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from Ralph and the Prince by Jo Hawk

Copyright © 2019–2020 Jo Hawk

Courtyard Conflict

“Uzair… Uzair, come quickly. I need you,” D’ArtAnna called, sprinting under the pergola. It was encased with gnarled, twining wisteria vines.

Ralph ran behind her. The dense stems, thicker than his thigh, created an impenetrable wall forcing them to follow the flagstones laid in intricate patterns on the path’s floor. A hundred yards further, the tunnel ended in a circular courtyard bathed in sunlight. Ralph slowed, blinking, surprised by the size and the light, the fortress was larger than he had expected. Overhead a cheerful, cloudless blue sky greeted them. Along the perimeter were stone structures that towered four stories up the side of the constricting mountain. They gave the appearance of being carved from the black granite cliff by a brilliant stonemason.

D’ArtAnna’s pace had not slowed. She led them left, crossing the yard toward a shorter structure that seemed separated from the rest of the buildings.

“Uzair, help me,” she called.

To Ralph’s right, a door opened, and a massive, bulking figure ducked under a low lintel.

“I’m coming. What’s the…” his voice trailed off as he straightened, taking in the scene unfolding in front of him. Without thinking, he pivoted and charged at R...

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