It’s a story within a story! That’s ever so slightly postmodern.
OK, no it’s not, it’s just exposition, but sometimes exposition is necessary.
They finally came to rest on the far edge of the forest, on the side of a mountain. Keira didn’t recognise this place at all. It looked barren and forbidding.
“Where are we?” Keira asked, once she was sure that Orlando had regained his breath.
“The side of Mount Iron,” Orlando replied. “It should be safe to rest here for a while and eat.”
He proceeded to take some bread and two flasks out of his pack. He handed one of the flasks to Keira and took a swig from the other.
“What were those things attacking the castle?” Keira asked, helping herself to the bread.
“It’s hard to explain,” he said. “It’s quite a long story.”
“Let’s hear it then,” said Keira, impatiently. “This is important!”
“Very well,” said Orlando, “When I’ve finished this roll.”
“Well?” said Keira, once Orlando had finished chewing his food, a thoughtful expression on his face.
Orlando sighed, and began his tale.
“It all started when your highness was just three years old, so you probably weren’t aware of this at the time. I had only just finished my bodyguard training at ninjaversity. At that time, our old ally the Monkey Kingdom was invaded by the Reptile Country.”
“The Reptile Country?” interrupted Keira. “Where’s that?”
“It doesn’t exist anymore,” said Orlando. “But it used to stretch from the Eastern Monkey Kingdom, right across the Great Wasteland to the Frog Republic. The Reptile Country used to be the most feared empire this side of the globe. It used to pick fights with other, weaker countries and conquer them.”
“What happened to it?” asked Keira.
“The Reptile Country began to experiment with dangerous magic, and used it to terrorise other nations,” Orlando continued. “The peaceful Spider Nation and Bear Kingdom were caught completely unawares and were enslaved. The Monkey Kingdom tried to stand up to the Reptiles, but they were no match. The Monkey army was decimated.”
“What happened then?” said Keira.
“In desperation, the Monkey King, Viggo III, appealed to your father, the king, for help. Our army would not have been strong enough to withstand the Reptile magic. Then, just when all hope seemed lost, a mysterious sorcerer raven, Hayden, arrived at the castle. He promised that he would be able to turn the Reptilian magic on itself and banish them once and for all.”
“Did it work?” asked Keira.
“Yes,” said Orlando. “The entire Reptile Country vanished as though it had never existed. The lands they had enslaved became free again, although to this day few will dare speak of the Reptile Country out of fear.”
“What about Hayden?” asked Keira. “What happened to him?”
“Hayden flew off into the night, and to my knowledge has never been seen by anyone in the Bird Kingdom since that day,” Orlando replied.
Keira nodded. She had a feeling she knew where this story was going, and she didn’t like it one bit.
“Since then, everyone assumed the Reptiles had gone forever,” Orlando continued. “But there can be absolutely no mistaking those creatures that invaded the castle this morning. The Reptiles are back, and they have come to take revenge on the Bird Kingdom.”
“How is that possible?” asked the princess.
“I don’t know,” said Orlando.
“What are we going to do?”
“My first priority is your highness’ safety,” Orlando answered. “We’ll head for the Monkey Kingdom. Once we are there, we can come up with a plan to deal with the Reptiles.”
“OK,” said Keira. “Then let’s get going! There isn’t a moment to lose!”
She pulled on her roller skates and stood up.
“Er, your highness,” said Orlando, “Are you sure skates on a mountain are really wise?”
“Of course they are,” said Keira. “We need to get there quickly, don’t we?”
Before the monkey could respond, Keira skated down the mountainside, the wind whistling past her face. Orlando hurried after her. You couldn’t argue with a princess who’d made up her mind.
To be continued…