Magic and Mayhem VII

“Are you sure this is the only way?” asked her companion.

“Bronwen seems to think so and Uriel is getting suspicious. Why else would he go through this farce of trying to marry me off to someone who can learn what we do at night,” replied Mariana.

“We know nothing of military tactics and have no magic. How will we take the kingdom from Father?”

“It still surprises me that you can call him that, Mariano, considering what he’s done to you and our brothers,” she said with bitterness.

“Be that as it may, we need help to accomplish this,” Mariano said. “It was daunting enough figuring out that we could only meet at night in the nether realms if we danced together. We’ve never tried leaving before.”

“Yes, but mother was convinced that we had to wait until we were all of age and together. Anora and Lenoro are now thirteen so we need only figure out how to defeat Uriel,” she said. Both of them knew full well that getting to the surface with their brothers would be for naught if Uriel could just banish them again. “I’ll think of something, but be ready soon.”

The soldier continued to listen to the pair hatch plans and then reject them as too far-fetched or requiring too much time. His training saw the flaws in each idea and began to improve upon them instinctively resolving the matters they couldn’t grasp. Soon he was intrigued by the idea of helping them, but they were leaving for the surface. With farewells and promises to return the following night, the princesses climbed the spiral staircase back to their room before dawn.

On the second night, much the same happened and the soldier spent most of his time admiring the sharp mind and tenacity of the eldest princess. He wanted to reveal himself, but didn’t want to startle her and her siblings. The following night at dinner he overheard a conversation between the king and his sorcerer.

“This soldier will fail as the others have, but I think I have a better idea. Perhaps I should try to figure out what the princesses are up to at night. If I do, I would gladly marry Mariana,” he said with great humility. The soldier could see the sorcerer wore humility as he wore his cloak of invisibility—as a tool. Finally he made up his mind.

That night, when the Princess Mariana brought the soldier his cup of wine before bed, he stopped her.

“Princess I know where you go at night, but your bigger concern should be if I fail. The king has agreed to let Uriel follow you after I’m banished and marry you when he reports your whereabouts. It’s time to execute your plan,” he said holding her hand. She was visibly startled by his revelation, but was dismayed that her time was up.

“Our plans aren’t ready. We don’t even know how to overcome Uriel’s magic,” she said.

“Leave that to me,” he replied and quickly donned his cloak.

To the others they said nothing until they reached the enchanted palace by the lake. The soldier explained what he would do and explained each of their roles in the coming ruse. When the princesses left at dawn, the soldier stayed behind with the princes.

The next night the princesses came down as always, but there was some hesitancy in the youngest. She knew they were being followed and couldn’t play the part of ignorant as well as her elder sisters. However, Uriel barely noticed her agitation as he walked at a discreet distance from the party. Marveling at the surroundings he didn’t feel anything amiss until he was toppled by the darkness.

The eldest prince and princess helped to drag him to the water’s edge. With the aid of the swans, Uriel was lifted then dropped in the center of the lake and the swans fluttered and squawked on the surface keeping him under. Soon the thrashing ceased and one swan plunged down into the depths and came up with the sorcerer in his beak. Lifeless, the soldier checked for signs of life and found none. Wasting no time, the princes, princesses, and the soldier hurried to the portal and up the stairs.

Being rid of the sorcerer gave the siblings courage to confront their father. The king was lost without his adviser and gave up his kingdom without a fight. Prince Mariano, now king showed his gratitude to the soldier by giving him titles, honors and a generous tract of land to govern, which he did with the help of Princess Mariana. At their wedding, the soldier was introduced to the princess’s confidante, Bronwen and they shared a secret smile.

“What is so funny?” asked Mariana.

“It’s a rather interesting story,” said Bronwen and the three continued to enjoy the celebration.

The End

Magic and Mayhem Part VI

Sorry for the delay. Computers really do run our lives!

The proclamation was read in kingdoms throughout the land and many sought out king. Dukes, earls, viscounts, and other noble personages came to the castle looking for a bride, but were instead handed a mystery. Try as they might, none could prove or disprove the sorcerer’s story. And after three days each suitor was sent to the nether realms, never to be heard from again. Soon nobles were few and far between and the mystery had yet to be solved.

One day a humble soldier was making his way to the kingdom. He had recently retired from years of service and sought his fortune in the capitol. Along the way, he was stopped by an old woman sitting at the side of the road.

“Kind sir, will you share your meal with me? I am but an old woman who is tired and hungry,” she said.

“I don’t have much, but I will share what I have with you,” he replied and reached into his sack for the bread and cheese he had there. They sat in a companionable silence until the food was gone. The old woman smiled and pointed at his leg.

“What has happened to you?”

“I was a soldier and was wounded in battle. I’m retired now and am heading to the capitol to earn a living. Perhaps I’ll find some luck as my duke did wedding the king’s eldest daughter,” he said with a laugh.

“The Princess Mariana is not married,” she replied with a wink.

“But that is impossible. He left 6 months ago to marry her and never returned. What a puzzle!”

“It’s true sir and there is a puzzle to solve. Perhaps you might find it well worth your trouble to solve it. If you do, listen to an old woman’s advice. Drink nothing that the princesses give you and take this cloak so none can see you when you follow them,” she said and with that she thanked him and walked away belying her years. The soldier found this all most peculiar, but had no other plans.

He presented himself at the castle and despite some misgivings from the king and Uriel was allowed to stay and try his hand at the riddle. When he went to his chamber, which looked over the princesses, he saw the old woman carrying a bundle of fabric. A passing servant confirmed that she was Mistress Bronwen, a fixture of the castle for years out of memory.

That night the eldest princess herself brought the soldier a glass of wine before retiring. Remembering the words of the old woman, he pretended to drink the beverage and then feigned exhaustion. The princess was sorry to trick such a nice man, but she could not have him interfering in her plans. Making her way back to the princesses’ room, she never looked behind her sure that her potion had done its work.

Following only steps behind her was the soldier cloaked in invisibility. Not wanting to be detected he nearly missed his chance to slip in the door behind Mariana. The cloak snagged and a sliver of boot was visible. It would have gone unnoticed, but the youngest, Amara screamed and pointed at the spot. The soldier was able to move quickly and cover his mistake before the other sisters investigated.

“You’re just excitable because it’s time to go. Get your shoes on so we can depart,” said Mariana slipping on her dancing slippers.

Tapping the floor three times a portal opened in the middle of their bedroom. A spiral staircase descended into the dark hole with twinkling lights at the base. The soldier could see only the first stair while the other princesses crowded around the entrance awaiting their turn to descend. After the youngest started to make her way down, the soldier followed and saw the pinks and purples of dusk surrounding them. He was so overwhelmed by the stars and the exotic smells that he accidentally tread on the hem of the youngest princess. Again she yelped.

“Amara, what is it this time?” asked her elder sister, Anora.

“I have a strange feeling. Like someone is following us. Maybe we should head back,” replied Amara looking over her shoulder again and again. The soldier cursed himself for his clumsiness and waited until the princesses were three steps ahead before continuing.

“You’re just being silly. I’ve done this countless times before you and our sisters have been doing it before we were born without a problem. That soldier is fast asleep like the rest of them,” Anora reassured her. But Amara still stole glances behind her back to be sure.

Soon they arrived at a glowing lake with swans the size of horses gliding to the edge. On each sat a man or boy that looked to be about the same ages as the princesses. Each rider took the hand of a princess and helped her onto the back of a swan. Lucky for the soldier, Princess Amara was small as was her companion. He eased himself behind her and fit nicely on the saddle. Lifting his cape to avoid the water, his toe stuck out again for only a moment. The princess blinked and then her companion gave the command for the swan to move.

The soldier was amazed by the sights in from of him. Trees shimmered in silver and gold. Where there should have been fruit growing, only gemstones hung in abundance. When they docked, the pathway was strewn with glittering sand which shone like diamonds. Up ahead stood a grand palace from which music wafted out of windows.

Once inside, the princesses danced with richly clad gentlemen who looked oddly similar to the royal highnesses. The way they danced looked friendly, but not amorous—the way one might dance with a family member. Standing in the middle of the dance floor and swaying along to the music, the soldier listened to the conversations being had. Some were of little consequence, commenting on the weather or the merits of the song being played. The youngest princesses told her companion of her fear that they had been followed. The eldest, however was in rapt conversation with the man turning her about the floor.

“Now that we have a full complement, I think it time to strike,” she said with a serious face completely at odds with her graceful and carefree movements.