Chapter 3

Written by: Anna Zhigareva

The unanimous decision was that Roger should join the group. They were safer sticking together. Who knew what dangers could be lurking in the shadows apart from Snark? Ramus felt the fur rise on his pelt at the memory of those twinkling eyes, that terrifying thirst for flesh.


As the group set off through the curling branches of the fruit orchard, Ramus looked back to count ten heads bobbing in and out between the trees.


There were the two grey donkeys, Acacia’s muzzle with a slight yellow tinge and Alexzander’s, darker, with specks of grey among the hairs. The rabbits, Coco and Brutus, hobbled in front. Their fur had started to whiten towards the Winter and showed only a few patches of grey. On Acacia’s back sat Cecil, his proud black beak reflecting the sun’s rays trickling through the thicket of leaves. Alexzander carried the rest of the family: Falcon and the two chicks. Flying attracted attention – they were safer in the haven of branches.


At the back came Roger, his nose to the ground, as if he couldn’t quite satisfy his perpetual hunger. He was younger than the rest of them and had trouble staying on the trodden path, somehow his feet just seemed to stray.


The enchanted orchard…


Their fathers and forefathers had always called it so. No one remembered how “enchanted” had arisen, but legends, told in the warm Summers and harsh Winters, certainly existed. Animals had disappeared never to be seen again while others returned with stories of the most incredible adventures. One could take the tales as a warning or a guideline, fall prey to the venomous twines or use them to one’s advantage. Whether or not the trees were truly poisonous was unknown. Perhaps the orchard carried a strength never before seen by the animal kingdom; those who used it well would profit, those who could not would perish.


Ramus had urged everyone to pay heed to the lay of the land, to step around any straying twines looking to test them. If their new home lay beyond the enchanted orchard, he would do anything to keep his fellow travellers from harm. The twines would protect them from dangers outside, and he would protect them from the twines.


As the day extended into Evenfall, they continued, not sure how far they had travelled, their hungry bellies rumbling in the silence. A flutter of wings suddenly sounded behind Ramus, followed by a muffled squabble and a gasp from Acacia. 


“What is...?” The sight that befell Ramus as he turned around made his jaw drop.


Splayed out painfully on the prickly ground, Roger had his muzzle stuck between two branches, his outstretched tongue just a tiny length away from a red apple hanging from a low branch.


“The branches – they just came together before I could stop him!” Cecil screeched, jumping around the badger, his wings fluttering worriedly as Roger’s snout disappeared in the deadlock grip of the apple tree’s smooth branches.


I loved Anna's light touch in nudging this lovely serial onward and I appreciated her roll call of the characters that I am sure are going to delight us further as the chapters unfold. Great job Anna.
Nice chapter, Anna. I think all children s stories should have an element of danger in them so that the young reader experiences emotions, excitement and perhaps an element of sadness as they grow up. Maybe another way to teach good from bad and create a hero or heroine they can relate to. There's every element of excitement, mystery, and danger here. A little fantasy within the story brings the characters closer to the reader as we feel concerned for their safety.
I also really loved the way you described the characters, who they were and how they fitted into the group. What an intrepid group of friends.
I hate being the bearer of bad news but looking at this from a future anthology perspective, there is a very big continuity error in this chapter. In the previous chapter, Ramos refers to the badger as the young one. Making the reference in this chapter regarding Roger's age as older as the rest a continuity error.
Also, Roger was found inside the enchanted forest. If he was older than the rest, would he not know what dangers the enchanted forest held? If he was a youngster as described in the previous chapter it would explain why he got caught in the trap.
*cringing away from comments to follow* :)
For the rest, I absolutely loved this chapter.
Well spotted Sumanda. We'll get that fixed.