Flight of The Princess
I won’t lower myself to scream you filth, thought the princess as her airborne captors tossed her from one to the other like some toy. Playing a game of catch with her, the woman’s blood ran cold. How could she escape? It was a long drop. Oh, the fall didn’t bother her it was the stopping that worried Erica.
Spinning around, she found herself on the back of one of the beasts. It shrieked and twirled around, as the others scattered about. Pushing on its wings, she made the creature dive down.
Erica could see she was over farmland. No telling how far they’d gone from the castle. It was trying to shake her off as they fell lower to the ground, and soon raked the branches of a tree. It was her best shot; she ditched her ride, for a branch. The creature, hissing, looked back at her and slammed into a tree.
As she struggled to hang on to a branch and get some balance, Erica began to slip. She heard the tearing of her dress from pokey little sticks and stuff. It was such a pretty garment too; her maids had gone to so much trouble. Then her branch snapped. Her soundless mouth opened wide as the princess plummeted down.
She splashed into some water, then pulled her groggy head up. Things slowly began to straighten out as her eyes flickered. Her arm hurt a lot, like a bad sprain or something. Rising she shakily walked to the shore and collapsed.
The tree to which she’d hung had been partially in the waters. Good thing she wasn’t hurt any worse.
“What are you?” A small voice called.
Erica’s head lifted, she looked around – nothing. “Who’s there?”
“Me?” Now she saw it, with wings of a butterfly, a pointy eared little humanoid, about the size of a butterfly as well. That was it, a Butterfly Fae.
“I-I am Princess Erica,” She said, trying to rise. Her body ached too much.
“I am Paul,” the creature replied. “Wait right here, I’ll get you help.”
“Please hurry Paul,” Erica asked. She didn’t want to be around when the others came looking for her. Which they would once they realized she was gone.
Erica crawled under the shade of a tree. It would protect her from the view of sky born things. One would think a Devil like Lord Demonus could have better lackeys. Of course father always said good help was hard to find these days.
Looking up the tree Erica noticed a feline sitting on one of the branches. It was black, with a tail that wrapped around the thick branch like a snake. The creature had a wide smile on its face as it looked down on her.
What manner of beast was it? Erica wondered. So, if this thing killed her would that defeat Demonus’ plans? He must need her alive, otherwise he’d surely have killed the young princess. So, if this creature killed her and ate her? What then?
But, someone was nearing. The cat made a low pitched purr noise and ascended into the tree.
A young woman garbed in a lather made pantsuit and blouse ran to her, looking up at the ascending cat she shouted, “Away Gre-grump, seek your meal somewhere else.”
The cat gave a throaty roar in reply.
Gre-grump? Thought the princess. She struggled to rise as the young woman helped her.
“Greetings,” the girl said. She wore a straw hat over light blonde hair, her eyes were a nice grassy green. “I am Cassandra Caine.”
“Erica Goldenrod,” The princess replied.
“Princess?” The word came from the woman’s mouth as a sound of shock. Erica put an arm around Cassandra’s shoulders.
Supporting the princess, Cassandra helped her to a nearby wagon. It was a rickety looking little thing with a leather covering, and drawn by a horse that looked rather aged.
“What brings you here?” Cassandra asked. She settled Erica in the wagon’s back and promptly bowed.
“Please, rise,” Erica said and explained the whole story.
Rising to her feet, Cassandra was obviously still shaken and unnerved in the presence of the princess. She spoke, “An honor to meet you your highness.” She bowed her head again and again. “You are the direct descendant of the first man, your skin even still retains the dim brown coloring of the creating clay.” The girl was positively exuberant as she jabbered.
It was kind of cute, how this Cassandra carried on, thought Erica, but at the moment she hurt too much to fully appreciate it. How old was she? Maybe she was a couple years younger than the princess?
Erica wasn’t so certain she believed those old stories. “Yes, yes, but right now I am in distress.”
“Oh, of course,” Cassandra said. “I shall take you to my home straightway.” The she paused in midstep, “Or perhaps, I should go on to Count Marduke Issachar so he can tend to you most properly. Or perhaps, leave you at my place to recover and fetch the Count’s men to aid you.”
Erica let loose an exasperated blast of wind. “Just take me to your place, I need to recover and hide.” She paused, “We can decide the rest later.”
“Oh, yes, of course Your Majesty.” Cassandra made for the wagon driver’s seat. “T’won’t be so grand as you’re used to Your Highness, but it’s all I’ve got.”
“Thank you,” Erica replied. She hated to get impatient with the well meaning girl, but she was tired and she hurt. Soon, she was unconscious.
The world came back into view as her eyes opened. She lay in a bed covered by a thick quilt. The home smelled of smoke, the room looked fairly burnt, and roughly repaired. Sitting up, she saw the moon’s bright rays glistening through some cracks. A pitcher of water and a cup lay on the table next to her. A noise drifted into her house, the playing of a flute –which soon ceased.
The door creaked open and Cassandra entered, that cheery smile on her face, she held6 something in her hands. “Oh, good, you’re awake Your Majesty.” Again she bowed.
Enough with the kneeling and bowing, Erica thought. “Is that your flute?”
“Yes, it was a birthday gift from my brother,” sadness was in her eyes.
“You play very well,” Erica said. The girl’s face brightened and the princess continued. “So, is your family about? I should really thank them for their hospitality.” Reward them even as would be most proper.
Cassandra’s face drooped again. “No.”
By the look of her sadness something tragic must have happened, the princess reasoned. She motioned for Cassandra to come and sit by her.
Cassandra didn’t move, but looked to the princess, “Can I get you something to eat?”
Come to think of it, she was hungry. “Yes,” Erica said. “That would be good.” She wondered about the girl’s family and the condition of the house, but out front asking would be improper.
Spinning about like a twister, Cassandra went to get the princess some food. Erica smiled; she hurt a little less now. She moved to rise, wrapping the quilt about herself. So it is now night, she thought. Brother would be leading the army searching for her; maybe even her fiancée would be with them. But, if the Lord Demonus attacked them, or found her here and attacked – the latter would put this poor girl in danger.
There was only a partial roof over the main room. A fire blazed in the fireplace. Looking up, Erica gazed on the crescent moon and wondered why this Cassandra chose to stay here.
“Oh, Your Majesty,” Cassandra called, turning from the cook stove. “I’ll have some food momentarily.”
Erica smiled at her and went to sit by the fire. She recalled in her youth, sitting by the fireplace with mother, father and Barron.
Whatever the girl was cooking, it smelled tasty. Some meats? The girl was seasoning with whatever she had.
A Butterfly zipped over to her, “Hi, I’m Paul.” The small fae said in a squeaky little voice.
“Hello Paul, I’m Erica,” the princess replied. She sat on the floor, the quilt pulled snugly about her. She put a smile on her face. “Nice to meet you.”
“Fresh baked rabbit,” Cassandra announced as she carried the meal to Erica. “Garnished with mushrooms and celery.” She sat the food before the princess, and sat there on her knees.
Erica looked at her, “Where is your meal?” “Oh, I’ve Already eaten Your Highness.” Cassandra replied.
Erica wondered if indeed she had. “I hope so.” the rabbit tasted pretty good, she thought; it was even marinated with some honey.
“So,” Erica looked around her surroundings. “What happened here, if I may ask.” She hated to intrude much into the woman’s personal world, but was curious. Also, as royalty, it was her duty to take an interest in her subjects.
“Grasshoppers,” Cassandra said. “You see, three years ago mother died,” she paused. “Well, I guess that has little to do with the whole story, but it hit father pretty hard.”
“I imagine,” Erica said.
“So, the farm began to fall behind,” Cassandra explained. “And every year the Grasshoppers demand a tribute of the farmers.”
“Wait,” Erica said. “Grasshoppers? Bugs?”
Cassandra nodded her head. “Father couldn’t make his contribution so they burned our farm.” She paused, tears were drizzling in her eyes. “Brother tried to fight them but he was killed.” She shook her head “Father-“
“I’m sorry,” Erica said. She felt sadness in her. “Did the Lord of the lands give you aid? Did he seek retribution against these – bugs?” He should never have permitted such actions in his territory.
“He rented me the men to bury my family,” Cassandra said. “But, well, we’re not his problem.”
“Rented?” Erica felt anger bubble up inside her. The girl seemed so calm and casual about it all. But the Lord Issachar had not acted well. Father would need to have a word with him.
Maybe she could take this poor girl under her wing, make her a lady of the court. She did need reward for the aid she provided the princess.
“What’s it like being engaged?” Cassandra asked.
“I love it,” Erica replied, feeling a rush of enthused pleasure reinvigorate her body. “It has been exciting, and Prince Arjen is quite a man.” She paused, he will make an excellent king one day.
“I wish I could find a love,” Cassandra said. “All the boys around here are either already with someone, or looking to the wealthier girls.”
Erica shook her head. “I’m sure you will find your man someday.”
Erica paused, looked up at the crescent moon. “I remember standing in the light of a full moon with Arjen, holding his hand.” She smiled. “I looked at him and said, “On your knees slave.”
Cassandra’s eyes widened in shock, “You speak that way to your husband to be?”
“Well,” Erica felt a little uneasy now. “It’s not what you say it’s how you say it.”
Cassandra nodded her head.
From the distance came the baying of wolves. Erica shuddered, thinking of the snarling things with their gnashing fangs. Actually she licked wolves, normal ones anyway. Not the ones controlled by the Wolf Master.
“They must be hunting me,” Erica said. Fearful for her new friend, she asked. “Have you anyway of defending yourself?”
“Fret not,” the Butterfly Paul called. “The Butterfly Fae League shall protect you.”
“Thank you Paul,” Cassandra said. “We must of course see to Her Majesties safety.”
Paul nodded his head.
“If only I had my sword,” Erica mused.
“You have a weapon?” Cassandra asked.
“Of course, as the King’s daughter I am required as much as Prince Barren to master fighting skills.” She paused. “How can the people support a leader who cannot fight?”
“Your thinking seems much different than that of Lord Issachar.” Cassandra said.
“Paul,” Erica turned to the Fae. “How do your people plan to protect us?”
“Easy,” Paul said, beaming a brilliant gold. “We can block the wolves from scenting you, confuse them, and send them repugnant smells scents that drive them off, get their legs stuck in grass.”
“Very good my little friend,” Erica said.
Cassandra set a cup of some steaming beverage before the princess, “Honey tea.” She smiled.
Erica took a sip, “Very good.” Almost like pure honey.
The wolves continued to howl. If there were a way to get power over them
“Why does Demonus care if you become High Empress?” Cassandra asked.
“The High Empress of the kingdoms commands a lot of power,” Erica said. “I can command the obedience of – others,” maybe even the wolves.
“Wow,” Cassandra said. “That must be great.”
“Mhmm,” Erica replied. It was. “So, Demonus wants to prevent a new High Empress from being enthroned, from uniting the kingdoms, and maybe more.”
Cassandra’s eyes bugged and her jaw dropped. “Could you command the grasshoppers to leave us alone?”
“I think so,” Erica said. She wasn’t entirely sure what those creatures were though.
Smiling, Cassandra held her flute in her hands, “Would you mind?”
“No, please, play.” Erica said.
The woman began playing her flute. It was a nice tune. Erica closed her eyes and listened. The meal and drink were very good and soothing.