A Fool's Quest

Plot Summary

Plot Summary

Jester never considered himself a hero. He's the king's fool, pure and simple, and though his job involves much humiliation and very little appreciation, there's little chance of ever improving his lot. Discontented but resigned, he spends his days frolicking about the halls of King Ethylred's keep and annoying almost everyone in his path, including the princess of the realm, the beauteous but nasty Cassandra.

One day, however, Jester finds a silver ring in the throne room, and he unthinkingly puts it on. Immediately, the ring bonds to his finger, and he learns that the unassuming little bauble is in fact an enchanted Ring of Heroism, created by a mysteriously banished wizard. The Ring is destined to be worn by a great adventurer and used to save the entire kingdom from dark magicks; much to Jester's astonishment and Cassandra's annoyance, Jester is now that adventurer!

By virtue of his unwanted Ring, Jester joins Princess Cassandra and her quiet lady servant Zoe on a quest to find the only man who can rescue Justynia: the bitter and powerful High Wizard Nigel. The quest to save the kingdom is just beginning!



Jester is a clever, energetic, bright-eyed young man with a penchant for acrobatics and pranks. Sent away from his home village when he was a boy in order to learn the fool's trade, Jester longs for a life with more meaning and less degradation. But once he dons the Ring of Heroism, he wonders if adventure is truly what he wanted after all.


Cassandra is the princess of all of Justynia, and don't you forget it! Beautiful, ambitious, smart, stubborn, and highly spiteful, the Princess Cassandra seeks to prove her worth to her father and her kingdom, thereby securing her inheritance to the throne. Power and glory are her goals, and she'll do anything to get them...even if that means traveling across the country on a dangerous and difficult quest.


Despite serving as Cassandra's maidservant for many years, gentle Zoe has not assumed any of her mistress' personality traits. Quiet, helpful, and deceptively intelligent, Zoe is far deeper than she appears. Her friendship with Jester changes both of their lives irrevocably.


Omnicient High Wizard Nigel's steamy affair with the former queen earned him a lifetime banishment from the kingdom of Justynia, and now he occupies the Mordenlands in exile. Highly powerful and more than a little bitter, Nigel's dark arts are once again useful to Justynia. But will he return with the headstrong princess, or will he take his revenge on the family which banished him?


Ethylred is as ineffectual and unhelpful as a king can possibly be. Plagued by laziness and a horrible wardrobe, Ethylred struggles to support his spitfire daughter even as he hides from his irate subjects.


Jester walked hesitantly down the corridor of the Affinea cave, uncomfortably hefting the heavy, unfamiliar sword in his hand. The cave was fairly straight and didn't seem to descend too steeply into the earth, and so the outside light filtered in farther than expected. However, after about twenty more paces and about three million frenzied heartbeats, Jester no longer could see much of anything. He realized with a nearly choking panic that he had no idea how to make his way back to the surface.

Best to continue on, he mused, stretching his arms out to either side and feeling the rough rock of the walls under his fingertips. His sword's tip pinged against the rock as well, causing his heart to race even faster. Every step met more and more hesitation and every tiny sound made him whirl around, so that he muddled his sense of direction entirely.

Jester located a sharp turn in the corridor by nearly walking straight into the wall, his halting, trembling steps the only thing keeping him from a bloodied nose and a splitting headache. As he turned the corner, however, he stopped walking altogether.

At the end of the rocky hall, he saw a rectangular outline of light, its size and appearance reminding Jester of a doorway. In fact, as he squinted at the strange glow, he could almost make out a metallic glint where a doorlatch should be.

A doorlatch indeed, Jester thought to himself, wondering if his fear had driven him mad. What would a door be doing in a griffon cave? Unless...

Unless this isn't a griffon's lair at all, he mused slowly. A human must live here. He swallowed, taking an involuntary step backwards. Or at least a human-type creature.

As he took a pace behind him, his boot heel caught on a large rock and he lost his balance. He tried to reach the walls with his skinned fingers, but the corridor had grown wider as it came upon the door. Jester fell backwards onto his bottom, and his sword clanged against the floor. The sound echoed along the rough walls with painful intensity, and Jester sat very still, breathing deeply and trying desperately to keep his heart from exploding out of his chest.

"Hello?" came a voice, reverberating softly. "Hello? Is someone out there?"

Jester's hand tensed on his sword's pommel.

"If someone is there, you can come in, you know," continued the cheery, friendly voice. It was the voice of a woman, neither young nor old, full of curiosity and life. "Don't hide out there in the cave."

Jester decided that the voice was definitely coming from the room behind the odd door.

A woman lives down here? he thought as he deliberately got to his feet. Cassandra sent me down here to find a woman?

"Who is out there?" repeated the woman after a short pause, and Jester cleared his throat.

"Just a common jester, milady," he said in reply, stepping closer to the door. He supposed that he had been in stranger situations before, but he was hard pressed to remember one at the moment.

"Are you not an adventurer?"

"Well, I suppose so," he replied sheepishly. "Against my will."

The voice laughed musically. "Well, then, common jester, please enter. I would have words with you."

Jester sheathed his sword and warily walked up to the dimly-lit door. He assumed that it would do no harm to visit a lady, especially one who sounded so pleasant and well- bred. A sudden thought occurred to him, one which brightened his heart with hope: perhaps this lady was a mountain-witch, and perhaps she could remove the Ring of Heroism! After all, mountain-witches were well-known for their helpfulness, especially towards young adventurers.

Somewhat reassured, Jester placed his hand on the cool metal of the latch and eased the door open.

Slowly, Jester stepped into the cavernous room beyond. The domed ceiling above bore spikes of rock, and the walls were of dull brown earth. The only furnishings he could see were an ornate chair sitting against a wall and a pile of fur rugs which looked as if they had been used as a bed. Scattered candles set about the room gave the entire place a flickering, eerie light; as he looked closer at the little flames perched atop candle wicks, Jester noticed that they gave no smoke, no vapors, and indeed, they didn't even seem to melt wax.

Magic, he thought, and his convictions of a witch-dwelling grew stronger.

As Jester looked about for the mountain-witch, a cool cave breeze blew the door closed behind him. Alarmed, Jester spun around just in time to see the latch snap decisively shut, locking him in. He pulled at the door, but nothing budged.

"Good of you to visit," came the woman's voice again, and Jester turned to face it, his back against the door. He couldn't see anyone else in the room, but the voice seemed to emanate from a shadowed corner to his right, where the light's flickering hand did not quite reach.

"Why have I been locked in?" Jester asked bluntly, his voice trembling.

The woman chuckled.

"So you'd stay a while," she replied, her voice full and warm. "Don't worry. You'll be fine."

"Well, show yourself, then, milady," Jester said after a nervous pause.

Something stirred in the corner, and then a magnificent griffon padded out from the shadows, her eyes glowing like enchanted rubies. Powerful, grey-feathered wings adorned her back, and she held her eagle's head high as she walked, massive muscles rippling beneath her soft brown coat. She halted in the center of the room and sniffed carefully, as if catching Jester's human scent on the musty cave zephyrs.

A pure and instinctual terror jolted through Jester's muscles. He turned to the door and scrabbled at its lock, desperately seeking escape.

"Cassandra!" he yelled with all of his strength, his voice breaking. "Zoe! Help!"

"I'm not going to eat you, if that's what you're going on about," the griffon called to him. "Calm down."

Jester spun back to the griffon and flattened against the door. He yanked his sword from its scabbard and held the weapon in front of him, its point dancing in the air as his arm shook uncontrollably.

"You don't really look as if you could wield that," the griffon observed lightly. She sat on the floor. "And, unless that blade is enchanted, it really can't hurt me."

At this, Jester's arm drooped, and he began to whimper pitifully. The griffon was right: he had absolutely no hope of defending himself. All he could do now is hope to be disemboweled quickly. His sword clanged uselessly to the ground, and he sank to his knees, flinching against his own inevitable demise.

But instead of attacking him, the griffon merely tilted her head to the side, regarding him with something very like sympathy.

"Look, boy, I already told you that I won't hurt you. It wouldn't be very civil of me to invite you down here and then eat you, would it? And in any case, I'd never make a kill down here, in my home. What a mess that would be, and then you'd start to stink up the place..."

A tiny hope rose in Jester's thumping heart, and he dared to look in the griffon's glittering eyes.

"You mean...I'm not going to die?" he asked timidly.

"Well, of course you are, Love," the amazing animal replied with a small chuckle. "We're all going to, someday. But I do swear upon my honor as a griffon and a lady that no harm will come to you today." Her voice grew gentler, and the ruby eyes closed momentarily. "I promise."


© 2003 Rachael M. Haring