremely grateful for what Isabella just did for him but he was also upset that she risked coming down to the battle.  Jay turned his head and saw more goblins approaching. 

“Now Isabella, you must go back to the keep! Find the song!”  With that Isabella headed back to the keep, but before just was out of Jay’s reach he stretched out his hand and grabbed her arm to pull her towards him.  He turned her around and with no hesitation, gave her a kiss upon her lips, as if it might be a final goodbye.  Afterwards they both looked into each other’s eyes just for a moment and for that moment the battle seemed to be put on halt.  Jay finally had to let her go and as Isabella left she looked at him on last time.

“Come back for me Jay, please.”  Finally Isabella made her way to the keep to stay safe and figure out the melody of the Songbird.

Suddenly, as things couldn’t seem to get any worse, the Fireheart dragon appeared in the sky over the kingdom.  The dragon flew over to perch on a high tower, near the keep, and began to rain fire upon the kingdom.  Oh no, Isabella! Jay thought.  He ran as swiftly as possible up to the keep alongside with Igloo, Tux, and Waddles. 

“Jay, Tux, and Igloo! Take the rest of the knights and fight the goblins and ogres! I shall try to hold off the dragon as long as possible! Lets all hope that Isabella is able to figure out this song quickly.”  Waddles didn’t show a bit of fear in his eyes and he ran toward the tower that the dragon was perched on.  He raised his staff and expelled streaks of ice towards the dragon.  They began a battle of fire and ice, but the dragon was too strong.  Waddles wouldn’t be able to hold him off for long.  If Waddles dies, then the kingdom is condemned to the reign of the Fireheart dragon.

Jay and the knights fought the goblins and ogres but some of them broke through their defenses and began to hack away at the gates of the keep with their clubs and axes.  The penguins were fighting with all of their strength but they were being over-run.  The gates on the keep busted open and Isabella’s protection was destroyed.  Jay bolted toward the keep fighting off all the goblins in his path.  Krishneck, the lead goblin, took his crossbow and aimed it at Isabella, who was standing in the open with no protection.  Krishneck fired at her and as the arrow cut through the air towards her, Jay dove in its path and took the arrow straight to his heart. Krishneck tried to reload another arrow, but before he could, Tux attacked him and cut him down with a single swing of his sword.

“Jay! No!”  Isabella hurled her body onto Jay, who was lying on the ground.  The knight formed a circle around the two of them and fought off the intruding enemies. 

“Jay, hang in there everything will be okay. You’re going to be alright.”  Jay looked up at Isabella, with his eyes telling her that he knew his fate.  Isabella looked more closely at the wound and realized that the arrow pierced his heart.  He only had moments left.

“You can’t die! Too many people have died for me, you can’t die!” Isabella began to weep as she looked at Jay, who was slowly dying. 

“ Some people are worth dying for.  I will see you again one day. But not anytime soon. You have a kingdom to save.”  Jay began to groan in agony, the pain was just too strong.

“But I need to with me.  I need to by my side, I can’t do this alone.” 

“Sometimes the most treacherous of paths, will lead us to the most beautiful of places.  The best things in this world never come easy.  You can save this kingdom, and protect it for as long as you have the strength to fight for it.”  Jay broke into a cough, and his breaths began to get short.  Isabella knew the end was near.

“How can I fight, I don’t know the melody of the Songbird. How am I supposed to save everyone?”

“You made me find love again Isabella.  After I met you, all I had to do was listen to my heart.  Listen to your heart and it will guide you to what you need.”  And those were the final words that he said.  Jay’s heart ceased to beat, and his eyes shut slowly as he faded away into death.  Isabella, on the verge of collapsing, found the strength to try and carry on and not let Jay’s death be in shame.  Listen to your heart.  Jay and Waddles have both told me that.  Listen to your heart. Isabella closed her eyes, and began to listen to the beating of her heart.  The rhythmic measures of the two eighth notes, and the half beat of rest.  The sound was a reoccurring oscillation, divine and pure.  Her foot began to tap to the beat of her heart, and suddenly music from the sky began to sing. 

Waddles, who was near defeat by the flames of the Fireheart Dragon, looked up to the heavens to see a magical sparrow, streaking across the sky, igniting notes according to its song off of the end of its wings.  Its bright white feathers were contrasted with black feathers making the shape of the treble cleft along its side.  It was the Songbird.  The goblins, and ogres sparked into chaos.  As the pure melody that the Songbird sang reached the ears of the evil enemies that attacked the kingdom, they immediately turned into dust that gusted away with the mountain winds.  Waddles, still fighting off the Fireheart Dragon, was relieved when he saw the dragon burst magnificently into a giant cloud of dust, and when it settled, there was nothing but pure bliss.

The kingdom roared with triumph of their victory over the invaders and the Fireheart Dragon.  The Songbird swooped down to the gates of the keep.  Isabella went over to it and placed her hand upon its head and stroked her fingers through the soft white and black feathers.  The bird was six feet tall,  about the same height as Isabella.  Its wingspan was even longer than its height; it was the biggest bird Isabella has ever seen.

“Thank you.”  Isabella embraced the bird and kissed its forehead.

Isabella then ran back over to Jay’s body that was still lying on the ground, lifeless. I can’t believe he died for me.  There must be some way to save him like Tux…. Popcorn. That’s it! Isabella ran over to Waddles who was sitting down, resting, against the wall in the keep.

“Waddles! The popcorn! The popcorn can save Jay! Do you have anymore from when we brought it to Tux?”  Isabella was enthralled with excitement in her plan to revive Jay. Waddles stood up and replied.

“Isabella, even if we had popcorn… popcorn from the popcorn tree can only help heal some penguin wounds, if tended to early enough.  But that is all.  It can’t bring any life back from death.  There is no divine or magical power that has that ability. I’m sorry. Jay is looking down on you. He’s still lives within you Isabella, he will forever.”  Isabella sulked her head and walked away.  Emperor Winston approached her to thank her for the glory she brought the kingdom and the lives that she had saved. 

She walked to the edge of the castle, where she stood on a high cliff overlooking the city.  She gazed upon broken ice, fire, ash, all mixed with the blood of her friends, and enemy warriors.  She turned around and peered at the lives that were spared from the battle.  I couldn’t have done it without you Jay.  She felt the wind flow between her fingers as if it was Jay trying to grasp them gently.  She will feel his presence with her always, along as she just listens to her heart. I will see you again someday. But not any time soon. 

 


© Copyright 2020 Jay Allan Young. All rights reserved.

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