It was his first day in the land of men and women and, following the twitches and turns of his guiding arrow of Destiny, Horizon found himself in the middle of a dark forest.
“I hope you know exactly where you are going”,
he snapped irritably at the magical guiding
arrow,although it could neither understand
nor answer him.
Suddenly, however; almost as if it were offended, the guiding arrow darted from his hands as fast as if it had been shot from a bow and flew off deep into the forest.
“Come back!”,cried Horizon,chasing after it through the thick,dark forest, “Come back!
I am sorry that I doubted you”.
But the arrow was so swift that Horizon couldn’t catch it and before long he had lost sight of its feathery tail and without the guiding arrow he got lost.
“Oh great nature. What am I going to do now!”,sobbed Horizon and as he was sobbing he tripped over a dead branch and fell head first into a large pit.
“Oh hell!”,cursed Horizon at the bottom of the dirty pit, “Why didn’t someone fill in this hole. It’s just a death trap”.
Luckily Horizon was not hurt although he was stuck at the bottom of a pit that was too deep to climb out of and all he could do was call for help which he doubted anyone would hear.
Remarkably,though,someone did hear.Although he could not see their face,he saw what looked like a pair of delicate womans hands hold the long dead branch, which he had fallen over, down into the pit.
Eagerly,Horizon grabbed hold of it with both hands and with some effort the helpful but mysterious stranger who had come to Horizons aid pulled him up and out of the pit.
As soon as he was out of the pit, Horizon longed to thank the person who had so charitably helped rescue him but gazing around in all directions he could see no one to thank. All he could see was a small brown fox wearing what looked like a dog collar made of Amber around its neck and that darted away the moment that he spoke to it, disappearing into the undergrowth.
Uncannily, however, what he did find when he
looked around was his arrow of destiny embedded in the bark of a large old tree trunk.
“So that is where you are!”, he sighed, “How could you have left me all alone when I am just a child?!”, complained Horizon, kicking the tree with his foot. “Still, I am relieved to find you
again”, he said, sitting down at the foot of the tree and, quite worn out, falling asleep.
The next day Horizon awoke and he looked at the tree in which the arrow was now embedded.
“Perhaps this is an important spot”, he thought as he plucked the arrow from the trunk, “otherwise you wouldn’t have come here. Right?”, he asked but the arrow made no movement that would indicate a reply.
Just then, Horizon heard a strange rustling near to his feet and, when he looked down,he saw the little fox with the amber collar that he had seen the night before, only now it looked terrified and exhausted from running.
“You must help me, please”, the fox begged, “as I helped to pull you out of that pit that you were stuck in. The Impostor and her hunting party are coming fast and you must hide me or I shall be torn apart by her hounds”.
Horizon was startled to hear the fox speak and he also found it difficult to believe that this small fox had really pulled him out of the deep pit but, still, the tree people and his mother Oak had taught him always to be kind and respectful to nature and animals so, hurrying ,he picked up the fox with the amber collar and placed her in his backpack.
Soon Horizon could hear the hunters approaching, just as the fox had said, with bugles and drums and baying hounds, and they stopped directly in front of him.
The head of the hunters was a tall, young and elegant lady dressed like an aristocrat in a black hunting outfit with a black top hat and Horizon thought her quite beautiful except that there was something chilling and callous about her voice and the look behind her eyes was like stone.
“You there!”, she called to Horizon as a member of the gentry might normally address a peasant, “Have you seen a vixen come this way? A vixen wearing an amber collar around its throat?”.
“No”, lied Horizon,nervously shaking his head, half afraid that the hounds of the hunters might sniff out the fox hidden in his pack.
Luckily for Horizon, his mother had packed some very strong smelling garlic bulbs in his knapsack which disguised the scent of the fox so that the hounds weren’t sure if they could smell her or not.
“Well”, said the woman, “You look like a stranger to these parts, so I will tell you that I am the Queen of this land and it is very important to me that the Vixen with the amber collar be caught and killed” and then the woman took out a small silver whistle from her breast pocket and handed it to Horizon. “So, if you see the Vixen with the amber collar, you must blow on this whistle three times and I and my hunters will come to get it”.
Horizon took the whistle and nodded his head nervously but did not say anything.
“Do so”, said the queen, “and there shall be a small pile of gold in it for you, understand?”.
Horizon nodded his head again and, satisfied, the woman who claimed to be Queen and her hunters rode away.
As soon as the woman and her hunters were totally out of sight, the fox with the amber collar crawled out of Horizons back pack. “Oh!”, said the fox, "It was quite cramped in there and the smell of garlic was quite overpowering but thank you. You won’t ever regret having helped me”.
“I don’t for a minute”, said Horizon, although the idea of a pile of gold, however small, did appeal to him, “but tell me. Why is a Queen so interested in a little vixen and why do you wear an amber collar round your neck?”.
“Because”, answered the Vixen, taking off the collar with her dexterous fore-paws and transforming into a tall, elegant lady who looked totally identical to the Queen who had just rode off with the hunting party, “That woman who you spoke to just now is not the real Queen of this country – I am. I am Queen Coralynne of
Shimmeria and she is an impostor- an evil witch who has stolen my appearance and my throne”.
Horizon was stunned, not just by the transformation from vixen to woman or by the remarkable resemblance of this woman to her alleged doppleganger but by how much more beautiful this woman seemed than that impostor for, though they looked, outwardly, so much alike, the woman who stood in front of Horizon
now had so much more warmth and gentleness in her voice and face than her imitator. “You are very beautiful”, said Horizon.
“Thank you”, said the Queen, “and, as to why I wear this amber collar”, she said, holding it out to show Horizon, “It was a gift from my father, the late King Adelphus, made from the sap of a sacred tree and, you see, I was locked away in the royal dungeons for many months and only this collar and its power to transform its wearer into a fox helped me to escape but I’ve had to hide in the forest amongst the other animals and the impostor found that out and that is why, every day, she comes with her hunters to try to catch and kill me and she would have killed me today if not for your kindness”.
Horizon was now very much overcome by the woman’s beauty and so swore to her, “I will do anything to help you, just tell me what I ought to do and I shall do it”.
“Oh”,said the woman, crying now, and sitting down by the foot of a tree, “If only I knew. All I want is to get my throne back. If anyone could give me that back I would be forever in their debt”.
Horizon so much wanted to help the poor woman, who was crying infront of him, but he could not think of how, not until he remembered the silver whistle that the impostor had given him. Would that not make a perfect lure? And the pit that he had fallen into, being just about large enough for a horse and rider, would that not make a perfect trap? A plan then began to formulate in his brain.
The next morning, as the impostor Queen and her hunters were riding through the forest, Horizon blew upon the silver whistle three times and before long he could hear the sound of thundering hooves, the blast of bugles, the beating of drums and the baying of hounds getting steadily louder as the impostor queen and her hunting party galloped towards them.
Soon he could see them; the impostor queen at the front, her eyes blazing with viciousness as she caught sight of the fox with the amber collar in Horizons outstretched arms.
What she couldn’t see, however, was the large pit infront of where Horizon stood because, during the night he had covered it over with branches and leaves and all the things which lie on the forest floor.
“Oh, Goddess! I pray that this works”, said Horizon, holding the fox tightly, pretending that he had caught it.
Horizon had counted upon the imposter Queens eagerness to get hold of the fox and he had been right to do so because, the moment that she saw it, she sped up her horse to gallop faster and, by the time she’d felt the ground give way beneath her, it was too late, she crashed down into the pit with a terrible scream and broke her
The moment the other riders, who were still a little way behind, saw what had happened to the woman they believed to be their queen,they stopped and dismounted and, drawing their swords, rushed around the sides of the pit to attack Horizon.
This was when the second part of Horizons plan occurred because, as soon as Horizon had drawn his own sword (the giant sewing needle given to him by his mother Oak) the vixen with the amber collar leapt down into the pit and, taking the collar off, placed it around the neck of the impostor queen.
No sooner had the Queen’s red-coated huntsmen surrounded Horizon with their raised swords than they heard, to their astonishment and bewilderment, their Queen ordering them not to harm him.
“He is to be rewarded”, she said, “not punished”.
As soon as the real queen and the injured horse were hoisted out of the pit, the Queen ordered that the pit be filled up with earth like a grave and that the body of the fox with its amber collar be buried in it and that later a tree should be planted over it.
Then the Queen, Horizon and all returned to her palace where a banquet was prepared in his honor and there Horizon told Queen Coralynne everything about his land and the forbidden love between his parents Acorn and Oak and, hearing this, Queen
Coralynne implored him to stay with her at her palace.
“No”, said Horizon, “I would rather be at home but, as I cannot go home, I would rather travel and see the rest of this land and beyond and, as the arrow of my destiny led me to you, I am sure it will lead me to other good things”.
“Well then”, said Queen Coralynne, “if you wish to travel then I will help you in that”.
And, the next day, when Horizon awoke he saw that Coralynne had given him expensive new clothes and had taken his giant needle and button and had
ordered her blacksmiths to fashion them into a proper sword and shield.
“You cannot enter a sword fight waving a blade of grass”, she said.
And he was also presented with a horse which, the queen said, had magical properties. “It is named Volvan, it was bred by my royal magicians”, she said, “and it can change its shape so that you may travel anywhere, if you wish to fly it will grow wings and if you wish to cross water it will become like a fish”.
Then, saying goodbye to Queen Coralynne, Horizon set off on his new horse to explore the world of men further.