Sinead opened the Book. Her name appeared in fine illuminated script. More words danced down the page.
‘You overcame the Oppressors, not doubting the might of the fabled Blue Orb. You conquered your fear and retrieved the Chalice of Earthly Liberation from the Maze. You unswervingly followed the path to the Edge of the World, bearing the Crystal of Nor. You befriended the dwarves who Forged the Freedom Key.
You and noble Moonsprite brought all these sacred artefacts here without question, because you believed unerringly in the Book.
Because of you the Sisterhood has seen the error of its ways and will unite behind you. Others will come and sit at your side with Tarron, Lord of Elves and the Hound, Prince of Beasts.
You have proved your birthright. Mother Earth entrusts her Kingdom to you. The following pages are yours to write. Rule well, Sinead. This is your destiny.’
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And so, Sinead’s Final Quest is over and finally she has fulfilled her destiny. Previous episodes of our an epic tale, unfolding in tiny 150 word increments, can be found here.
Sunlight was sparkling through the trees when Moonsprite gently nudged her awake. Sinead rose and went to the bubbling brook where she rinsed her face and drank deeply of its rich waters. She’d had no food since she entered the Garden, yet she was sustained.
A gentle breeze rustled through the glade and Sinead remembered the voice in the night. Mother Earth had spoken to her. She looked around to see Tarron, the elderly elf, emerging from the trees. The Hound padded silently by his side.
Tarron greeted them both with a smile. ‘Let us consult the Prophesy Book one last time,’ he said.
‘But the pages are blank,’ replied Sinead.
Tarron held up his hand. ‘Let us look.’
Sinead removed the Book from Moonsprite’s saddle bag. The title of a new first chapter appeared: “All Will Be Revealed“. Tarron put his hand on her shoulder. ‘Now read on.’
The Hound broke into a run; Moonsprite followed. The day was dawning as they sped off across the Garden. The air grew warm and the trees and flowers sprung into life once again.
On and on they travelled, while the sun climbed beyond its zenith. Finally, the Hound slowed to a trot, Moonsprite matched his pace and Sinead caught a glimpse of a fawn with her mother and a the bright red brush of a fox’s tail disappearing into the undergrowth.
They arrived at a sunlit glade, where birdsong filled the air. A bubbling brook threaded through the grass. The Hound padded over and drank deeply. Sinead and Moonlight followed suit, the sweet water more refreshing than any they’d tasted. The Hound lay down. Moonsprite rested too. Both had expended much of their energy in their flight from the Gates.
Sinead lay down between them and surrendered herself to sleep.
Sinead’s fear turned to relief then joy when, as the gloom lifted, she recognized the creature standing before them. It was the Hound of Hellidore. He who had saved her from the Minotaur back in the Maze of Mandoran. But hadn’t he been slain? She rushed to embrace him, but his resolute bearing restrained her and instead she bent down to pick up the Orb.
As she did so, it rolled beyond her reach. Sinead scuttled after it, scooping it up as it came to rest. Sinead straightened up, finding herself standing before a face, etched in stone, its expression contorted in agony. She stepped back in horror. It was the face of the Gatekeeper.
Sinead whirled around and found the Hound’s golden eyes staring back at her. He lowered his head and gave one sharp bark. Moonsprite pawed the ground. We must go!
Sinead shook the gates harder. No lock was visible, but they would not yield. They must be secured by an enchantment. Too slippery to climb, too high for even Moonsprite to jump, they were trapped in the bitterly-cold darkness. The Crystal’s light was fading and the night closing in.
The beast howled again. It was coming closer.
Sinead thrust the Crystal into Moonsprite’s saddle bag and pulled out the fabled Blue Orb, the most powerful weapon they possessed. The Orb had destroyed the last of the Oppressors, it would surely demolish the gates.
Sinead clasped the Orb in front of her and prepared to utter the sacred words.
Just as she was about to speak, a dark shape appeared out of the gloom and bounded towards the gates. Touched by the hot breath from its snapping jaws, the gates swung open.
The fabled Blue Orb rolled from Sinead’s startled hands.
Sinead thrust the now useless Prophesy Book back into Moonsprite’s saddlebag. The light was fading and the temperature was plummeting with it. The same thoughts formed in both Sinead’s and Moonsprite’s minds. Had they been betrayed again? First by the Sisterhood, now by the so-called Gatekeeper?
At least they still had all the remaining artifacts.
The Crystal of Nor began to pulse.
Sinead snatched it up and held it aloft, but its glow could not penetrate the gloom ahead. Surely their only course was to return to the Garden and confront the Gatekeeper. Moonsprite snorted in agreement, nudging at Sinead to mount.
Guided by the Crystal’s light, Moonsprite thundered sure-footedly down the snow-covered steps. Soon the great iron gates came into view. Sinead dismounted and hurried forward. She gripped the gates and pulled, but they remained stubbornly shut.
In the snow-clad garden beyond, they heard a great beast howl.
Sinead and Moonsprite began to climb the shallow steps. All they could see around them were the tall hedges on either side and a bright patch of clear sky in the far distance, where the endless steps were leading them.
The air grew increasing chilly. Frills of frost appeared on the hedges and visible tendrils of breath spilled from Moonsprite’s nostrils. Flakes of snow began to fall. Sinead shivered and drew her cloak around her.
On they climbed through the ever-thickening snow.Sinead placed her hand on the hilt of her sword. This time Moonsprite sent no calming message to her, as she had back in the Garden. Sinead placed her other hand on Moonsprite’s neck, urging her to stop. The snow-white unicorn halted, stamping her hooves on the icy stone, while Sinead opened the saddlebag. She took out the Prophesy Book and opened it.
Without another word the emerald-clad Gatekeeper turned on her heel and strode across the lawn to a different path. Sinead and Moonsprite hastened after her. The atmosphere had changed. A cool wind blew across the grass and the trees began to quiver, casting showers of red-golden leaves onto the ground.
The Gatekeeper glanced over her shoulder and quickened her step. When Sinead and Moonsprite caught up with her she was standing before a pair of tall iron gates. A broad flight of steps, edged with tall green hedges, lay beyond.
Sinead took the Freedom Key from her tunic and held it out to the Gatekeeper, but the ageless woman shook her head.
‘These gates are not locked. All are free to pass through.’ She turned and pushed the two gates open with a grand, sweeping gesture. ‘Put the Key away and enter,’ she instructed. ‘I will not be far behind you.’
Image credit: ‘Iron Gate’ by flowerpowerstock on Deviant Art