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The Spare Knight
You know what's annoying? When your enemies don't attack at a reasonable hour.
It wasn't even dawn and our camp was under siege. Daniel woke me as the fairies and Lost Boys and Girls jumped into action. I snagged my black backpack before we made a break for the outside.
We'd been in the kids' belowground sleeping quarters. The only way to the main camp was through elevators in hollowed out tree trunks. We leapt across the bunker's trampoline floor, hopped into an elevator, and shot up. The seconds seemed like syrup-laden eons. I drew my wand in its sparkly hairpin form from my bra strap and transformed it back to its sleek, silvery state with the command word Lapellius.
At ground level, Daniel and I took half a step out of the elevator before I grabbed him by the jacket and yanked him sideways.
My wand transformed just as a flaming cannonball took out the table where we'd eaten dinner. Big, angry sparks and lose embers sprayed from the explosion.
Surrounded by the cover of trees, the Lost Boys and Girls' hideout was a perfect woodsy camp with lots of open space to run and play. There was a fire pit surrounded by cushions, various obstacle courses, and treehouses overhead that were interconnected with zigzagging rope bridges and framed with strings of lime green lanterns. Now all that perfection was lost in chaos.
The forest was a flurry of fighting and fire. Antagonists were everywhere, laying siege to everything. I had the misfortune of knowing the foes leading the charge. Arian, Alex, and Mauvrey, along with no fewer than thirty henchmen, were engaged in various forms of attack across the forest area. Several henchmen mixed in throughout the space operated portable flaming cannonball launchers.
I was impressed that our enemies had narrowed in on Arthur's location and found the hideout so quickly, though I wasn't surprised. Our enemies sucked, but they were tenacious and shrewd. I didn't know where Arthur was in this pandemonium, but I worried it wouldn't be long before they located him — and me too. While they'd come here looking for the king, I was very aware they would happily catch and secure me as their spare Knight, so I had to avoid being seen if I could.
Many of our Neverland allies, including Dorothy Gale, had beaten us to the action and were already in full defense mode. The tall twenty-three-year-old protagonist from The Wizard of Oz was working with Tinkerbell and a fleet of fairies to fend off attackers. The fairies swarmed the enemy and blinded them with flashes of colorful light before Dorothy swooped in with a combination of brutal punches and kicks.
Some time ago, Dorothy and the rightful ruler of Oz (Princess Ozma) had been on a mission to Camelot. During their quest, the pair had gotten separated and a horrible monster called the Questor Beast had poisoned Dorothy with one of its venomous fangs. She should have died, but accidentally found her way to Neverland. Now, like Arthur, she would die if she left.
Dorothy and the fairies were doing a good job of kicking butt. The Lost Boys and Girls were also fighting hard and strong. The camp had more than enough weapons to fill an armory and, given that they spent their free time battling Captain Hook and his pirates, the kids had plenty of combat experience. However, these were ruthless, mostly adult antagonists we were dealing with. So as the fight scene unfolded with increased fire, arrows, and aggression, I wondered how long we could keep back the threat.
"Do you know where the others are?" I asked Daniel.
Suddenly muffled shouts came from overhead. Two of Arian's henchmen dropped out of the trees and landed face down on the ground beside me. Swiftly after, a third figure swung from a branch eight feet above us and landed in a perfect crouched position. Startling blue eyes looked up at me through a frazzle of dark blonde hair.
"Well, there's Blue," Daniel said as our friend rushed over to us, stepping on top of the incapacitated soldiers she'd knocked from the trees.
A flash of silvery light nearby encased three tree trunks in ice, three soldiers along with them.
"And there's SJ," I commented as our friend raced into the clearing. She was firing portable potions (crystalized, marble-sized potions of her own invention) using her slingshot. She aimed another potion at a couple of attackers encroaching on some smaller Lost Boys. Green slime coated our enemies. Distracted, SJ didn't notice the soldier behind her with his sword raised.
She turned in time to see Peter Pan nail her would-be attacker in the head with a flying kick. Peter scooped SJ into the air, flying her over to us.
Let me tell you, if you've never seen Peter Pan take out an attacker while wearing pajamas, you haven't lived. It was awesome.
I loved that kid. The twelve-year-old boy was strong, fast, and quippy. His sassy personality actually matched up pretty well with what I'd always imagined based on the stories I'd read about him. I would just add that he was a lot cleverer than the stories indicated and could be a lot more serious if the situation called for it. He also had a heck of a knack for sword fighting, which he'd acquired from regular training with Arthur.
Peter deposited SJ beside me and I instantly felt better. She and Blue were my best friends and roommates at Lady Agnue's School for Princesses & Other Female Protagonists. Even with a million things to focus on, ensuring their safety was always one of my top priorities.
"What the frack, you guys!" Peter said, gesturing at the enemy soldiers. "We've never had an attack on our home base. Do you know these clowns?"
Another flaming cannonball obliterated a tree to our left. Peter managed to fly out of the way and Daniel and Blue braced themselves in time, but SJ and I were tossed to the ground from the force of the explosion. My backpack, much like her leather one, did little to break the fall.
"Unfortunately, we do," Blue replied, offering me a hand up. "They're antagonists from Book and they're here for Arthur, and probably Crisa too."
A dozen men suddenly charged us. Peter drew his sword, leapt into the air, and flipped over the first three. He landed between the fourth and fifth antagonists in the onslaught. He kicked one, parried the other, and then flipped backward to ram the pommel of his sword into the chin of a sixth.
SJ fired a lightning potion that released a bolt as fierce as her gray eyes. Blue launched into a knife fight with a man wielding a dagger. Meanwhile, Daniel fought alongside Peter with his sword; as the airborne boy hit 'em high, Daniel hit 'em low with his own brand of swift aggression.
I had to say, I was always impressed watching Daniel fight. We'd faced a lot of enemies together, but few had ever rivaled his skill. In fact, I could only think of two sword-fighters that might be his equal. And both were fifty feet away — and on the opposite team.
Arian and my brother Alex were making their way through the campsite. The fairies and kids tried to waylay them, but Alex and Arian were too good, smacking fairies aside before they could be blinded and deflecting kid attacks with ease. When the last of our nearby enemies dropped, and before Alex and Arian could spot us, I motioned for my friends to hide behind a jungle gym that had been turned on its side and was partially in flames. As we ducked down, however, in my peripheral vision I saw more attackers closing in. I transformed my shield into a spear. The silvery disc that I was holding instantly compressed and then elongated.
I rammed the blunt end into one soldier's chest, stabbed the blade end into the leg of a second, and then slammed the staff down on the shoulders of a third.
Blue rushed past me and punched one of two additional soldiers in the face. She then stabbed the first guy in the arm with her trusty hunting knife and hocked his leg out from under him while Peter shot like a comet into the chest of the second soldier and plowed him into a tree.
A few embers from nearby eruptions had caught onto Blue's faithful cloak, which was as blue as her eyes and namesake. She took a moment to pat it down. Peter's navy pajama bottoms and dark gray long-sleeves were also singed from the cannon fire and a couple of leaves were stuck in his tousled blond hair.
"Is this because of that Pentecostal Oath thing we were talking about last night?" Peter asked, all of us now taking temporary cover behind the jungle gym.
I nodded. "The Boar's Mouth must not have recognized the current leader of Camelot as the rightful king. Now our enemies have come for Arthur. I thought we'd have more time before they found him, but they're too good."
"And why would they want you?" Peter asked me.
"Hold that thought," Peter said, looking to the left. Twenty feet away a pair of soldiers had backed a few Lost Girls into a corner.
SJ grabbed a portable potion from the sack attached to her belt and fired with perfect accuracy. The orb squarely hit one antagonist and the lightning strike it produced blasted away the bad guy next to him. For good measure, Blue launched several throwing knives from her belt in their direction. Her belt was charmed to replace the knives as she threw them — a super handy enchantment that basically made her a walking artillery.
In that instant I looked up to see an archer in the trees taking aim at Peter.
My spear transformed and I hurled the weapon. It smacked the archer in the head with blunt force and knocked him off his perch. The boomerang ricocheted back to my hand as Daniel ducked to evade a javelin that had been flung at him from a distance.
"They want me because I'm their spare Knight," I said to Peter, talking fast as we crouched for cover behind the jungle gym. "Remember how we told you about the 'Knight' of the Great Lights Prophecy? The antagonists want that to be Alex, but they're not sure the prophecy is about him, so they intend to capture me as a back-up until the Boar's Mouth gives Alex its blessing."
"Then we need to get you and Arthur out of here," Peter said, dodging an arrow.
"Not while the camp is in danger," I protested.
"I appreciate that, but I know the bigger stuff that's at stake," Peter argued. "If the bad guys claim Excalibur, this story is going to have a terrible ending. And anyway, the longer you're here, the longer the other kids and fairies are in trouble. The danger will leave once you're gone."
"Fine, we'll leave," Blue said. "But first we need to find Arthur and Jason. I haven't seen him since the fighting broke out."
She was right. Where was Jason?
I transformed my weapon into an archer's bow, picked up a fallen arrow, then stood and fired at a charging soldier. It hit him in the ankle, and he toppled over.
There were only two people who addressed me that way. One was Daniel. The other was Arian. With an intuitive tingle up my spine, I whirled around.
From across the camp, Arian had spotted me. I was filled with fire at the sight of him — his familiar black hair and cruel eyes. The young villain in his twenties had two sides when he dealt with me — a cocky, condescending side where he treated me like a dumb princess, and a cold, merciless side where he treated me like a mortal enemy. I knew from the way he looked at me in that moment that today I was getting the latter.
Thankfully, a squadron of fairies attacked him a split-second later. We needed to disappear while he was distracted.
"Let's divvy up and look for Jason and Arthur," I ordered brusquely. "Once we've found them, we can meet at the edge of those cliffs where the Lost Boys and Girls taught us to fly yesterday. That's how we're going to get out of here."
"Crisa, you and Jason can't fly," Blue said, flinging another knife at an attacker. "Your minds couldn't host enough joyful thoughts or whatever to remain airborne."
"Then I'll secure another means of transportation," I stated. "Like this."
I transformed my bow back to a wand, dropped to one knee, and placed my free hand on a stone the size of a carriage wheel.
Come to life. Beat up the soldiers. Show no mercy.
Golden light burst from my hand and encased the rock. A moment later, the rock lifted off the ground and flew toward the nearest group of soldiers. It began to pummel them like a chef tenderizing a tenderloin.
I spun back to my friends. "Peter and Daniel, go find Arthur. Blue and I will find Jason. SJ, help the Lost Boys and Girls until we've got everyone. Stay away from Arian and Alex." I glanced around. There was no sign of my brother. "Wherever he is."
The others nodded in agreement and we broke apart. Arian was still too distracted to pursue me, and I counted that as a blessing. Blue and I made for the perimeter of trees and plunged into the forest in search of our friend. Worried thoughts assailed my mind as we searched for him.
Thanks to my Pure Magic Disease, I'd had a vision of the future that Jason was going to die sacrificing himself for Blue. My vision had shown it occurring next to a river during the day, so I knew that this fate was not going to play out here. But the only way to break a prophecy was if the subject died prematurely, so Jason's safety tonight was not ensured. There were so many enemies brooding in these woods, anything was possible. The image of my close friend getting stabbed with a spear as he stepped in front of Blue was hard to push away.
Blue's voice drew me back to the present, and I came to a stop beside her. She pointed ahead at a clearing, where I spotted my old classmate and foe Mauvrey. She fought against three Lost Boys. A couple of them were in their teens, and each of them had a weapon — a sword, a sturdy hammer, and a large club. They were no match for her.
Mauvrey was wielding a pair of weapons that looked like bronze fingerless gloves. I knew from personal experience that they packed a punch. With her use of those unorthodox accessories, the fight wouldn't last ten seconds. Blue and I didn't have time to intervene, but we sprinted toward the clearing anyway, watching the fight unfold before us.
Mauvrey shot out her right hand. A pair of thin, shimmering wires emerged from her glove. They wrapped around the wrist of one Lost Boy like dual whips. She closed her fingers over her palm twice then yanked her arm back. The wires reeled in like a super-speed fishing line and Mauvrey nailed the boy in the face with a brutal punch from her other hand.
The whips released the boy and snapped back to starting position. He swung his fist, but Mauvrey ducked and bobbed around his side. She elbowed him in the spine and kicked out his knee. The kid went down and she whirled around to meet the other two boys charging at her.
The princess extended both hands and each of her metallic gloves fired a set of whips. They ensnared the boys' waists and Mauvrey pulled her arms apart, flinging the boys in opposite directions. They smashed into trees. Mauvrey unclenched her fists and crossed her pointer and middle fingers. In response, a charge of cackling energy surged down each set of whips and electrocuted the boys.
They shouted before the charge knocked them out. Again, Mauvrey closed her fingers around her palms twice and the wires reeled in with a rapid snap. Blue and I dashed into the clearing just as the first boy who'd attacked Mauvrey tried to get up, and she spun around and punched him in the head.
"Ladies," Mauvrey said with a wicked smile, turning to face us as the boy collapsed to the ground. She wore a purple leather jacket that matched her spiky-heeled ankle boots. With certainty in her eyes and confidence in her gait, she took a few steps toward us.
"Blue, go find Jason," I said.
"You sure?" Blue asked, glancing with concern at Mauvrey then back at me.
Blue nodded and took off. My fingers tightened around my wand.
"I was hoping we would find you here," Mauvrey said. "You have a talent for showing up when conflict breaks out. How fortunate that we will be able to secure you and Arthur in one siege."
"Like you even have a shot," I replied. "You and your people have been coming at me for months — unsuccessfully."
Mauvrey glanced up at the orange hue of the sky and the smoke drifting from the main battle. "Then maybe we just need to turn up the heat. Who knows, perhaps if we kill enough people and unleash enough destruction, you will come willingly."
I gulped and took in the fiery haze for myself. The antagonists may have been here for Arthur, but they'd gladly tear this place apart for me now that they knew I was within grasp.
Mauvrey made a tsk tsk sound and shook her head like she was disappointed.
"You know, Crisa, I pity your life choices. You could have avoided all the impending danger and death if you had stayed put in that coffin I sealed you in back in Midveil. By the way, I have been wondering, how did you beat the Poppy Potion I placed you under? That sleeping spell should have knocked you out for a full day."
"Poppy Potions don't work on me, Mauvrey," I replied bitterly, remembering her attacking me in my own home.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Crisanta Knight: To Death & Back"
Copyright © 2019 Geanna Culbertson.
Excerpted by permission of Boutique of Quality Books Publishing Company.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 The Spare Knight,
Chapter 2 Picking Battles,
Chapter 3 Fish-Gut Slut,
Chapter 4 Giants of Geene,
Chapter 5 The Mercy Pit,
Chapter 6 Dancing with the Enemy,
Chapter 7 Heart & Soul,
Chapter 8 The Gwenivere Brigade,
Chapter 9 Morgan La Fay,
Chapter 10 The Queen & I,
Chapter 11 The Hero's Standard,
Chapter 12 Motivation,
Chapter 13 Elaine the Younger,
Chapter 14 The Big Shift,
Chapter 15 Death (Or Something Like It),
Chapter 16 Choker,
Chapter 17 The Impossible Place,
Chapter 18 Blood & Water,
Chapter 19 First Contact,
Chapter 20 Well, This Is Awkward,
Chapter 21 Forget-Me-Nots,
Chapter 22 The Window,
Chapter 23 The Reinforcement,
Chapter 24 I Make a New Friend,
Chapter 25 Wave One,
Chapter 26 Blood on Her Hands,
Chapter 27 For the Kill,
Chapter 28 Hands Off,
Chapter 29 Watch Your Glass,
Chapter 30 Cloud Nine,
About the Author,