Originally posted as The King And The Mount (Face-Lift 1315)
Alister didn't start his day thinking he'd leave his home forever, with only his hiking pack and a cloud of shame. He certainly didn't think he'd accidentally cause a neighbour's house to crash down Mount Era's slopes, a young girl trapped inside. He doesn't know where he's going, or when he'll stop walking—maybe when the guilt doesn't threaten to bring him to his knees. [Not sure what I expected the third sentence to say after those first two, maybe what Alister did start the day thinking, until x happened, which snowballed into these other events. I'd like him more if he were trying to save the girl than taking a hike. Maybe: Alister didn't start his day thinking he'd leave his home forever, with only his hiking pack and a cloud of shame. But after he'd accidentally caused a neighbour's house to crash down Mount Era's slopes, a young girl trapped inside, he figured he was about to be persona non grata in the neighborhood anyway.]
Then Lark's message arrives. [Before he leaves? I got the impression he'd already started walking.] The travelling merchant was [had been] Alister's only link to the other cities of the Union, until he didn't arrive in Alister's town [mysteriously disappeared] that autumn. Lark's message tells Alister [explains that] his disappearance was no accident. He was taken captive by Baudouin, an unnervingly charismatic king of the western side of Mount Era. Lark discovered the king's plot to unearth [dig up?] the unstable Stone of Dominus and use its power to gain control of the entire mountain. [I may have mentioned this last time, but one side of one mountain isn't much of a kingdom. I guess that's why Baudouin is trying to get the other side.] The rest of the Union is oblivious to Baudouin's plans, fooled by the aid he's given them over the years. [If they need aid, and Baudouin can provide it, maybe they're better off letting him run the whole mountain. What's the downside? Having to put up with his unnerving charisma?]
Alister embarks on a journey across the Union to free Lark, so they can stop Baudouin from risking Mount Era's destruction in his lust for power. [If the mountain is destroyed, what will Baudouin have power over?] Throughout his travels, Alister makes new friends and enemies, learns more about the Union's cities than Lark ever told him, uncovers the merchant's past, and learns to face his own. Although he knows Baudouin must be stopped, Alister wrestles with how far he should go to save the Union.
In the back of his mind is a nagging question—What made Lark send to him for help? [This makes me wonder if Al suspects Lark of trying to lure him into the king's clutches. But that can't be, Alister was described in the previous version as a boy. He's nothing to the king. And Lark is a captive. They don't seem like much of a threat to the king.]
The Missing Traveller is a fantasy complete at 110 300 words. Thank you for your time and consideration.
Does Lark's message state that he's still Baudouin's captive? Usually when you've been imprisoned because you've discovered the king's secret plans, they don't let you send messages, so Alister could easily assume Lark has escaped.