John W Partington
Suspend Disbelief - Have an adventure

Children's Quest: Mark of the Spider

Mark bounded into the room with an enthusiasm which was reserved for the young, and possibly young at heart. He found his mother, Paul Book, sitting alone in the kitchen. She was reading a letter, the ink wet with her tears.

“What’s wrong, mom?” Mark asked, concern in his good eye while the white orb of his dead eye looked in her direction without focusing.

“You’re eighteen today,” she shoved the letter toward him. “Thorn timed the messenger well.”

“What is it?” Mark picked up the letter, and then started to read. It was difficult to read the entire letter because Mark had never been overly book-smart. A finer bowman, woodsman, or hunter there was not likely to be found, but reading was a challenge. Despite Paul’s efforts, Mark had never taken to books willingly.

“I’m to report to the capital,” Mark smiled.

“It’s not a good thing, dear. Read on.”

“The king is recruiting men to his banner for a tournament. That sounds like fun.”

“No, dear,” Paul sighed. “Thorn isn’t the type to have a tournament unless he’s looking for someone. He wants the best of the best for something.”

“I’m the best archer that ever lived,” Mark boasted.

“Again, dear, you’re not. Your father was the best archer that ever lived. You’re the second-best, but the best currently living.”

“Tell me about him,” Mark sat at the table, and held his mother’s hands. “You always seem so sad when you think of him, but smile nonetheless. What kind of man was he?”

“He was like you,” Paul chuckled. “Infuriating with his charm and joy in the world. He could shoot the wings off a butterfly, and then weep for the destruction of beauty.”

“And he died a hero,” Mark added. “You’ve told me the story before. He killed a dragon with a short bow using an enchanted arrow.”

“He saved everybody, but was mortally wounded in the process. Please, let’s talk of happier things.”

“Tell me about my Uncle, the king?”

“Really? What’s to tell. Your Uncle is the king. If things had gone the other way your Uncle would still be the king, but it would have been a different Uncle.”

“I’m royalty,” Mark smiled.

“That’s why you’ve been invited to the tournament, now that you’re a man. It won’t be easy if you go. Half-elves are not considered part of polite society. You’ll face nothing but ridicule and scorn.”

“Until I sink my first bull’s eye from four hundred yards,” Mark laughed, and poured tea from a kettle on the table. “Seriously though, why did you love my dad?”

“Spider could make me laugh,” Paul smiled. Mark paused. All his life he had never heard his mother laugh other than a polite chuckle for pretense.

“What else?” he asked.


“I want to know. Tell me everything about my father, please.”

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