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Sew, It's a Quest (The Bookania Quests, #1)

Sew, It’s

a Quest

 

The Bookania Quests

Book 1

By Kendra E. Ardnek

SEW, IT’S A QUEST

Copyright © 2017 Kendra E. Roden

Published by GiraffeCrafts at Shakespir

Shakespir Edition License Notes

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your enjoyment only, then please return to Shakespir.com or your favorite retailer and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

Dedication

 

 

For my mother, who ought to have been an author herself.

 

Contents

 

 

Acknowledgments

Forward

Prologue

1 – Wherein the Quest Is Given

2 – Wherein Preparations are Made

3 –Wherein the Quest Is Begun

4 – Wherein the Quest Proves Less Exciting than Robin had Expected

5 – Wherein Thieves Make Things Interesting

6 – Wherein Their Story is Told

7 – Wherein Robin Doesn’t Dance

8 – Wherein Rosamond Finds her Long-lost Cousin

9 – Wherein Robin Runs into a Wall

10 – Wherein Robert Runs into a Wall

11 – Wherein Gifts are Discussed

12 – Wherein Robin Doesn’t Dance. Again.

13 – Wherein the Cat is Out of the Bag

14 – Wherein Another Daring Rescue is Performed

15 – Wherein Rosamond Has a Great Fall

16 – Wherein Robin Fights a Female Opponent for the First Time

17 – Wherein They Join the Merry Men

18 – Wherein the Twins Learn Archery

19 – Wherein Robert Makes a Birthday Present

20 – Wherein It Rains

21 – Wherein Eric Shows Up

22 – Wherein Eric is Given a Jailer

23 – Wherein Chess is Played

24 – Wherein a Daring Escape is Made

25 – Wherein a Less Daring Escape is Made

26 – Wherein They Dine at the Assembly Line

27 – Wherein They Find the Quest’s Inn

Epilogue

Acknowledgments

 

I’d like to acknowledge my mom, my grandma and my Cousin Terri for help with editing.

I’d like to also acknowledge my baby sister, who was always eager to provide words like “oeroj” and “iiiiiieows” to my story.

 

And for this second edition, I’d like to acknowledge the girls who gave me a final glance to make sure I hadn’t ADDED any errors – Erudessa, Brie, Shaylin, and Morgan.

 

Forward

I published this book for the first time five and a half years ago. I was sixteen, impulsive, and desperate to help provide an income for my family as my dad had suffered a heart attack earlier that year.

For the record, this was not my wisest move, as this book was nowhere near ready to see the light of day and I ended up making a few business mistakes that ended up costing me more than I have made from this book.

However, that said, I don’t regret the action, as I don’t think I would be the author I am today if I hadn’t published this book. Indeed, if this book hadn’t been the first of a series that I plan to be writing for a long time, I probably would leave it well and enough alone. Since it is, and thus a book that I plan to be promoting for many years to come, I have decided that it needs a bit of a spit and shine.

So, what has changed in this revision? Mostly it was a clean-up of grammar and spelling, but I also sharpened characterization, edited a few conversations so that they reflect backstory that I have learned since the book’s publication, and … completely rewrote chapter thirteen. There’s ten thousand words of new content to be enjoyed. (Expanding the book by 25%)

To those of you who found the “Old” English used by a number of characters to be inaccurate, I did focus a bit on that, mostly correcting the use of thee, thou, ye, and you. However, the “Old” English of Bookania is different than our own Shakespearean English (on which it was based). It has, for instance, a stronger Germanic influence, so don’t pull out our 1611 dictionaries to correct me. Know that I have rules for the dialect and remain consistent within them.

Whether you’ve read Sew before, or if you’re a newcomer to the series, I do hope that you enjoy this new revision as much as I enjoyed rewriting it.

 

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Kendra E. Ardnek

Prologue:

 

A valiant prince rides through a tangled forest, his sword flashing expertly in his hand to fend off the thorns that seem to threaten to tear him to shreds. Yet, they are falling back more of their own accord than because of his courageous efforts.

He whacks away one last thorn branch and is confronted by a wall of ivy. This proves to be a gate, which opens easily at his touch. He then strides confidently across an eerily quiet courtyard and into the empty castle.

Soon he is drawing back a lace curtain to reveal the form of a sleeping princess. For a moment, his breath is stolen away, for she is quite beautiful. Stooping over her, he brushes a silken curl away from her face. Her eyes flutter open, and he is overcome by their beauty and gentleness.

Marry me?” he asks in the lowest whisper.

Of course,” she answers, her voice as soft as velvet.

 

1 – Wherein the Quest Is Given

 

 

Once upon a time, in a land called Bookania, there lived the Locksley twins, a prince and a princess. These twins had a private garden to which they would retreat whenever the prying eyes of the court and people became tiring to them, as was often the case.

One would retreat to the garden to sew and would produce some of the most amazing tapestries. The other would go there to train with the sword and did practice routines that would quickly leave most others gasping in the dust.

And so each was doing at the start of my story. The sewer sat before a large tapestry frame, a lovely forest scene slowly forming under the quickly darting ivory needle. The fighter was in the middle of an exceptionally complicated practice routine, and, so far, hadn’t missed a single step.

“Be careful…” the sewer cautioned, as the fighter did a spinning attack that brought the sword a bit too close to the tapestry.

“You know that I always am,” said the fighter, vaulting into a back flip. However, speaking broke the fighter’s concentration, and the sword was thrown too high, embedding itself high in the tree that was at the end of the backflip.

“I meant to do that,” said the fighter, trying to excuse the rare mistake.

“I’m sure,” said the sewer.

The fighter wasn’t paying attention but plopped down at the sewer’s feet with an exaggerated sigh. Gazing up at the back of the tapestry, Robin thought of how their lives were not unlike that tangled, twisted surface.

“It’s not fair,” Robin complained. “Swordplay’s my life. They can’t make me stop!” This not getting a response from the sewer, the fighter continued, “Not that you care. All you care about is that silly needle.”

“It’s not silly,” said the sewer. This was an old argument between them and was more jest than anything else. “You just don’t understand the magic of watching the scenes that you sew come to life under your needle.”

“All that I’ve ever been able to bring to life is a mess of thread,” Robin countered. “Besides, it’s boring. Now swordplay…”

“Makes you lose your head.”

“Robert!” Robin screeched, rolling onto her stomach to glare at her brother.

His eyes were fixed on the rapidly darting needle, and he seemed to take no notice of her reaction. With an exasperated sigh, Robin yanked up a blade of grass and started mutilating it.

“It’s all her fault,” she said, after a period of thought, as she wasn’t one to let silence reign for very long. “She should have gotten our gifts straight in the first place.”

She was speaking of their Fairy Godmother, who was apparently the reason that she was so good with the sword and him so brilliant with the needle. Not only that, but they were the first two they knew of to have a Fairy Godmother in years.

The fairies were strange, mysterious beings – mere rumors, according to some. Over the years, sightings of them had become less and less frequent, until they were all but forgotten. No one was even sure how many fairies there were. Some said two, others four. One especially old story spoke of a princess who had seven Fairy Godmothers, but she had disappeared mysteriously, so nothing good had come of it.

What made the matter even worse was that their Fairy Godmother was a carefully guarded secret, and they couldn’t tell any of their peers the truth of why they’d chosen swordplay and sewing.

“Don’t worry,” said Robert. “I’m sure that the emissary will be returning any day now.”

“You’ve said that practically every day for the last six months,” Robin pointed out, rolling her eyes. She threw down the scraps of grass and stood up. Gazing up at the tree that her sword was stuck in, she commented, “Looks like I have a climb in front of me.”

Robert glanced up at her sword for the briefest second. “At least Father won’t have to worry about it falling on some courier or ambassador’s head,” he said. “Or at least, he shouldn’t.”

“At least Father allows me to wear pants, now,” Robin commented, tilting her head to the side. “Do you know how hard it is to climb a tree in a dress?”

For the first time, the needle actually paused. “Robin,” he said looking up. “I wore your skirts for six months. I can guess.” Then he glanced back down and resumed his sewing.

“Those were the days,” said Robin. “Back when we weren’t considered completely crazy. I mean, we were crazy, still are, but people didn’t know.”

“You did have to go and give us away,” said Robert.

“They were laughing at you! Oh!” Robin’s eyes flashed as she swung herself up into the tree. Then she added, “Besides, I really doubt that the disguises would work anymore. We have grown up a bit since we were six.”

“I’ll say,” Robert agreed.

The two were almost identical, the difference between them being that Robin was a girl and Robert was a guy. They both had the same brown hair – although Robin’s was quite a bit longer – the same brown eyes, and the same olive complexions. Even to that day, it was impossible to mistake them for anything but brother and sister.

The conversation was interrupted by a trumpet blast. The tower guards had spotted approaching guests.

“Do you think that’s him?” Robin asked, instinctively swinging down from the tree.

“Can’t be sure,” said Robert. “Which him are you talking about? You have so many—”

Robin cut him off. “The emissary,” she said through clenched teeth. “Sir Hugh.”

“Oh!” cried Robert. Robin closed her eyes as she recognized his teasing voice. “I thought that you might be talking about one of your suitors. Are you sure that you don’t want it to be one of them?”

“No, thank you,” growled Robin. “But if it is, I’ll just challenge him to a duel, as always, and that will be the end of it.”

“Don’t get his sword stuck in the ceiling,” Robert cautioned.

“Eric deserved that!” Robin exclaimed, eyes flashing again. Then, frowning, she added, “I don’t see why they have to pick on me, though. There are other princesses out there. Princesses who’d actually appreciate the attention.”

“But you’re a challenge,” said Robert. “There’s a rumor that you’ll marry the first man who can beat you in a duel.”

“As if that could ever happen,” said Robin, rolling her eyes. “You know, I have better things to do with my time than fighting off those annoying princes and irritating young lords.”

“Like throwing your sword into trees?” Robert asked.

Robin just glared at him.

“I forgot that you hate men,” said Robert.

She turned away with a huff. “I don’t hate them. I just rather dislike it when they try to make me into something I’m not.”

They heard the trumpets again, the second blast to let them know the speed with which the guests were traveling.

“How long do you think we have until whoever it is gets here?” Robin asked.

The needle paused as Robert calculated. “I’d say around thirty minutes,” he announced as the needle resumed its progress.

“I’d better get back in, then,” said Robin. “Meg always has a time of it turning me from sword maiden to princess. I’ll give her as much time as possible.”

“I thought you—” Robert began, but Robin was already gone. Shaking his head, he folded the tapestry frame down, tucked it under his arm, and carried it in. He didn’t want his artwork to be ruined in the off-chance chance of an early spring storm. As he left the garden, he glanced up at the sword and shook his head. Hopefully, Robin wouldn’t forget about it.

*****

Thirty minutes later, the twins stood in their father’s throne room.

Robin leaned awkwardly against one of the many enormous tapestries that covered nearly every wall in the castle. She now wore a long, dark blue, satin dress well embellished with sky blue lace. Her hair was braided into an elegant twist that was far nicer than her own haphazard knots and was decorated with a silver and sapphire tiara that flaunted her status as princess, and she also wore a matching necklace and bracelet. The heavy sapphire earrings were what really bothered, her, though. Her hands were clasped tightly at her waist to prevent fidgeting.

Beside her, nowhere near as bedecked, Robert stood calm and straight. Easy for him. Father wasn’t trying to marry him off to every suitor who came to the castle.

Not that suitors generally came for him…

Their parents, King Alexander and Queen Charlotte sat upon their thrones, looking regal and royal, as all kings and queens ought.

The doors at the end of the room opened, and with a final trumpet fanfare, a single man entered. In relief, Robin recognized him to be Sir Hugh, the emissary that had been sent out six months before.

“You’ve returned,” King Alexander calmly stated, as though the man didn’t potentially bring back information that would change the twins’ lives forever. “What news do you bring back?”

According to proper protocol, Sir Hugh spent the next hour giving a detailed account of his travels and trials. Despite her best efforts, Robin found herself fidgeting, rolling her eyes, and barely containing her exasperated sighs as both her mother and father inquired after each and every minute detail.

Robin had completely stopped listening and was instead contemplating the sword lodged in the ceiling – the one directly over Sir Hugh’s head…

Not that there were any other swords stuck in the ceiling…

Robert’s elbow discreetly nudged her from her reverie.

“Yes sir,” Sir Hugh was saying, “she only asked for food. Even if I’d not had plenty, I wouldn’t have turned her away. Indeed, I urged her to take all that she wanted.”

“You were ever the compassionate soul,” gushed Queen Charlotte.

Sir Hugh blushed at her praise. “After the woman finished eating, she told me that she was, in fact, a fairy!”

“You were successful!” cried King Alexander.

“Not completely so,” admitted Sir Hugh, “for then she told me that she wasn’t the Fairy Godmother of the Prince and Princess.”

“But it’s still a far greater success than any of the previous emissaries have had,” said Queen Charlotte, approvingly.

“Well, yes,” said Sir Hugh. “Then she told me that we seek her sister, Fallona, and should the prince and princess truly wish to have their gifts switched, they would have to seek her out for themselves on their own quest.”

“But they’re only children!” Queen Charlotte exclaimed.

Robin rolled her eyes.

“That is what the fairy told me,” answered Sir Hugh.

“Are you sure that she was a fairy?” Queen Charlotte asked, suspicious.

“I am,” said Sir Hugh, nodding with conviction, “for when we finished speaking, she first turned into a beautiful young woman with green eyes, auburn hair, and clad in a green dress. Then she vanished as though she’d never been there.”

“Did she say anything else?” Robin blurted, forgetting herself. “Something useful?”

“Yes, now that you mention it,” said Sir Hugh, glancing down at his feet. “She did say that the prince and princess would have to find her before their eighteenth birthday, for, once they turn eighteen, their gifts will be locked in place forever.”

“But that’s less than four months away!” said King Alexander, frowning.

“I only repeat what the fairy told me,” said Sir Hugh.

“It will take us three, maybe four weeks at the very least to put together a proper entourage,” exclaimed Queen Charlotte, wringing her hands together.

Robin rolled her eyes again. Trust their mother to get overworked on such a simple affair as a quest.

Looking directly at the twins, King Alexander said, “I will consider the matter. Children, come see me in my office after supper this evening, and I will let you know what I decide.”

“Yes sir,” Robert and Robin said together, and the two were dismissed.

Robin went straight to her room and rid herself of her the annoying skirt and jewelry. When this was done, she returned to the garden to retrieve the sword with the intent of finishing the practice routine interrupted earlier.

However, no sooner had her feet hit the ground than it began to rain and now she had to entertain herself inside. She considered the training hall to resume her practice, but she knew that the students would be using it at this hour and she didn’t feel like being used as their impossible example.

Absentmindedly, she wandered to the library to research how to find one’s Fairy Godmother. It was forever before supper finally arrived, and then that was an agonizing hour because Father had taken his in his office and Mother went on and on about the injustice of the situation.

At last, however, Robin and Robert was dismissed. They went to their father’s office together and were shown in by one of his personal guards.

“There you two are,” said King Alexander, standing as they entered.

Robin had her hands clasped tightly behind her back. What had their father decided? Would he let them go?

Putting his arms around their shoulders, he led them to a window overlooking the palace gates. “I have considered the matter,” he continued, “but first, I need to know if the two of you really do want to go on the quest.”

“Oh, yes!” Robin exclaimed, turning and grabbing his large hand in both of hers. “Oh, please, Father, please let us go.”

Robert, on the other hand, just nodded, not being as enthusiastic as her when it came to things like this.

“Very well, then,” said King Alexander, smiling at his over-exuberant daughter and overly-calm son. “Here is what I have decided. Take some money, horses, and whatever else you might need for this quest, and you may leave in secret as soon as you are ready. I feel that the success of your venture is dependent on your going alone. You must only promise me that you won’t breathe a word of these plans to your mother – you know her nerves. I, personally, have little fear for your safety, as Robin has been able to fight off every young man who has come to the castle.” The look on his face showed that he wasn’t entirely amused, which caused Robin to fidget a bit. “Does that sound satisfactory to you?”

“Oh, yes!” cried Robin, throwing her arms around her father’s neck. King Alexander returned his daughter’s hug, and then she dashed out of the room to start her preparations.

Putting his hand on his son’s shoulder, King Alexander continued, “Take care of her, Robert. Don’t let her temper lead her into doing anything she’ll regret.”

“I will,” Robert promised. “I always have.”

King Alexander gave Robert’s shoulder a squeeze as he said, “I know you will. Thank you.” He smiled warmly.

 

2 – Wherein Preparations are Made

 

 

Robin stood in her father’s armory, contemplating the collection of swords. King Alexander had told her that she could take whichever one she wanted – but which one did she want? Absentmindedly, she tried out sword after sword, but she kept wandering back to her favorite.

Auroren sang as she pulled it from its sheath, just as it always did, calling to something deep within her. As always, it made her quiver with anticipation. Many a night in her childhood, she had stolen away to the great room to fight imaginary battles – until the evening that one of the guards had seen her and reported it to her father. Since that day, Auroren had been locked in this room, away from her childish fingers, but ever in her dreams.

“Father did say any sword,” she said, a little loudly, given that she was alone. “This is the that I choose.” Then she belted it onto her waist with fierce determination.

She swung open the door to be confronted by Great-Aunt Talia – the oldest person in the castle, for they had celebrated her eighty-sixth birthday a few weeks before.

“Oh, there you are, dear,” she said. “I heard that you and Robert were going on a quest to get your gifts straightened out.”

“Yes, we are, Aunt Talia,” Robin answered, stiffly.

“I see that you’ve chosen my Father’s sword,” said Great-Aunt Talia, reaching to finger Auroren’s hilt. She looked up and smiled at Robin’s almost guilty expression. “I approve,” she said with a wink. Then, suddenly, her face clouded over. “Could you find Aunt Madeleine for me?” she asked. “She has been lost for oh so long.”

“Who?” Robin asked, her brown knitting.

“My father’s twin sister,” Great-Aunt Talia explained. “He almost never spoke of her, but it was his great agony that we were never able to meet her. Perhaps, when you find your Fairy Godmother, you could ask about Aunt Madeleine as well?”

“Uh,” said Robin, finding it puzzling that no one had ever told her anything about her Great-Grandfather having a twin sister. Granted, though, they’d only told her and Robert about their Fairy Godmother when they had to. “I’ll try.”

“There’s a good girl,” said Great-Aunt Talia, patting her on the hand, and then she let go and hobbled away.

Robin shook her head. She’d never heard of an “Aunt Madeleine” before, and so she honestly doubted the validity of Great-Aunt Talia’s story. Surely, if such a person existed, Robin would have heard something of her. After all, this was a family member and not an unconfirmed legend that might have been a practical joke.

A trumpet blast distracted her from her thoughts. She rolled her eyes. Not again! Sighing, she headed for her room so that Meg could turn her into a princess again.

Soon enough, she was standing in the throne room next to Robert once more, waiting for the doors to open. This time, their guest was an ambassador from a neighboring country – Winthrop, by the colors he wore. Robin wrinkled her nose.

One of the men who accompanied the ambassador brought him a scroll on a velvet pillow, and he picked it up and proceeded to read in a nasally voice.

“King William of Winthrop to King Alexander of Locksley,” it went. “We are pleased to invite you and your royal family to the ceremony celebrating the marriage of Prince Eric to the radiantly lovely Princess Beauty on the twenty-seventh of June. It is to be a most joyous occasion, and we sincerely hope that you will honor us with your presence, putting behind us our recent quarrels.”

He seemed to glance in Robin’s direction at that last part.

“It sounds joyous indeed,” said King Alexander, nodding thoughtfully. He also glanced Robin’s direction. “I shall give my answer to you in the morning. In the meanwhile, we shall provide you with sufficient accommodations.” With that, he dismissed the court.

“Princess Beauty!” cried Robin to Robert, as they left the room. “How arrogant! But, then, what else can you expect from any girl who’d agree to marry Eric.”

“She might be nice,” Robert replied. “She almost certainly had no control whatsoever over her name.”

“I bet that she’s a mollycoddled priss,” said Robin, leaning towards him as if in a conspiracy. “Only a priss would agree to marry him.”

“Look who’s talking,” said Robert, stepping away from her and giving her an unamused look. “You’re the one who’s currently acting like a priss.”

Robin rolled her eyes.

“Children,” came their father’s voice from behind them. “I would like to speak with you immediately in private.”

“Yes, Father,” they said together, turned, and followed him to his office.

“The wedding,” King Alexander began once they were there, “as you probably already realized, is scheduled for just over two weeks after your birthday. This means that your search will be over at that point, regardless of whether or not you were successful. I expect the two of you to be there – and on your best behavior – understand?”

His gaze was focused on Robin, for it was no secret that she didn’t like Eric. She certainly didn’t mind who knew.

“Yes, sir,” she said, shrugging. After all, why not go to the wedding? It’d be yet another chance to put Eric in his place, this time in front of a bride who no doubt believed all of his boasts of grandeur.

The poor, deluded fellow.

Continuing to fix his gaze on Robin, King Alexander continued. “I hear that you have chosen your weapon?”

“Yes, sir,” said Robin, wondering how he’d already found out. Had Great-Aunt Talia told him?”

“I knew you’d pick Auroren,” he said, smiling warmly. “You and that sword…” He shook his head. “Very well. Carry on with your plans. You’re both dismissed.”

With that, Robin and Robert left the office and parted ways.

So they would go to Eric’s wedding. Fine. She’d get to see for herself exactly how spoiled and stuck-up this Beauty really was, and break the news to her that, regardless of whatever he might say, her new husband wasn’t the best swordsman in the world.

Now to get out of this dress…

*****

Out of old habit, she wandered to their garden, where she just stood fingering one of the many gashes that she’d left in the trees. They would be leaving tomorrow, and … she had mixed feelings. Part of her couldn’t wait to get away from here and finally have adventures on her own terms, but, of course, she would miss home.

“Having last minute regrets?” came Robert’s voice from behind her, startling her from her thoughts. “We could just call it off and stay as we are, you know.”

“And miss out on all of the adventures? No!” answered Robin, turning to face him. With a bit of a grin, she added, “I was just wondering if the garden would miss us.”

“I don’t think that the trees will,” answered Robert, pointing to a tree that had a particularly nasty gash in it thanks, of course, to one of Robin’s swords. “I rather think that they’ll enjoy the vacation.”

“I hope so,” said Robin. “And, just think, when we get back, you could be the one tearing them up.”

“If we find our Fairy Godmother,” said Robert. “If we don’t, then you’ll still be the one terrorizing them.”

“Yes,” said Robin, absentmindedly. “Aunt Talia wants us to ask our Fairy Godmother something if and when we find her.”

“What?” asked Robert.

“If she knows what happened to Great-Grandfather’s twin sister,” Robin answered.

“Who?” Robert frowned and shook his head. “Great-grandfather didn’t have a twin sister. I’ve read almost all of the records – back to the time of Queen Robyn, even.”

“Aunt Talia claims that he did,” Robin stated, throwing up her hands. “An Aunt Madeleine.”

“What did you tell her?” Robert asked.

“I told her that we’d try,” said Robin, rolling her eyes. “As if it’d do any good.”

“Fair enough,” said Robert.

“I really don’t like the idea of leaving without telling Mother good-bye,” said Robin, tilting her head to the side, “but Father wants us to. I’m glad that he’ll be the one dealing with her hysteria.” Then after some thought, she asked, “What else do we need to get done? I think that we’re practically ready, but…”

“Don’t you have the list that I gave you?” Robert asked, raising an eyebrow.

Robin’s face went blank. “List,” she repeated. “I, uh, had it this morning. Or was it yesterday morning?” She frowned. “It’s bound to be somewhere.”

Robert shook his head as he pulled a neatly folded piece of paper out of his jacket pocket. “Nevermind,” he said, shaking his head. “I have mine. Let’s see – we need to pick up our new riding boots from the cobbler at three o’clock, you need to see to it that our horses’ shoes have been taken care of, and I need to make a last check with Cook about food.”

“And that’s everything?” Robin asked.

“Oh, and find your list,” Robert finished.

“You actually put that on there,” said Robin, eyes widening. She honestly doubted that he had … but at the same time, wouldn’t put it past him.

“Of course I did,” said Robert, turning the paper around to show her that it was, indeed, written at the bottom of the list. “I knew that you’d lose yours sometime or another.”

Robin rolled her eyes as the two of them left the garden.

3 – Wherein the Quest Is Begun

 

 

“Robin! Robin! Wake up!”

“Five more minutes,” Robin muttered, pulling a pillow over her head.

“We don’t have five more minutes,” Robert whisper-hissed, pulling the pillow off of her head. “We have to leave before dawn, while it’s still dark, remember? I’ve given you as much time to sleep in as I possibly can.”

“I’m asleep.” Robin pulled another pillow over her head. “Go away!”

“What time did you go to bed last night?” Robert asked, pulling this pillow off of her head and grabbing two others before she could reach them. “It’s time to wake up. We don’t want Mother finding out about this until we’re well on our way.”

“Oh, fine, fine,” Robin grumped, throwing the blankets off of her and swinging her feet onto the floor. “I’m up. Now, will you please leave my room?”

To her satisfaction, when she finally forced her eyes open, he was gone. He knew that she wouldn’t even think of going back to sleep on a day like this. Seriously, her eyelids might be protesting the whole staying open business, but she wasn’t about to give up an opportunity to run away and have an adventure.

She quickly changed out of her nightdress and into the clothes that Meg had lain out for the night before and then twisted her hair into a knot. Robin paused a moment to run her hands down the soft leather of the jacket, savoring the feel. Nothing felt better than new leather. It was even more satisfying to belt Auroren to her waist. Nodding with satisfaction, she admired her reflection in the mirror. No one would be mistaking her for a princess, but at the same time, her outfit was just feminine enough that they shouldn’t be mistaking her for a man, either. She hated it when people did that.

Then she snatched her pack and left her room, only pausing in the doorway for a long, last glance at her room and a pang of a regret that she couldn’t say goodbye to Meg. She rushed down the corridors, carrying the candle that Robert had left for her. When she reached the stable, she found that he had already saddled their horses.

“Thanks,” she whispered as she mounted, a red mare named Snow. Robin loved contradicting names.

“You’re welcome,” Robert answered, mounting his, a palomino named Splash. He reached over and offered her a large biscuit. “No need to start a ‘quest’ on an empty stomach. Have this eaten before we leave the grounds.”

“Thanks,” she said as she accepted it. She took a bite to discover that there was sausage inside.

The guard scarcely noticed as they passed through the gates, though Robert slid an envelope into his hands.

And they were off.

“We did it!” Robin shouted at the top of her lungs.

Robert made no reply.

As the sun rose in the sky ahead of them, the land was painted in a rosy glow, making the adventure just that much more exciting. Robin didn’t get to see the sunrise very often, as she wasn’t a fan of mornings, and while legends stated that sunsets used to be just as beautiful … they were just legends.

Robin sighed as they raced past familiar sights, wondering when they’d see any of them again. Soon enough, she assured herself. No matter what, this quest would be over in less than four months.

Still, four months were four months, and there was Eric’s wedding after that.

As the sun rose higher, they started seeing people in front of the houses they passed. Many of them looked up as the twins raced past, probably through idle curiosity.

Eventually, they slowed to a walk.

“Not terribly much of an adventure so far,” Robin remarked.

“No,” Robert agreed. “This is the route we usually take when we visit our uncle in Germaine.”

After a few minutes of silence, Robin asked. “Do we know where we’re going? Sir Hugh said that the fairy didn’t tell him where to look, you know. But do we have some sort of plan? You usually do…”

“What?” said Robert, with pretend incredulity. “Didn’t you attend any of the planning meetings?”

“Uh,” said Robin, “we had planning meetings? Who did you plan it with?”

“I had my partners in crime,” said Robert, smiling smugly. “Didn’t you read any of the notes that I sent you?”

“They’re all in a pile on my desk,” said Robin, shrugging. “I figured that if it were important, you’d tell me yourself.”

“You made it to all of the fitting sessions,” Robert pointed out.

“Meg told me about that sort of thing,” said Robin. “Anyway, what is the plan?”

“We are retracing Sir Hugh’s route to where he met with his fairy,” Robert explained. “He drew me a map, which we’ll be needing in just a few minutes.”

“Why?” asked Robin.

“The fork in the road,” Robert reminded.

As they neared the fork in the road, Robert reigned his horse to a halt, and Robin followed suit. Then he pulled out the map that Sir Hugh had drawn for them. It showed all the roads, passes, inns, and other things that Sir Hugh thought might be useful to them.

“We’ve never been that way before,” Robin remarked, pointing down a path on the right.

“Well,” said Robert, folding the map back up, “it looks as though we’re about to, since that’s the direction that Sir Hugh marked on the map.” He spurred his horse, and they were on their way again.

“Now this feels like an adventure!” Robin exclaimed. “We’re actually going into the unknown!”

Robert shook his head in amusement. “I just hope that you keep out of trouble and get us back out of the trouble that you do get us into.”

“Don’t be such a damper!” Robin cried, tossing her head back with a laugh. “We’re going on a quest that’s bound to be filled with all sorts of adventures!”

“I just want to get our gifts switched and us back home with as little incident as possible,” admitted Robert. “You know that the only reason I agreed to this is that I’m tired of being teased.”

“Then … why do you tease me?” Robin asked, with a pretend pout.

Robert shrugged. “It’s my one thrill in life.”

She waved him off. “So who’s been teasing you?” she demanded.

“I’m not telling,” Robert answered.

“Why not?”

“You know why not,” Robert gave her an unamused look. “You get into enough unnecessary fights as it is.”

“Well then,” Robin huffed. “I guess you’re just going to have to keep living with the teasing.”

“If and when our gifts are switched, I’ll be able to fight my own fights,” Robert pointed out, “and you’ll be able to do your own sewing homework.”

“Maybe,” said Robin, wrinkling her nose. “Mother doesn’t like that I gave it up, but I honestly can’t tell the difference between my fingers and the cloth. All of those tiny, silly stitches? Beyond me.”

“And I can’t tell one end of the sword from the other,” Robert agreed. “How you can catch the hilt doing a backflip is beyond me.”

*****

For lunch, they stopped at a tavern. Over their meal, Robert fell into conversation with a man seated near them. This man’s clothes were flashy, as were his manners. He had a fancy sword which he kept handling in a way that made it impossible for one to not notice it.

“So, where’s your weapon?” he asked Robert after a while.

“I don’t have one,” Robert admitted, good-naturedly. “Haven’t since it was discovered that my sister was the better swordsman between us.”

“Your sister!” the man exclaimed.

Robin looked up. She’d tuned the conversation out sometime before, but now it seemed that it’d taken an interesting turn.

“I bet that you think think yourself good with yours,” she said, eyeing him thoughtfully. He seemed the sort who was more brag than actual skill. The sort who’d take down opponents just to make himself feel better, but would talk out of any real match.

“Indeed,” said the man. “In fact, I’m on my way now to try for the hand of Princess Robin of Locksley. I hear that she’ll give her hand in marriage to whoever bests her chosen opponent in a duel. Not much is said of her beauty, but she is a princess.”

Robin nearly choked on her drink. Oh, these were the worst.

“Princess Robin’s ‘chosen’ opponent, as you put it,” she said after she’d regained her composure, “is an exceptional swordsman.” She pulled herself down to seem non-threatening. “As one swordsman to another, I … I don’t know that you could stand a chance.”

“Perhaps a friendly duel might set your mind at ease,” the man offered.

She put on her best concerned face and looked up at the man through her eyelashes. “Oh, it would, sir. Only—” she cast a sidewise glance at her brother, who was trying very hard not to laugh. “Only you must promise me that if you lose, you won’t go to Locksley. You wouldn’t want to embarrass yourself publicly.”

The man gave a patronizing laugh. “I wouldn’t dream of embarrassing myself.”

Needless to say, twenty minutes later, he was staring forlornly up at his fancy sword, which was now lodged in a tree trunk a full thirty feet off of the ground.

“Hey!” he shouted after Robin and Robert, who had remounted and were riding away. “How am I supposed to get it down?”

“Climb!” Robin shouted back at him. “It’s good exercise! And remember your promise!”

Robert just sighed and shook his head.

“What?” Robin said, pretending to be offended. “He was going to come suit for my hand, anyways. Just thought that I’d give him what he wanted.”

“I know,” said Robert. “But did you have to lodge his sword so high?”

“Someone had to teach him a lesson!”

“And it had to be you?”

“I didn’t see anyone else stepping up to the task,” Robin answered, innocently.

 

4 – Wherein the Quest Proves Less Exciting than Robin had Expected

 

 

Over the next week, Robin and Robert discovered that adventuring mostly involved traveling through virtually unchanging countryside. Robin also discovered that there was a never-ending supply of young men who were ever-eager to have their swords lodged in trees, rafters, or whatever else was handy – and they weren’t all her suitors.

Really, only two things worthy of note happened.

On the third night, there was a traveling storyteller at the inn where they stayed. Here is the story he told:

“There once was a princess of extraordinary beauty. Her hair was the purest gold, her eyes the truest blue, and she could sing like a bird. Her kindness and laughter were famed throughout the land. She had many friends and many suitors and was beloved by her people.

“However, one day, her entire castle, with everyone in it, disappeared without a trace, save for the tract of level ground in the middle of the forest where it had formerly stood. None of her friends ever heard from her again.

“Years later, once she had been all-but forgotten, rumors began of a beautiful princess who was trapped in a castle at the top of an enchanted mountain which stood at the very heart of the Black Forest. The rumor stated that she had been trapped there due to the malice of an evil magician whom she had refused as a suitor, declaring that she would only marry a true prince.

“However, through the kindness of her Fairy Godmother, she was given a means of escape, though one very slim. The mountain has a single path to the top. Every other inch of this mountain is so covered with thorny brambles, poisonous vines, and sharp rocks that it is impossible to climb. However, it is frequently wondered if the path is even more impossible.

“On this lonely path, there are three challenges that one must face – and he must face them entirely on his own. First, he must go through the gate. This gate is so heavy, no man can lift it. Should they make it through that, they would have to pass a massive tree trunk that lies across the path. This tree is magic, and it impossible for one to go over, under, or around it, and is also impossible to chop through. Should someone ever get past either of those challenges, there is a dragon at the very top. He is solid black with flaming eyes and breath.

“It is said that only a true prince will be able to pass these challenges. Many such men have tried – princes of the truest royal blood included – but none have succeeded. It is also said that she is still as young of face and form as when the magician first placed her there, for the fairy’s magic keeps her so. I have not seen her for myself, but have spoken with princes and kings who have made the attempt, and they assure me that she is every bit as beautiful as the rumors give her credit. But none have succeeded, and she remains there to this day.”

“That is the story of the Mountain Princess.” He gave a bow and sat back down as the crowd applauded.

Although Robin and Robert bought him supper and drink, he couldn’t provide them with any information on the fairies or how to go about finding them. He couldn’t even say for certain how he knew the rules about the path.

He did know one interesting detail, though. Robert had asked why they assumed that the princess on the mountain was the same one that had gone missing.

“Oh, that one’s simple,” the man admitted. “One of her former friends attempted to rescue her and identified her as one and the same.”

“Really?” commented Robert. “You said that none of her friends ever heard from her again.”

“It sounds better for the story,” the storyteller admitted. “And I didn’t say that none of her friends ever saw her. As far as we can know, however, King Maximilian was the only one of her friends who learned what had happened to her.”

“King Maximilian,” Robin repeated, her hand absentmindedly brushing the hilt of her sword. “Of Locksley?”

“The one and the same,” said the storyteller, taking a long sip of his drink.

The twins shared a glance. King Maximilian was their great-grandfather.

“Was it possible that she had been his sister?” Robert asked.

The man frowned and shook his head. “I wouldn’t think so. By attempting to save her, he was making a suit for her hand, and he couldn’t have done that for his sister. Why do you ask?”

“We’d heard a … rumor that he’d had a twin sister that something happened to,” Robin put in. “But there probably isn’t much weight in that.”

After some conversation in private, the twins decided that the girl probably wasn’t Madeleine. The girl was said to have disappeared with her whole castle, and they still had theirs.

It was intriguing, though, that their great-grandfather had been the girl’s friend.

*****

On the fifth afternoon, they passed through a village where an extremely old woman lived, whom they asked if she knew anything about the fairies.

“Why do you want to know?” the old woman asked. “There aren’t many young’uns these days who’re interested in them, less’n they merely want an entertaining story.”

Robin and Robert shared a glance. Should they tell of their Fairy Godmother? They weren’t supposed to, but this was a simple peasant woman, and they did need accurate information.

“We’re looking for our Fairy Godmother,” Robin finally blurted. “She messed up our gifts when she gave them to us, and now we have to find her so she can fix them.”

The old woman was silent for a long moment. “It’s been a long time since I last saw anyone with a Fairy Godmother,” she finally admitted. “Not since I was but a girl. And even then, it was only princes and princesses whose births had preceded the Change.”

“The Change?” Robert repeated. “I’ve never heard of such an event.”

“Ah, but ‘tis the thing, none of you royals can remember it,” said the woman, shaking her head. “Until a hundred years ago, this land was very different. How? I can’t remember, for I was but a wee lass toddling at my father’s knee. I do know that there were fairies and magical places in the land at that time, but then they all disappeared after the Change.”

“Do you know where we might find any of the fairies now?” Robin asked, hopefully. “Where we could look for them?”

“No, dears, I’m afraid not,” the old woman said, shaking her head. “I’m afraid not. I’m terribly sorry.”

“Well, then, we’ll just have to keep looking,” said Robert.

“I do wish you luck,” muttered the old woman.

As they remounted their horses, however, she looked up. “Oh, I just remembered something else. My mother used to speak of a place called Skewwood. I’m not sure if the word will help you any, but there you go.”

 

Interruption:

A princess silently picks her way through a forest. Eventually, she stops and leans against a tree, where she waits for a long while, glancing about in anticipation, fear clear in her face. She cups her hands around her mouth and appears to be talking to the tree. After a while, it becomes apparent that whoever she’s expecting isn’t coming.

Thank you,” she whispers.

She slides down gratefully and rests her head against her knees. It looks as though she has fallen asleep.

A mournful howl pierces the night, and she starts up in fear. She begins running blindly through the wood in the direction she thinks that she came from, balking at every tree and bush she sees. Soon, her dress is torn, her hair tangled, and her crown lost.

It seems almost a miracle to her when she bursts onto a path. Though she has no idea where she is, she now feels safe. Quickly, she chooses a direction and marches into the night.

 

5 – Wherein Thieves Make Things Interesting

 

 

“Robin! Robin!”

Someone was banging on her door.

It was her brother.

“Robin, wake up!”

Robin rolled over and cracked open her eyes. “What?” she asked, sleepily.

“Our horses are gone!” came her brother’s reply. “As well as every other horse in the stable!”

This got her attention. She was up in a moment, changing into her clothes just as quickly as she could manage. She burst out of her room still buttoning her jacket and with her hair still down.

“I knew we shouldn’t have stayed here!” she complained. “Thieves! It has to be horse thieves.” She was mad. How dare someone, anyone even think of stealing her Snow. She’d gone through too many hoops to get that horse.

They rushed outside to the stables to find that their horses were, indeed, gone, along with four horses belonging to the other guests. Search parties were set in order, and Robert and Robin volunteered to search eastward.

It seemed hopeless, really. They were all on foot, and the thieves would be on horseback, they assumed. Robin was confident that her Snow would be giving them trouble, thus slowing them down, but that was their only reassurance that they might get their horses back.

After a very hurried breakfast, Robin and Robert were on their way. They hadn’t gone too far along their chosen road, however, before Robert noticed tracks. It had rained the evening before, which meant that they had to be recent, and there were enough of them to suggest a large party, but that was all that could be deduced.

Still, it was sufficient to give them hope to press onward until they heard voices arguing up ahead. Robin instinctively drew her sword, and Robert fell behind her. As quietly as they could, they crept up upon the group of men. There were seven of them, nasty-looking fellows, and they appeared to be performing a very unorganized search. They were certainly yelling very nasty things at each other.

When Robin saw the horses, Snow among them, she knew that they had their thieves. To her further delight, the horses were unsupervised as the men were searching the trees. She seized her chance.

Quietly, she approached Snow. Once she’d calmed the agitated horse, she swung into the saddle with a war-cry.

With the element of surprise on her side, the poor thieves didn’t stand a chance. As she rushed towards them, sword aloft, screaming at the top of her lungs, most of them immediately started running, not looking back. Three remained, however, drawing their own weapons.

A thrill of excitement ran through Robin as metal clashed against metal. ‘Twas glorious fun – until she realized that the men were actually trying to hurt her. Now that just wasn’t nice at all.

Snow reared as a knife came too close to her flank. Only Robin’s long hours of training with the horse kept her on her back. Snow’s hooves came down hard on the man, and there was a sickening crunch of bone.

“That’s what you get for stealing my horse!” she shouted down at the man. Then she faltered as she realized that he wasn’t moving. Was he…

Before that thought could go any further, a terrible wind whipped around her, and she had to hug Snow’s neck in order to stay on her back. When it finally died, the three men were gone.

“Robert!” she shouted, panicked.

“Uh, here,” came his answer. He was standing about twenty feet away, and it didn’t look like the wind had even touched him.

“Did – did you see that?” she said, her worry for him giving way to shock. “They – the wind – they just—”

“Blew away?” finished a soft voice. A blonde-haired girl stepped from the trees. She was wearing a torn green dress, and her hair was terribly tangled. After taking a few steps, she turned and said, “Thank you,” although, to whom, Robin couldn’t tell. Robin was also quite certain that she hadn’t seen her in the trees a few seconds before.

“Yeah, that,” said Robin. “That wind was very strong.”

“Indeed, yes,” said the girl. “It had to be, to blow away those men. I saw Zephyr and asked her to take them away before you could hurt them anymore – or before they could hurt you.”

“Zephyr…” Robin repeated.

“Oh, thou art right! I shouldst thank her, too!” She took a few steps forward, cupped her hands around her mouth. “I thank thee!”

“Are … you a fairy?” Robin asked, with sudden inspiration.

The girl turned to face her with a laugh. “Oh, no, not at all,” she answered. “What maketh thee ask that? Zephyr blew them away, not me. I merely asked her nicely.”

“Zephyr being?”

The girl glanced down. “Oh, right. I forgot that most do not know her these days, as they have forgotten most magic.”

“Understatement of the century,” said Robin, leaning back and sheathing her sword. “Are you sure that you’re not a fairy?”

“I am quite certain of it.”

“Forgive my sister for being rude,” Robert suddenly cut in, stepping up to the girl. “We are Prince Robert and Princess Robin of Locksley.”

Something flashed ever-so-briefly across the girl’s face, too quickly for the twins to recognize what it was. Her eye did stray to Robin’s sword. “Yes,” she muttered, then added, “I am Princess Rosamond.”

“We had a great-aunt by that name,” Robin commented.

Something flashed across Rosamond’s face again, even more swiftly this time. “Yes,” she said. “It is a rather popular name.”

“No,” said Robin. “I mean that it’s a rather, you know, old name.”

Rosamond laughed. “It would be,” she admitted.

“You wouldn’t happen to be the Mountain Princess, by any chance?” Robert asked. “Finally rescued from the mountain that has a gate, a tree trunk, and a dragon?”

Rosamond tilted her head to the side for a moment and then answered, “Nay, I think not.”

“So what are you doing out here in the middle of nowhere?” Robin asked.

Something flashed in Rosamond’s eye. “Oh!” she cried, putting the back of her hand to her forehead. “They were carrying me away to my doom! I just barely escaped with my life!”

“Really?” asked Robin. “So you’re lucky that I came along?”

“Aye, for I wast not sure how much longer the Forest Guardians would be able to hide me,” said Rosamond. “But, in truth, I ran away from someone else yesterday. I … I’d rather not talk about it.”

“So, you ran from one danger … or whatever … just to be caught by thieves?” said Robin. “Rosy, you have talent.”

A puzzled look crossed Rosamond’s face. “I knew not that such wast a talent.”

Robin rolled her eyes. “Well, we need to get the horses that aren’t ours back to the inn. Their owners must be worried about them.”

“Would you care to join us, Rosamond?” Robert asked. “Perhaps Robin will be able to help curtail your ‘talent.’”

“That wouldst be nice,” said Rosamond.

“Then pick a horse and mount up, Rosy,” said Robin. “We’ve already wasted so much of today – we’ve places to be!”

She waited impatiently while Robert helped Rosamond mount one of the horses, and then mounted Splash himself.

“Were you what the thieves were looking for?” Robert asked as they were finally on their way, retracing their steps back to the inn, leading the four riderless horses behind them.

“I am afraid so,” said Rosamond. “They thought I had money on me.”

“I see,” said Robin. “Do you?”

“Nay,” said Rosamond with a laugh. “Indeed, for the first time in my life, I fear I have absolutely nothing of value on my person.”

“You usually do?” Robin asked.

“I’m a princess – yes,” answered Rosamond. “May I ask how it is that thou wieldeth thy sword so expertly, while thy brother dost not carry a weapon at all?”

“It’s a long story,” said Robert, glancing at Robin.

“Oh,” said Rosamond. “Is our journey short?”

“Well, it’s actually not that long of a story,” Robin admitted. “It’s just that, well, it’s kind of hard to believe … the true story at any rate.”

“Harder to believe than the wind blowing away thy opponents?” asked Rosamond. “I have long experience with the hard to believe, my friends.”

“I—” Robin began, then shrugged. Why not? “Okay then, but you’d better not laugh.”

To be honest, it would be nice to finally be able to tell someone the truth.

“I shan’t,” Rosamond gently promised.

6 – Wherein Their Story is Told

 

 

“You see,” said Robin, before Robert could protest. “We’re twins. And … we have a Fairy Godmother.”

“Many princes and princesses do,” said Rosamond.

“Really?” said Robin. “Who?”

“Well,” Rosamond began, “I—”

“Right,” Robin cut in, thinking that the girl was making fun of them. “Anyways, at our christening, she sent two small boxes – one pink, and one blue. The pink was assumed to be mine, and the blue, Robert’s. Mine had a note that marked them as from our Fairy Godmother, but when our mother opened them, there was nothing in either but puffs of smoke.”

“The note had also stated that our gifts would serve us well in our lives, but offered no clue as to what they were,” Robert put in. “However, since all of the women on our mother’s side are brilliant with the needle, known famously for their magnificent tapestries, we naturally assumed that Robin’s would have something to do with that. As Locksley is known for its swordsmen – we even have a school of swordplay – they, again, naturally assumed that mine would be in that vein.”

“That is, they did until we got older and I couldn’t tell the difference between the cloth and my fingers, and he couldn’t figure out which end of the sword he was supposed to hang on to.”

“No one could make any sense of it,” said Robert. “Even if they weren’t our gifts, we should have at least had our hereditary skill in swordplay and sewing.”

“But we didn’t,” said Robin. “We felt like utter failures – and we were only six years old.”

“It didn’t help that our parents didn’t even tell us we had gifts,” Robert acknowledged. “We were merely left to believe that there was something very wrong with us.”

“One day,” Robin continued, “we were in my rooms, talking about something of no importance, and at some point realized that Robert had picked up my sewing homework and had done it perfectly. We decided to see if the opposite was the case – if I could do swordplay. As we look so much alike – and more so back then – we managed to convince our nurse to switch our clothing, since my sewing was at the same time as his swordplay. We both wore a sort of hat, so my hair wasn’t an issue.”

“It was an instant improvement,” said Robert. “Our parents were so excited – our supposed gifts had finally begun working.”

“We hadn’t the heart to tell them the truth,” said Robin. “Especially since they didn’t even suspect.”

“But you were found out eventually,” said Rosamond, solemnly. “For merely growing up wouldst have given thee away.”

“Actually,” said Robert, “Robin gave us away only a few months later.”

“What happened?” asked Rosamond.

“A neighboring king brought his son to enroll in Locksley’s School of Swordplay,” Robin explained, her grip tightening on the reigns. “As that first evening was only supposed to be a simple banquet while we got acquainted, Robert and I didn’t bother switching ourselves. Unfortunately, the new student was also very talented with the sword – or so his father claimed – and they decided to match him against Robert as part of his entrance exam.” Her eyes narrowed. “Robert didn’t last a minute.”

“Everyone laughed,” Robert put in, laughing himself.

“Except me,” said Robin, through clenched teeth. “I sprang from my seat, and, with a cry of ‘You can’t do that to my brother!’ grabbed the fallen sword and had that intruder’s sword in the ceiling within moments.”

“Where it remains to this day,” added Robert.

“There was a stunned silence,” said Robin, with a smug grin.

“Until I broke it with, ‘Robin, I think you just let the cat out of the bag,’” said Robert.

“I hope that thou didst catch it,” Rosamond said, knitting her brows in concern. “Bag-cats can be pests.”

Robin gave Rosamond and odd look. “Right.”

This girl was weird.

“Our parents decided to get in contact with our Fairy Godmother and see if she could switch our gifts back,” said Robert. “They sent out emissary after emissary, but they all came back unsuccessful.”

“Until two weeks ago,” said Robin. “Sir Hugh found a fairy – not our Fairy Godmother, mind you, she made it clear that she was a different one. She told him that if we really wanted to have our gifts switched, we’d have to find her ourselves – and before our eighteenth birthday, which is little more than three months away at this point.”

“Which of the fairies is thy Fairy Godmother?” Rosamond asked. “I might be able to help if I knew which of them you are seeking.”

“Oh, Fa- something,” said Robin, shrugging. “The name’s slipped me.”

“Fallona?” Rosamond suggested.

“Yeah,” said Robin. “Her. Wait – how did you know?”

“She is the only one of the fairies whose name starts with Fa,” Rosamond explained, then added, musingly, “Although, that is the sort of mistake that Yifinna is more known for. She’s the one who mixed up Samson’s and Shira’s.”

“Whose?” said Robin.

“Some … friends of mine,” said Rosamond, frowning a bit. “Ye should be glad that Yifinna is not thy Fairy Godmother, for she lacks the skill to undo her magic. With Fallona, it is more a matter of if she is willing. Sometimes, she giveth strange gifts on purpose, gifts that make little sense. She gave me ‘beauty of the rarest kind,’ but any honest person would admit that I’m only average.”

“You have … you mean you … you weren’t joking!” Robin exclaimed.

“No,” said Rosamond. “I wast not. Wert thou? Fairies aren’t a joking matter.”

“No,” Robin answered. “Wait – you said that you might have some idea of where we might find her.”

“The fairies usually are only found when they wish to be found,” answered Rosamond. “I do, however, know many of their old haunts. I couldst help with thy search.”

“Would you?” asked Robin. “You know, you’re the first person we’ve met who knows anything actually helpful about the fairies.”

“No one,” said Rosamond, “canst truly know about the fairies. They canst only know of the fairies what they wish them to know.”

“Huh?” said Robin.

“Oh,” said Rosamond. “Is my speech too archaic? I have been told that many times of late – but it is hard to change ones speaking habits as suddenly as I have been asked.”

“You are strange,” said Robin, finally giving voice to her thoughts.

Robin,” Robert reproved. “Be nice. She’s going to help us.”

Robin rolled her eyes. “Well, as long as she doesn’t turn out to be another mollycoddled princess who’s too good for everyone else, I suppose I can put up with her.”

“What doth mollycoddled mean?” asked Rosamond.

“Don’t worry about it.” Robin sighed. She wasn’t prepared to go around defining every other word she said for this girl. “I’ll let you know if I decide you’re one.”

They saw the inn just ahead, so the conversation lapsed. After getting with the others, it was discovered that there was an extra horse – the blue roan that Rosamond had ridden, in fact. Since Robin recovered the stolen horses, they allowed them to keep this horse, along with the unclaimed money that was found in the saddlebags.

While they were talking this over, they suddenly heard guitar music – even though the man who owned a guitar was in the stables with them, discussing the horses. They investigated and discovered Rosamond inside, playing the man’s guitar.

The song she played was complex – gentle and slow at first, but then speeding up for a few seconds before slowing down again. Rosamond’s fingers practically flew over the finger board and strings. She was absorbed by the song, a gentle smile on her face, and didn’t seem to notice her audience.

The owner of the guitar seemed angry at first, but seeing Rosamond’s gentleness and hearing her musical skill, he, too, was held spellbound by the song.

Rosamond looked up, and the music abruptly stopped. “I – I am so sorry!” she stammered, hastily putting the instrument down. “I—”

“You’re good,” said the man, cutting her off. “I’ve been playing that thing for years and still have as yet to gain that mastery. How long have you been playing? Who taught you?”

Rosamond blushed and looked down at her feet. “I am so sorry, it was just so beautiful and reminded me of my lute. I had never seen this sort of instrument before. I just had to try it.”

The man shook his head. “You must be some talented musician.”

Rosamond’s blush deepened.

*****

Riding away, Robert commented, “You’re good with instruments.”

“Yes, I am,” she admitted, ducking behind her hair.

“It reminds me a bit of how I picked up sewing … but you already said that your gift is beauty of the rarest kind.”

“Fallona’s gift,” Rosamond answered. “I received music from Yifinna. Yes, I play any instrument perfectly from the first time I touch them.” She shrugged. “It is, in truth, not my favorite gift. I love music, I love playing, but there is no challenge in it.”

“You have two Fairy Godmothers!” Robin exclaimed. “You’re lucky!”

“Yes,” said Rosamond. “My cousins and friends often expressed such, especially since none of my gifts were extraordinarily strange. None of them seemed to be, anyway…”

“Your friends’ gifts were?” Robert asked.

“The two of you seemeth tame compared to some of them,” said Rosamond. “My friend, Shira, for instance, a mere slip of a girl, is the strongest person in the world. Her twin brother, Samson, sings soprano. Then there are Serendipity and Solomon. He has the ‘mirth of youth,’ and she the ‘wisdom of the gray-haired,’ and it was supposed to be the other way around. Even that is strange, as Solomon wouldst giggle endlessly, like a little girl, whilst Serendipity has been prematurely gray since childhood.”

“Man,” said Robin. “I’m glad that we got sword fighting and sewing.”

 

Interruption:

A young woodcutter watches in horror as the black dragon before him blows away the prince he accompanies. Then it turns to him. The only thing he has to defend himself is the old ax that has served him faithfully for many years, as it had his father before him. He closes his eyes in fear as he hopelessly swings the ax towards the ferocious beast.

The ax encounters nothing. He opens his eyes. To his amazement, the dragon is gone and in its place stands the princess – the one whom he had helped the prince climb this mountain to rescue. He straightens, blinking in amazement.

Thou hast come at last, my prince,” she says, her voice as clear as a bird’s.

But I am no prince,” he protests. “I—”

But I say that thou art,” the princess tells him with a laugh. “Only a true prince couldst have climbed this mountain.”

He turns and sees a fountain with water that forms a perfect mirror. He gasps as he sees his reflection – he is now better dressed than any prince that he has ever seen before.

 

7 – Wherein Robin Doesn’t Dance

 

 

“So what is thy plan for finding thy Fairy Godmother?” Rosamond asked.

“For now,” Robert answered, “we’re headed for Sherwood Forest, the last place a fairy was seen.”

“The one that thy Sir Hugh saw?”

“Yes,” said Robert.

“Dost thou, by any chance, know what she looked like?” Rosamond asked. “I wouldst like to know which of them she wast.”

“He said that she looked like an old woman at first,” said Robin. “But then became young, with green eyes, I think, and a green dress.”

“Did she have auburn hair?”

“Yeah,” said Robin. “Does that help?”

“I would guess Lufawna, for her color is green,” said Rosamond, “and her hair is usually auburn.”

“She said that Fallona was her sister,” Robert commented.

“All seven of them call each other that,” said Rosamond, nodding. “But whether it’s the truth or just a term of endearment, no one knows.”

“Really?” said Robin. “There are seven?”

“Seven good fairies, yes,” Rosamond confirmed. “There is also a handful of not-so-good, unfortunately, but they are not the matter at hand.”

“Do you know what Fallona looks like?” Robin asked.

“Fallona.” Rosamond tilted her head to the side. “Usually, she is, in appearance, an old woman with snow-white hair and eyes some shade of red, usually red-brown. That’s her color – red.”

“Do fairies have wings?” Robin asked. “Someone once told me that they did.” Then after a moment, she added, “Don’t know what happened to him, though.” She frowned.

“If they wish them,” answered Rosamond. “The fairies can take upon themselves any appearance they wish – even animal or male if they have the need. If they have wings, it’s to draw attention to themselves. Usually, though, they choose appearances that allow them to blend in, and it is difficult to tell if thou hast met a fairy unless they reveal it to thee.”

“That’s real encouraging,” said Robin.

“If this quest wast their idea, then thou canst be assured that Fallona will cross thy path before thy birthday,” said Rosamond. “But not until she hath taught you the lesson she wisheth you to learn, and only if ye stay committed and do not slack off in your search.”

There was a short period of silence.

“Before we left, our Great-Aunt Talia asked us to ask our Fairy Godmother about an aunt of hers,” said Robin, breaking it. “Funny thing is, we’d never heard of this twin sister before.”

Something akin to annoyance briefly crossed Rosamond’s face, but her voice was pleasant as she asked, “Madeleine of Locksley?”

You know about her?” Robin demanded, more than a little miffed that a complete stranger knew something about a family member she herself had been clueless about. “Do you know what happened to her?”

“I had hoped that thou wouldst have known her fate,” said Rosamond, glancing away. “Please, let us not talk about the Change.”

“Why not?” asked Robin, frowning. “What does our aunt have to do with the Change? Did she cause it?”

“If anything, she was a victim of it,” Rosamond answered, in the barest whisper. “I—” She shook her head. “Just ask me not about it, please.”

The conversation languished for a long time after that.

While at the inn that night, Robert repaired Rosamond’s dress for her. When he returned it to her the next morning, they couldn’t even tell that it’d ever been torn. After breakfast, they were on their way again.

“So what do ye plan to do when ye art finished with thy quest?” Rosamond asked. “If I’m not prying, that is?”

“To be honest, we’re not sure, and it largely depends on whether or not we’re successful on our quest,” Robin admitted. “All that’s in stone is that our father expects us to show up at a wedding that’s taking place just a few weeks after our birthday. Well, Robert probably has plans, but they’re probably all boring stuff.”

“Whose wedding?” Rosamond asked.

“The prince whose sword we have in our ceiling,” answered Robert, before Robin could say anything insulting. “Prince Eric of Winthrop.”

“Found some Princess Beauty,” said Robin. “I bet she’s an absolute priss. Do you know her?”

“I know not any princesses by that name,” said Rosamond, her voice suddenly changing, acquiring a chill that was out of place in her usually warm speech.

“Just wondering,” said Robin. “Since we’ve never heard of her before. I’d like to know what cast-off kingdom he found her in and why he felt the need, given the number of girls who claim they’d die if he so much as glanced their way. Absolutely ridiculous, all of it.”

“She’s just jealous because Eric isn’t marrying her,” Robert mentioned.

Robin shot her brother a glare. “Why in Bookania would I want to marry him? His sword isn’t in our ceiling just because I thought we needed the decoration, you know!”

“How long hast thou been on this quest?” Rosamond asked. She seemed eager to change the subject.

“A little over a week,” said Robert.

Robin was still muttering not-so-nice things about Eric.

“Did Sherwood, by any chance, have a different name an hundred years ago?” Rosamond then asked, giving Robin a sidelong glance.

“I don’t know,” Robert admitted. “Why?”

“I recognize places better by their older names,” Rosamond answered.

“Why?” asked Robin, pausing her muttering to give the girl another odd look.

“It’s … like my archaic speech,” Rosamond said in an all-but whisper. She glanced down at her horse’s ears. “I—” she drifted into silence.

That night, they stayed in a village that didn’t have an inn. Instead, they found themselves staying in a small, but clean stable, among much hustle and bustle. Children were being bathed, dresses mended, and there was a steady parade of musical instruments being moved from here to there.

Rosamond disappeared for a while, but she eventually returned with the happy news that the village was having a barn dance and that she simply could not wait for it.

“A barn dance,” said Robin, skeptically.

“Oh, yes,” said Rosamond, in ecstasy. “It wilt be such fun.” She sat down on the bed and pulled from her pocket a pair of slippers which matched her dress perfectly, and began putting them on.

“Dances are boring,” Robin declared.

“Oh,” said Rosamond, “but I have not been to one in ever so long, and I enjoy them so.”

“Well, sorry, Rosy, but we’re not going,” said Robin, folding her arms over her chest as she glared at the girl.

“Robin!” chided Robert, overhearing the conversation. “Just because we can’t dance doesn’t mean that we should deny Rosamond the opportunity. Besides, I think the people of this village would trust us better in their midst at the dance, rather than hiding here.”

Robin shifted her glare to him.

“We don’t have to dance,” said Robert. “Just … enjoy the music and watching the others, okay?”

Robin threw up her hands. “Fine. Just let me go put on my best dress … oh, wait, I didn’t bring it with me!”

“Robin…”

*****

Once at the dance, Rosamond obligingly stood with the twins for a minute or so, but a young man soon asked her to dance, and she, of course, consented. Robin, for her part, glared at any young man who even looked like he might ask her to dance.

“What?” she said, noticing and exasperated look her brother was giving her. “They don’t want to dance with me anyway.”

“Yes, but couldn’t you at least be … polite about it?”

Robin rolled her eyes. “If I ‘be polite,’ I’ll never get them to leave me alone. Trust me, I’ve put up with this at every ball that Mother has ever made me attend.”

“Robin, trust me, I…”

“No, you don’t know how it is,” Robin declared. “You’re a guy. You simply have to not ask. We’ve been over this.”

“You’re not wearing a dress,” Robert pointed out.

“There seem to be more men than women here,” Robin countered. “Some of them might get desperate. Come on, we need to find someone else to talk to so I look unavailable. Someone like … him.”

The “him” she indicated was a small man who sat alone at a table not far from them. His head was cleanly shaved, save for a long black braid at the base of his skull, and his eyes were strangely shaped. He wore a shirt made of tiger skins, lionskin trousers, and had several knives in his belt.

His boots were what really stole the show, though. Bright red and with heels as high as any lady’s, they were covered with shags, gems, and exquisite tooling.

“Not here for dance, just watch,” he announced, in a funny accent, as the twins approached.

“Same,” said Robin, sitting down at the table across from him. “Robin of Locksley, and that’s my brother, Robert.”

“You Locksley princess with sword?” he said, glancing at Auroren.

“Yes,” Robin admitted. “I’m the Locksley princess who does swordplay with the brother who sews.” She glanced back at her brother.

The man just nodded. “Good, good. No shame. Very good. My name Push au Kim. I not bad at sword, but prefer more fun prey. I no doubt best tracker in world, even if I say so myself. I do much good service in company of kings and others of high rank. I am even now on mission for prince with lost princess. Poor fellow. He very distressed.”

“Really?” said Robin. “Who?”

“Winthrop Prince – Eric,” answered Push. “Somehow, he lose his Sleeping Beauty.”

“Sleeping Beauty,” Robert repeated, taking the seat next to Robin’s. “Why is she called that?”

“Maybe because she sleep a lot?” Push suggested, then laughed. “No, no,” he continued. “Here her story. See, Prince Eric, he hear of beautiful, enchanted princess who sleep in middle of thick forest because of terrible curse. She sleep a hundred years. Prince Eric, he think, ‘I want to save beautiful, enchanted princess,’ so off he go. After long, hard battle, he get through thick forest. Then he find beautiful, enchanted princess, wake her with kiss. They fall in love first sight, for isn’t that how stories like this always work? He ask her to marry him, and she say yes.”

There was a cough behind them, and Robin turned to see Rosamond standing there. She noticed her gaze and gave an embarrassed smile and a wave of her hand. “Pray,” she said, “let not my cough disturb thy story, for I find it most interesting.”

“Oh, same here,” said Robin, turning and resting her elbow on the table, and her chin on her fist. “Just how did Eric lose his ‘beautiful, enchanted, Sleeping Beauty’?”

“Very well,” said Push, then, “ah, where was I?”

“She say yes,” Robin offered.

“Ah, yes,” said Push, then continued, “He go home to his castle to get ready for wedding. She come later, and very slowly. One day, as she was sleeping – for she still sleep a lot – many men came out of wood and steal her away. When Prince Eric learn, he get very sad, but he say, ‘I will find her, my beautiful, enchanted princess!’ So he get finest horse and make greatest speed. One day, he meet me, and he tell me sad story. My heart touched, and I say, ‘I will help you, for I greatest tracker!’ He very grateful, so here I am.”

“How will you know when you have found her?” Rosamond asked. “Did he tell you what she looks like?”

“I am greatest tracker in world!” Push declared. “I will know when I find her.”

Just then, another young man asked Rosamond to dance, and she melted back into the dancing.

Robin decided to ask Push if he knew anything about finding fairies. Unfortunately, he didn’t.

The night wore on, Rosamond enjoying herself immensely, Robin’s only amusement the humor she found in Eric’s plight. Robert, however, found himself mesmerized as he watched Rosamond’s dancing, her skill and quickness. It seemed to him that she never missed a single step. He found himself longing to join her … but he couldn’t dance.

8 – Wherein Rosamond Finds her Long-lost Cousin

 

 

The next day, the road took them into wilderness. As dusk fell, there wasn’t even a house where they could seek shelter for the night, and the map showed nothing for miles.

“I guess that we wilt have to sleep under the stars,” said Rosamond. “I like that. They art so pretty to look at.”

“Yeah,” said Robin, “they’re really good for looking at when you’re asleep.”

“Thou art funny,” said Rosamond. “I usually observe the stars when I am awake. To each their own, I suppose.”

“Don’t you get sarcasm?” Robin asked, staring at the girl in disbelief.

Rosamond smiled and shrugged a bit. “Thou dost not get magic,” she replied. “It is good for thee that thy sword hath little.”

“Wait, what?” Robin blinked.

“Thy sword hath little magic,” Rosamond repeated. “Thought thee otherwise?”

Robin narrowed her eyes. “I didn’t even know that swords could have magic.”

“Before the Change,” said Rosamond, quietly, “most did, especially if the owner had rank of any sort. This created a problem for thy great-grandfather, who desired a sword without enchantment.” A smile touched the corners of her mouth. “He wast at a loss, for every swordsmith of any skill refused. Why? I know not. At length, however, a friend of his sister suggested a solution – have it enchanted with a small magic that wouldst have no effect on fighting. A lover of music, the friend suggested the magic of song, to have his sword sing whenever he drew it. He liked the idea so much that not only did he implement it, but he also named the sword for her – Aurora wast one of her names.”

“Where did you hear that story?” Robin asked, raising an eyebrow at Rosamond.

“I … have cousins who art related to Aurora,” said Rosamond, nervously glancing down at her lap. “It wast a popular story with my former circles. It surpriseth me that thou hast heard it not. However, I am sure that thou art not ignorant of the effects of the magic, for I have heard it sing for thee.”

“I always thought that it was calling to me,” said Robin, wistfully.

“It … sings?” Robert commented.

“It sings only for its true bearer,” Rosamond explained. “And … not all can hear it. Now that thou knowest, though, though mayest be able.”

While Rosamond told her story, Robert had started a small fire and had produced some journey bread from his packs, which he now handed out between them. While they were eating, they decided that they would keep the night in watches of two hours each. Robert claimed the first watch, and Rosamond volunteered for the second, leaving Robin with the third. Robert would then take the fourth and final watch of the night.

Frankly, Robin didn’t think that it was a good idea to rely on the girl that way, but there was nothing for it.

Robin had some trouble falling asleep, since she wasn’t used to sleeping on the ground. Rosamond, on the other hand, seemed to be asleep the moment she shut her eyes. At some point, however, Robin did drop into the realm of dreams.

When she opened her eyes again, she found herself blinking into the sunlight. She jerked awake immediately. She’d completely missed her watch! That Rosamond!

She sat up in panic. Who knew what mischief could be done with no one watching! It would be just their luck if someone had come and stolen Snow, Splash, and Sapphire again.

Sapphire was Rosamond’s horse.

“Didst I awaken thee?” came Rosamond’s voice. “I beg thy pardon. I wast trying to be quiet.”

“Why didn’t you wake me up?” Robin demanded.

“I felt it to be unnecessary,” answered Rosamond, calmly. “I wast not tired, and wouldst not have been able to go back to sleep, and thus it wouldst have been pointless for me to deny thee thy sleep. I have made breakfast, though, if thou wouldst like some.”

The commotion woke Robert.

“What’s going on?” he asked, groggily. “That’s funny, it’s morning. Wasn’t I supposed to have another watch in there? Robin…”

“I never even got mine,” protested Robin. “Rosamond didn’t wake me. Apparently, she wasn’t tired.”

“Rosamond did what?” said Robert.

“I sleep little,” Rosamond explained. Her head was bent so that her hair hid her face. “I do beg your pardons if ye are displeased, but I really saw not the point.”

“You only slept two hours,” said Robert.

“Indeed,” Rosamond agreed. “It seems all the more sleep I need on a given night anymore.”

“What’s up with that?” Robin demanded.

“So far as I can tell, it is a side effect of Sayenda’s gift,” Rosamond answered.

“Sayenda?” Robin repeated. “Who’s that?”

“One of the fairies,” explained Rosamond, in an all-but whisper. “Another of my Fairy Godmothers.”

“You have three Fairy Godmothers!” Robin exclaimed.

“Verily,” said Rosamond. “Now, art either of you interested in breakfast?”

After breakfast, they packed up camp and continued on their way. According to the map, they were rapidly approaching Sherwood Forest. Maybe they would find their Fairy Godmother soon.

“That forest remindeth me of Skewwood,” Rosamond remarked, as they drew near. “I had a cousin who lived there.”

“Skewwood,” Robert repeated. “That name sounds familiar, but I can’t put my finger on where I’ve heard it before.”

“Lived? What happened?” Robin asked.

“No one knoweth,” answered Rosamond. “She just disappeared one day, she and her castle with her, and everyone in it.”

Then she sang this song in a soft, melodious voice:

 

In a far off forest,

That goeth by Skew,

There lived a Princess

With eyes of bright blue.

 

Her songs wert enchanting—

Like those of a bird.

Her forest’s now silent,

No songs ever heard.

 

No one knows her fate, now.

She’s gone and for good.

We surely shall miss her.

She’s gone from her wood.

 

“I wrote that not long after she disappeared,” Rosamond explained, when she finished. “It was for her distressed mother who was visiting us when Skewwood Castle disappeared and had thus been left behind.”

“It’s sad,” Robert commented.

“Verily,” said Rosamond. “And my cousin wouldst have hated it.”

“Why?” Robin asked, for even though it was sad, it was a very good song.

“She disliked anything that made one sad,” Rosamond explained. “Indeed, she rarely took anything seriously, unless it was mathematics, and even then…” She smiled in fond memory. Robert noted that the smile was not unlike the one that had touched her lips the night before when relating the story of the sword.

“Mathematics?” Robin repeated.

“She was a mathmagician – as she put it,” Rosamond explained. “Her idea of fun wast to lock herself in her room and solve impossible equations all day.”

*****

They passed a small party on horseback as they entered the forest. Robin and Robert paid them little mind, although they heard Rosamond give them a warm hello.

After a while, however, they realized that they didn’t hear Sapphire’s hooves anymore. Turning back, they discovered that neither the horse nor her rider was anywhere to be seen.

“What happened to her?” Robert wondered aloud.

“Maybe she disappeared the way that she came?” Robin suggested. “She did kind of appear unexpectedly.”

Nevertheless, Robert insisted that they turn back and retrace their steps in search of her. Who knew the trouble that the girl could get herself into, after all? Robin readied herself to fight off another pack of thieves.

They came to a point where the path had branched into two and took the path that they had previously ignored. Soon, they caught up to the party that they had passed earlier. Within this group were two girls with long, blonde hair, identical from the back.

Only one wore a green dress and was riding a blue roan.

“Rosamond?” said Robin.

“Oh,” said the one in green, turning to face them. “Doranna, these art my new friends, Prince Robert and Princess Robin of Locksley. They rescued me from the thieves that I was just telling thee about. Robert, Robin, this is Princess Doranna, the cousin I was telling you about.”

“The one who disappeared,” asked Robin, raising a skeptical eyebrow.

It was clear that the two girls were related since they had the same blonde hair and fair complexions. They had different facial structures, however. Doranna’s features were sharper, almost birdlike. Doranna’s dress struck Robin as being rather old-fashioned – and Robin couldn’t care less about fashion!

Doranna laughed – a high, almost birdlike laugh. “That wouldst be me!” she said. “Locksley, eh? Ye looketh like it.”

“You know it?” Robin asked, frowning.

“I do,” said Doranna, nodding firmly. “Now, the three of you looketh as though ye have been on a long tourney. Wouldst ye like to visit Skewwood Tassel? Ye couldst pray as long as ye wisheth. It hath been ever so long since I last had compassion.”

“We would like that,” Rosamond answered. “Robin and Robert could look into thy library to gather inspiration for their quest. They are looking for their Fairy Godmother.”

Robin turned a horrified look to Rosamond. They had not given the girl permission to broadcast that fact to every random stranger they met. It was supposed to be a carefully-guarded secret after all.

“Why seekest they her?” Doranna asked.

“She mixed up our gifts,” Robert answered. “Robin does swordplay. I sew.” He nodded towards Robin’s sword.

Doranna let out a whistle that sounded like that of a blue jay. “Samson and Shira!” she exclaimed.

“Only, their Fairy Godmother is Fallona, not Yifinna,” Rosamond put in.

Doranna just let out another series of whistles, this time the song of a whippoorwill.

Rosamond laughed. “Exactly.”

Robin relaxed a bit, realizing that Rosamond only told Doranna because her cousin was already familiar with Fairy Godmothers and wouldn’t find Robin and Robert strange. She might even be able to help.

“Well, then,” said Doranna. “It is not far to my tassel, only one point—”

“No need to state the exact distance,” Rosamond cut in. “Just lead the way.”

Doranna’s castle proved to be one of the larger castles that Robin and Robert had ever seen. Robin wondered why Sir Hugh hadn’t mentioned it. Granted, though, it was off the path, and he had been heading home with all speed.

Once they were in the courtyard, Doranna ordered the servants who had accompanied her on her excursion to take care of the horses and then told the ones waiting for at the door to prepare rooms for Rosamond, Robin, and Robert.

After they had hurried off, she turned to Rosamond and said, “I was wondering if thou wouldst play anything for us while thou stayed here. Thou didst leave thy bungalow here on thy last visit, and I have kept it in good condemnation for thee.”

“Bungalow?” Robin repeated. “I thought you lived in a bungalow – not played one.”

“Shush,” whispered Rosamond, aside. “I am quite certain that she referreth to my banjo.”

“Well, they both start with b and end with o,” complained Doranna, who had overheard. “I get not everyone’s pickiness with worms.”

“Not everyone getteth thy fascination with mathematics,” answered Rosamond, placatingly.

“Oh, two point two three six zero six seven nine seven eight,” Doranna declared, and continued down a dizzying chain of numbers. “With numbers, most everyone speaketh the same linguist. Unless, of course, they use a different base.”

Rosamond shook her head in amusement. “Doranna,” she explained to Robin and Robert, “though she excelleth with math, often muddleth her speech and spelling.”

“Rub it not in, Briar Rose,” said Doranna, with an obviously pretend pout. “Thou hast thy limitations, too.”

“Briar Rose?” said Robin.

“The shortened form of my first two names, Briarra and Rosamond,” Rosamond explained.

“Still the same mouthful as ‘Rosamond,’ so I don’t see the point,” said Robin, frowning. “I’m sticking with Rosy.”

“Briarra,” Robert repeated. “We had a great-aunt by that name as well. Great-Aunt Rosamond’s elder sister.”

“Didst thou?” said Rosamond, looking down. “Aye, it wast a popular name as well.” Then, after some thought, she added, “At least, it used to be.”

Before anyone had a chance to comment on that, a few servants returned with the news that the rooms were ready. Robin, Robert, and Rosamond were then shown away.

9 – Wherein Robin Runs into a Wall

 

 

Upon stepping into the room the servant showed her to, Robin had to gasp. For all the world, it looked as though she had just stepped into a forest. As she looked around, however, she realized that it was actually just a really good mural – and that it wasn’t even finished! In fact, a girl with dark blond hair was still working on the wall … only, working didn’t seem to be the right word, as she stood frozen still.

Robin walked over to the girl – and ran into a wall. The girl was part of the painting as well!

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” Robin muttered, stepping back.

The woman gave her an odd look. “Truly? Thou art a princess of Locksley and hast never seen any of Princess Madeleine’s artwork?”

Robin blinked and turned to face the woman. “Are you talking about Princess Madeleine of Locksley? She painted this?”

“Aye, child,” said the old woman. “She loved painting and optical illusions, one of which thou hath just been fooled by. I have been told that Locksley Castle contains hundreds of paintings and murals that are as good as or even excelled this one.”

“I’ve never seen any of them,” Robin admitted. She scrunched up her nose. “But that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re not there. All of our walls are covered with tapestries.”

“’Tis a pity,” remarked the old woman, shaking her head with a cluck of her tongue. “For if the rumors are true and these here are anything to judge by, they are surely beautiful.”

The woman led Robin into the next room where she’d prepared a bath, and they were plunged from the forest into the sea. The walls looked like actual water, teeming with every fish that could be imagined. Robin instinctively shied away from a shark that looked as though it was about to gobble her up with its terrible, sharp teeth.

“This is amazing,” she muttered.

She’d never enjoyed a bath half so much. Not only did it feel exquisite on her tired muscles from travel, but she could literally imagine herself on the bottom of the sea.

When she finally emerged, she found a green silk gown laid out for her. It was of a similar cut to the one that Doranna wore. Old fashioned. Once she was dressed, she was led to the library to join Rosamond and Doranna.

The library was rather large and didn’t have any murals that were about to jump out at you. Robin absentmindedly scanned the shelves, wondering when her missing aunt had been in this castle and why she had painted two of the rooms. She must have been there for months to have painted so many intricate details into each of them. Were there any more paintings in this castle? Or were those the only two? And why were the murals at home covered up? The tapestries were amazing, especially the one or two that Robert had done, but if the paintings in those two rooms were anything to go on, why would anyone even think to hide them?

And what was up with everyone’s speech? She’d started getting used to Rosamond’s old-fashioned speech, but, here, everyone spoke in that strange manner. In fact, they seemed to regard Robin’s speech as odd.

“There thou art,” remarked Rosamond. “I see that thou couldst not wait to begin thy research for thy quest.”

Robin glanced up to see the cousins standing at the end of the shelves. Rosamond had exchanged the torn dress for a shimmering rose gown just as old fashioned as Doranna’s.

“I guess,” said Robin. “When did Princess Madeleine paint those rooms?”

“Over an hundred years ago, that’s for certain,” Doranna answered. “But if thou wisheth specific dates, then I wouldst need to know which brooms thou referrest to. Couldst thou describe them?”

“Um, an unfinished forest – except that it is finished – and one with lots of fish,” Robin answered.

“Ah, those,” said Doranna, nodding. “They art the best. Maddie stayed seventeen days here an hundred years, six months, and twelve days ago.”

Robin blinked. “That is … exact.”

“Doranna is anything if not exact,” said Rosamond. “Be glad that she did not give her answer to the second.”

“And … seventeen days?” Robin was in disbelief. “She did both of those rooms in just seventeen days?”

“No, she did three of them,” Doranna corrected.

“You must not have seen the bedroom yet,” said Rosamond. “Madeleine was anything if not amazing with the brush.”

Robin blinked. “Okay.”

“Ah, Robert, there thou art,” Rosamond announced.

Robin turned to see her brother standing behind her, and it was all she could do to keep from laughing. He looked as though he had just walked out of a history – complete with a feather in his hat … and pantyhose! Was there not a single stitch of modern clothing in this place?

“Very good,” said Doranna. “I wast about to suggest a lore, for we do not want any of you to get toast – Rosamond least of all.” She gave her cousin a playful grin.

Robin and Robert exchanged a confused glance.

“We can’t have toast in this castle?” asked Robin, frowning. “And how do you ‘give’ a lore? Is there some old-fashioned storyteller here that we’re going to have to listen to?”

“Hush,” said Rosamond. “She meaneth ‘tour’ and ‘lost.’”

“Two point two three six zero six seven nine seven…” muttered Doranna, off on another spill of numbers.

There was something disarming about Doranna. While it was true that she didn’t seem to take anything seriously – except very exact numbers – it didn’t seem a fault in her. In fact, her attitude was contagious, especially her laughter. The only real fault she had was her seeming inability to use the right words.

Robin and Robert followed Rosamond and Doranna out of the library, and into the halls and passages.

The castle was, in fact, rather old, even older than Locksley castle, and it was one of the older castles in their circle of royal families.

Unfortunately, they weren’t shown any more of Madeleine’s paintings. There were paintings by other artists, however – a few of whom Robin recognized. There were also a number of tapestries, some of which excelled the ones at Locksley – save for the tapestries Robert had done. Nothing could compare with Robert’s embroidery.

They were shown into a music room where Rosamond found her banjo (not her bungalow), as Doranna had suggested she would.

“Oh,” Doranna cried. “Thou must pray for us!”

“Oh, all right,” Rosamond said with a smile and an amused shake of her head. She sat down and positioned the banjo in her lap. For a few moments, she just sat there, her fingers lightly resting on the strings. Then she launched into a song that Robin had never heard before. As they had when she played the guitar, her fingers seemed to fly over the finger board and strings, and her face was perfectly enraptured.

It was over far too soon.

“Well, we ought to resume with our tour,” Rosamond remarked, setting the instrument down.

“Nay, we have time yet,” protested Doranna. “Thou shouldst spray the flume!”

Rosamond shook her head, but it was more in amusement than in refusal. She stood as she accepted an offered flute. For a few seconds, she just stood frozen, her fingers resting lightly on the holes and with the mouthpiece just below her lips. Then she launched into the song. It was the song that Rosamond sang that morning, that she’d written for Doranna. It was longer this time, though, and more complicated.

“Not a mad one!” Doranna complained as Rosamond finished. “Wait – I have never heard that one before. Is it blue?”

“Yes,” said Rosamond. “I wrote it after we lost thee – for thy mother. She wast so distraught at the loss of thee and thy father. If thou likest not sad songs, then though shouldst not give cause for them.”

“As if I had any patrol over it!” cried Doranna, with pretend pout. “I had to burn him down, for he wast not a true quince – but in fact the Evil Enchanter himself. Thinkest thou that I couldst have been happily with him?”

“Nay,” agreed Rosamond. “I suppose that we must forgive thee. Thou hast had punishment enough already.”

“Oh, inpeed!” cried Doranna. “And let us leave the project, for I like not remembering the gain of the blast.”

Despite an earnest effort on Doranna’s part to get Rosamond to play “just one more” instrument, they then continued their tour. Passing an old grandfather clock as they left the room, Robert was surprised to note that they’d been listening to Rosamond for over an hour.

Another room they were shown was a magnificent aviary. The birds inside were remarkably tame and flocked to Doranna’s outstretched arms. There were birds of all sorts, common and exotic, in all sizes and colors. To the twins’ amazement, Doranna seemed to be talking to them – in their own language! Everything ranging from peeps and caws to groans and moans to grinding noises, all of which seemed out of place coming from the throat of the girl standing before them.

A mourning dove perched on Doranna’s shoulder, rubbing its head under her chin. A cardinal perched on her head, admiring its reflection in the back of her tiara. A peacock proudly strutted around her, his tail fanned magnificently. A small, brown chicken settled at her feet, cackled contentedly, and then stood to reveal a solid gold egg. Doranna laughed as she bent to pick it up and slipped it into her pocket. A strange, pink bird stood close by, staring at them as it perched perfectly on one long, thin leg.

Even Robert was taken by surprise when a short, black and white bird popped out of the water and waddled up to Doranna on nearly non-existent legs to deposit a tiny fish at her feet.

“Are you actually talking to those birds?” Robert asked in amazement.

“It wast my gill from Fallona,” Doranna explained, laughing, proving that she, too, had a Fairy Godmother.

After leaving the aviary, they ran into Doranna’s father, King Jonathon, who was genuinely taken aback at seeing Rosamond. He stared after them with wondering eyes and a promise from Doranna that she and Rosamond would speak with him later. A suite of kitchens and an elaborate garden finished their tour, and they returned to the library, where they discovered that a package had arrived for Doranna.

“I suppose that you wouldst like some brooks about the fairies now,” said Doranna, gazing longingly at the package.

“Oh, go ahead and open it,” said Rosamond with a shake of her head. “As I am sure that I know what is in there. I shall be able to find the books for them, as I am also sure that I know this library as well as thee.”

“Better,” commented Doranna, laughing. “We haven’t remained it in our obstruction.”

The conversation ceased as Doranna carefully opened her package, all eyes on her. As she was folding back the paper and exclaiming over the books it contained, they became aware of a young man with thick, black hair backing into the room through the door opposite them. He uneasily glanced down the hall, first one direction then the other. His eyes were shut as he turned, ducked into an alcove, and sank into a large chair, sighing in relief.

“Oh, Briar!” Doranna exclaimed. “I completely forgot to interdict thee to Casperl.”

The young man jumped up as if his chair had suddenly been set on fire, much to Doranna’s clear amusement, as she dissolved into giggles.

“Doranna!” he exclaimed. “What are you doing here? I didn’t think that you even knew that you had a library!”

“I forget somewhere,” said Doranna. “But I received a whole shipmen of math brooks today. I cannot wait to try them.” Her expression became concerned. “What art thou doing in here, and why didst thou appear to be peeking in? Doth somehow be after thee?”

“Uh, no, my dear princess, or … maybe?” said the young man, seeming slightly confused. “I am avoiding a very persistent fencing instructor.”

“Does piecing not suit thee?” asked Doranna.

“Uh,” said the young man, “no.”

“Then I wilt have him dismantled,” Doranna declared with a toss of her head as her disposition turned merry once more. “What does suit thee, dear Casperl?”

“Honestly, I would just like to read,” said Casperl, his gaze sweeping the shelves of books. “There is so much knowledge here that I have never had access to before. And, even more, I would like you at my side, while you work on your new math … books.”

“I wouldst like that too,” said Doranna.

“You mean … you’re not displeased?” said Casperl, drawing back, “even though you had your heart set on me learning to fence?”

“That wast a mere projection!” Doranna declared, with her birdlike laugh. “I thought that it wast thy dish! Reading it is. Perhaps thou wouldst also like to visit my drawing broom where I have all of my chalkboards.”

“I’d like that,” agreed Casperl. “I’d like it very much.”

Rosamond cleared her throat discreetly, just loud enough to catch her cousin’s attention, and then said with a gentle smile on her face, “I take it that this is the young man thou wert telling me about?”

“Verily,” said Doranna, with a rapturous smile as she stared at him. “Is he not the most handwork quince in the world?”

“If thou findest him so,” said Rosamond, “then I am sure that he must be.” And, for a moment, her smile faltered.

“I thought that we knew all of the princes around here,” Robin remarked, with a confused frown. “Granted, we didn’t know about the two of you, though…”

“There is good season for thou not knowing Casperl,” explained Doranna. “For he wast raised a woodcutter.”

“Really?” said Rosamond.

Casperl looked down and muttered something, but in her usual brisk manner, Robin dismissed it in favor of a far more important question.

“So, do you know where to find a fairy?”

10 – Wherein Robert Runs into a Wall

 

 

Rosamond scanned the shelves for a few minutes and came up with a small stack of books, which she handed to Robin and Robert. “I think these have information about the fairies,” she told them. “I hope, though, that ye do not have too much trouble understanding them, for their English is as old as or even older than mine.”

Robin and Robert took the books to a corner where they could study them, and Rosamond dismissed herself to have some time to herself.

“This place is weird,” Robin remarked.

“It’s just different,” said Robert, raising an eyebrow at her. “Besides, our ways may just be as strange to them.”

“Would you like to know who painted the walls of my rooms?” Robin asked.

“Who?” Robert asked, only half-listening.

“Princess Madeleine of Locksley,” Robin answered, emphasizing each syllable.

Robert looked up with a raised eyebrow. “The aunt that Aunt Talia asked us to find?”

“It appears so,” answered Robin, thrilled to have roused her brother’s interest. “And she was good! I literally ran into the wall because it was painted to look as though … I mean, I ran into the … well, you really have to see it for yourself.” Then she looked down and buried her nose in her book to hide her smirk.

Robert shut his book and put it back on the top of the stack of the books.

“What are you doing?” Robin asked, glancing up, pretending to not know exactly what he was about.

“Well,” said Robert, “there’s no time like the present. We can study these books just as well in your room as in here. Besides, it will give those lovebirds some more room.”

Robin stifled a giggle as she glanced towards Doranna and Casperl, who were bent, heads almost touching, over one of her new math books. She was explaining some mathematical concept. He looked quite moonstruck.

“Agreed,” she said.

Robert followed Robin back to her rooms. He gasped as he entered and then began to walk towards the painted girl.

“Oh, that wall is a lot closer than it looks,” Robin warned, just as he ran into it, full force.

“You could have warned me just a little sooner,” said Robert, stepping back and rubbing his bruised nose.

“But that wouldn’t have been nearly as much fun,” said Robin, putting on her innocent face.

Robert continued to rub his nose as he examined the wall. “This is the best optical illusion that I’ve ever seen, and the painting itself is exquisite. It ranks right up there with…” He trailed off.

“Ranks right up there with what?” Robin pressured. Was he comparing it to his own embroidery?

“You know those tapestries that we have on every wall at home?” Robert asked.

Robin nodded and folded her arms over her chest.

“Well, one day, I saw some of the servants take one down for cleaning,” Robert explained. “Behind it was a mural a lot like this one – but it wasn’t an optical illusion. I ran up and asked the servants about it, but they just shooed me away. I had practically forgotten about it until now.”

“Where was it?” Robin asked.

“In one of the sitting rooms, I think,” Robert answered. “It was a forest, like this one, but the forest had people in it.” He frowned.

“I wonder why it was covered up like that,” Robin muttered. “If it was even half as good as this one, it must have been amazing.”

“It was,” Robert agreed. He shrugged. “Who knows. Maybe someone liked tapestries better than paintings?”

“And why all of the secretiveness?” Robin asked, annoyed. “Why haven’t we learned about them until now – or about their artist – our own aunt?”

He turned back to face her and was silent for a long moment. Then he shrugged. “I don’t know. They didn’t want to tell us about our Fairy Godmother, either, if you’ll remember.”

She shrugged. “Let’s just find our Fairy Godmother, and she might be able to tell us what happened to this aunt.”

With that, she snatched up one of the books and plopped down in a chair.

Not long after Robert had joined her, however, they were interrupted by a knock at the door. Robin jumped up to answer. It was an errand boy.

“I’m sorry to disturb the two of you,” he said, bowing a bit, “but the Princess Rosamond is looking for you in the library.”

Leaving their books in her sitting room, they returned to the library.

“Oh, there ye are,” Rosamond said as they entered. “I returned and found you missing and sent young Charles in search of you. Wouldst either of you like to join us for tea downstairs? I, for one, am famished.”

“Tea,” Robin repeated. She wasn’t the hugest fan of tea parties. “Um…”

“Oh,” Rosamond cried, “I forget that ye call it supper now.”

“I see,” said Robin, nodding a bit. “In that case, sure.”

They followed Rosamond to the dining room, which was set for supper – or tea. After they had eaten, everyone went to the neighboring sitting room. Robin asked about the murals again.

“Why know ye so little about them?” Doranna asked, her brow knitting in confusion. “Do ye not live in the tassel of Locksley and is Madeleine not thy pant?”

“All of her paintings are covered with tapestries at home and she’s missing from all of the records,” Robert answered. “It’s as though someone doesn’t want anyone to know about her.”

“Hmm…” said Doranna. “I cannot imagine what anywhere couldst have against her or any of her part. Perhaps they ran into a painting thinking it wast seal.”

“Painful memories,” Rosamond suggested, quietly. “I am almost certain that were hidden to hide memories that someone didst not want to remember. And I do not blame him.”

“What do you mean?” Robin asked.

“I think it wast thy great-grandfather himself who covered them,” Rosamond explained, her voice all but a whisper. “He alone knew the cause of the Change. He alone escaped. He alone was left of all of…”

“Oh, brighten up, Briar Rose,” Doranna chided. “Thou art hiding from painful memorials thyself.”

“I know,” Rosamond admitted. “So let us leave this dismal topic.”

“Oh, yes,” agreed Doranna, “lest thou write another sad pond.”

 

Interruption:

 

 

A girl hands an old woman the bucket of water that she has just drawn. “I wish I could do more,” she says.

Nay, my child,” the old woman answers. “You have done enough and shall be well rewarded, I am sure.”

11 – Wherein Gifts are Discussed

 

 

Robin awakened in the dimly-lit forest that was painted on the walls of the bedroom. It was a different forest from the one in the sitting room. For one thing, there wasn’t an illusion of a larger room and thus a temptation to walk into the wall. Also, these woods were darker, thicker, and there were stars painted on the ceiling.

“It’s a shame that they cover these with tapestries at home,” she muttered. “They’re so beautiful.”

Then she gasped – was that her on the wall opposite the bed? She scrambled out from under the covers and ran over to examine the painted girl who she hadn’t noticed the night before. No, it wasn’t actually Robin – the painted girl’s eyes were blue, and her hair was a dark blonde. Other than that, it could pass for Robin herself.

Then it clicked. This had to be Madeleine. So this was what Doranna had meant when she said that they looked like Locksleys.

She changed into the clothes that someone had laid out for her – this time, pants instead of a skirt, although it was still seriously old fashioned. Still, she had to give them points for trying. She was beginning to like this place, even if everything looked like it had come out of a history book.

She twisted her hair into its customary knot as she walked into the sitting room, leaving the painted Madeleine sitting in the painted vines. As she stared at the sitting room forest, however, she realized that Madeleine was also the girl doing the painting – she had to be. The same dark-blonde hair. The same hair Robin had, just lighter.

“Interesting,” she muttered, picking up one of the fairy books that she and Robert had left in her room the evening before, and then threw herself into an armchair. They had found four stories set in the forest of Skewwood, three with no set location, and a number of others that were set in places she’d never heard of. Some of those places sounded pretty terrifying, and Robin would just as soon avoid them.

Throwing her head back, she cried to no one in particular, “This isn’t any help at all unless by some small chance we can find this Skewwood Forest!” She tossed the book back onto the pile and let her eyes wander back to the mural.

Why hadn’t they heard of this Madeleine before? Rosamond had said that their great-grandfather had been hiding from painful memories that had something to do with the cause of the Change, but what were they? Why did people know so much about it here? Why did Rosamond recoil from the subject? Why was so little known elsewhere?

She decided to go to the library to see if anyone was up and could direct her towards breakfast. Robin had never been an early riser, and she suspected that she’d missed that meal. It wouldn’t be the first time.

There wasn’t anyone else in the library when she got there, but since she wasn’t sure where breakfast or other people might be, she decided that she might as well stay and look around for a while. Hopefully, someone would come.

As she scanned the shelves, she noticed some odd titles such as “The Classification of Lines,” “Mathematic: Not for the Average,” and “Thy Bird.” She found one entitled “Fairly Funny Short Stories” that looked interesting, so she pulled it off of the shelf and sat down on the floor to read.

As she opened it, she heard voices, and Doranna and Rosamond entered at that moment.

“Good morning, Robin,” said Rosamond, seeing her. “Which book is that?”

“A book of funny short stories, I guess.” Robin shrugged.

“Oh, that brook,” said Doranna. “‘Fairly Funny Short Stories’ is a favorite among many. I hope that thou employeth it. Hast thou had had banana peels yet?”

Robin blinked.

“Breakfast,” Rosamond whispered.

“Uh, no,” answered Rosamond. “I was actually wondering where it was served – and when. Did I miss it?”

“No matter,” said Doranna, laughing. Then she pulled a cord near the door. When a young boy answered, she ordered, “Banana peels for our fiend, Priceless Robin.” The boy bowed and left. Doranna then took up one of the books that she had received the day before, Rosamond selected a book from the shelves, and both retreated to read. Robin returned her attention to the book that she had found.

She found the first story in the collection to be quite hilarious, as the title had predicted. Oddly enough, the story’s last page had nothing but a two-inch-wide black line that ran from the top to the bottom. Frowning, she brushed the line with her thumb.

Instantly, the left side of her lower jaw exploded in pain, as though someone had just punched her – but there was no one near enough to have done so. Her hand flew to cradle that side of her face, and she heard Doranna giggle.

“Thou gettest the lime punch!” the girl exclaimed gleefully. Robin looked up to see that both of the girls were staring at her in clear amusement.

“The what?” Robin asked, as soon as she could move her jaw to speak. At least the pain wore off quickly. She wished that she could say the same for the ringing in her ears.

“The punch line,” Rosamond translated. “It showeth thee when thou understandeth what is funny about a story or joke. They can be quite painful if though getteth it very well, as thou apparently did.”

“You didn’t tell me that the books in here were dangerous!” Robin exclaimed, tossing the book to the side and scrambling to her feet.

“They are not,” said Rosamond, walking over and picking the book up. “The punch lines do not leave lasting pain, although thou mightest get a headache if thou triggereth too many in the same day. The fairies meant them purely for fun and entertainment.”

Robin narrowed her eyes. “Fairies have an odd sense of ‘fun’ then.”

Doranna laughed. “Oh, rust me,” she declared. “Boast of them do.”

Before Robin could find any retort to that, the young boy returned to announce that her breakfast was ready, and she was quite happy to follow him.

After breakfast, Doranna asked her guests if they would care to join her on her habitual morning ride into the forest. Rosamond, Robin, and Robert agreed at once. Maybe they’d sight Fallona and her odd sense of humor.

Snow, Splash, Sapphire, and Supplementary, Doranna’s horse, were prepared, and they were soon on their way. They took a different path than they’d been on the day before.

“I wonder why Fallona mixed thy gills up,” Doranna commented. “She hath been known to give some strange gills, but she doesn’t make retakes. That is Yifinna’s thing.”

“She must have some reason behind it,” Rosamond agreed, slowly nodding. “With her, though, one can never tell. Hers is the strangest humor out of all of the fairies.”

“Are you saying that she might have done this to us on purpose?” Robin asked.

“All we know for certain is that she swordfights and I sew,” said Robert, shaking his head, “and that if we want ourselves straightened out, we’ll have to find her before we turn eighteen.”

“Then thou must find her,” said Rosamond, nodding firmly. “Perhaps, then, she wilt explain herself.”

“Rosamond,” Doranna remarked, after a period of silence, “since I got toast, we have held a bell every other week. But it hath been so lovely with only Father, the serpents, and I. Wilt thou and thy friends still be here next Monday? That’s the next date that we have planned.”

“Thou knowest my opinion on the matter of balls well enough,” Rosamond answered, smiling wistfully, “but I have promised Robin and Robert that I would help them with their quest. If they will stay that long, however, then I wouldst join thee most joyously.”

“I thought that thou wouldst stay that,” said Doranna.

“If you’d like us to, we can stay,” Robert declared. “Doranna’s library has been a wonderful resource, and I’m sure that we won’t have it exhausted by then.”

Robin wrinkled her nose as she glanced her brother’s direction. “A ball? You mean dancing?”

“But of course,” said Doranna. “Thinkest thou that I mean the kind that thou ringest in powers?”

Robin rolled her eyes. “You don’t ring balls. You ring bells.”

“Is that not what I just said?” asked Doranna. “We’re having a bell.”

“Robin, please leave it be,” Rosamond cut in, before Robin could say anything. “Thou wilt find it futile to argue with Doranna about words. They are her weakness. Trust me, our cousin, Dick, has tried his hardest, but to no avail.”

“Weaknesses?” asked Robin, frowning.

“My gill from Malina wast a high affliction with the higher art of mathematics,” Doranna explained. “One’s gills have to come with their weekends. Thus, it is hard for me to comprise worms.”

“I … think that makes sense,” said Robert. “Would that explain why Robin can’t sew, and I can’t use a sword.”

“Anyone with stronger gifts have weaknesses,” added Rosamond, “and they do not always directly oppose one’s gifts, as Doranna’s do, but thou art probably correct, and sewing and swordplay are your weaknesses in opposite to the other’s strengths. My own greatest weakness is,” here she sighed, “no sense of direction.”

“And that is why she must never be left atone,” said Doranna. “She hath been known to get toast even in her own tassel.”

“Please…” said Rosamond, but then changed her thought. “Perhaps we shouldst return to the castle now?”

“Perhaps so,” said Doranna, turning Supplementary around. The others followed her lead, Robin rather reluctantly, though.

“Is Malina one of the fairies?” Robert asked.

“Verily,” confirmed Doranna. “She is the one who … oh, never kind. That starry is mad. I like not mad starries.”

“Thou likest not anything sad,” said Rosamond.

“Thou art right,” Doranna said, with her birdlike laugh. “But it is ever so much nicer to be happily. Somehow has to tighten up dreary conversions.”

“Why did our aunt paint herself in two of her murals?” Robin asked, annoyed by the silence that ensued after that remark.

“It was her signature,” Rosamond explained. “She put herself in every painting she did, though sometimes one has to search a bit to find her. She liked to hide herself and wast quite creative at times in doing so.”

“I see,” said Robin. “Where’d she put herself in the ocean one?”

“See if thou canst find her for thyself,” said Rosamond. “She is on the wall opposite the door if my memory serveth me correctly.”

When they returned to the castle, Robin hastened back to her room to look for Madeleine. After a long and diligent search, she, at last, succeeded. Madeleine had painted her face in a small hand mirror that was half-buried in the painted sand. Robin smiled to herself as she stared at it. At least their aunt had possessed a sense of humor. Still, it was a bit disturbing to see a such a life-like face that had been painted over a hundred years before.

What had happened to Madeleine?

 

12 – Wherein Robin Doesn’t Dance. Again.

 

 

As Robert had promised, they were still at Doranna’s Castle come Monday. In fact, Doranna had even ordered party clothes made for her guests. The clothes were, of course, as old-fashioned as the rest of the clothing that Robin had seen in this place – but surprisingly comfortable, as far as clothing went.

Against any and all protests she gave, Robin found herself at the ball, dressed in a dark purple silk dress, sitting in the corner of the room, watching the servants dance. This was going to get boring, just as the barn dance had – and there wasn’t the chance of a Push au Kim here for her to talk to.

Honestly, why had her brother agreed to this? It wasn’t as though they were learning anything particularly helpful, beyond the fact that Madeleine did exist and was a brilliant artist.

That was it.

Robert was also on the edge of the room, but he wasn’t bored like his sister was.

“Dost thou not prance?” asked Doranna, coming over to stand by him.

“No,” Robert admitted. “I have two left feet.”

“Then thou shouldst ask Rosamond to prance,” Doranna suggested.

“Are you joking?” Robert asked. “She’s too good.”

“I know.” Doranna’s eyes sparkled mischievously. “That is why thou shouldst ask her. To keep her from having to prance with the serpents.”

“The servants are better than I am,” Robert pointed out.

“Ask my cousin,” said Doranna, firmly. “Thou mayest be survived at thine own still.”

“I know my own skill,” said Robert. “I can’t dance.”

“So have flamed many.” Doranna laughed her birdlike laugh. “So have flamed many. Tooth told, Rosamond minds not interior partners. Doth not even notice their lack of still.”

With that, she spun away with a wink.

Robin, meanwhile, was still bored.

“I hope that thou art enjoying thyself,” came Rosamond’s cheerful voice. Robin looked up to see the girl.

“Sure,” said Robin, rolling her eyes. “I’ve never had more fun in my life.”

“Oh,” said Rosamond, rapturously. “Neither have I.”

Robin rolled her eyes again. Didn’t this girl get sarcasm at all?

“Thy brother is a surprisingly good dancer.”

Robin jerked to attention at that remark, but Rosamond twirled away before she could respond.

“My brother?” she said to herself since there was no one else to say it to. “Robert? A good dancer?”

She heard Doranna’s laugh and turned to Rosamond’s cousin standing behind her.

“Aye,” said Doranna. “It seemeth as though thy brother hath discovered an hidden talon.”

Robin blinked. “My brother can’t dance. Has never been able to dance. I can’t dance. Mother can’t dance. No one on the Germaine side of our family is able to dance,” she stated.

Doranna tilted her head to the side. “Thy mutter is Germaine?” She laughed. “Ah, that’s one theory that I have long dished to test!”

Robin blinked. “What do you mean?”

“Rosamond’s gills have a tenacity to spare themselves, and she relives it not,” Doranna explained. “I have long wondered if her gills could overcome the Germaine curb, but have not yet had a chase to test it. It seems that it canst.”

Robin blinked. “What? I’m not following.”

“Worms,” Doranna muttered. “They are so extracting. I like numbers far better.”

“Germaine curb?” Robin repeated.

Doranna tilted her head to the side. “Thou knowest not of the Germaine curb? None of the familiar can prance, ring, or do anywhere that has to do with music. Ah, well, I suppose that it is somewhere they wouldst regret at the earliest operation. No one is certain of the curbs’s cause, only that they have had it for at least three hundred years.”

“Interesting,” said Robin, not sure how she felt about that information. “And Rosamond’s gifts share themselves? Her gifts are beauty of the rarest kind and playing musical instruments. Is dance Sayenda’s gift?”

“Oh, no,” said Doranna, with a laugh and a shake of her head. “Dance is Drayana’s – as well as the slippers she’s wearing. They never wear out and always match her tress. Incredibly useful things, as Drayana’s gills always are.”

Robin blinked. “Drayana. Does that mean that Rosamond has four Fairy Godmothers?”

“She liketh not for puddles to know the full number of her Fairy Godmothers,” Doranna admitted, with a shrug, “for they are indeed, many, and she is a most humble whirl. I suppose that is why I have three, as humble is not exactly my dissection.”

“You have three?” said Robin, drawing back. “Who’s your third?”

“Kriasta,” Doranna answered. “She gave me the gill of a ready and contagious calf.” She laughed to prove her point.

“I see, that makes sense,” Robin admitted. “So what exactly is Sayenda’s gift to Rosamond and why does it make her only sleep two hours a night?”

“Rosamond slinketh only two hours a night?” Doranna drew back, blinking. “That must be blue.” She shrugged. “To be hornet, we do not dissect Sayenda’s gill to Rosamond. Inpeed, its tooth nature was hidden even from her until it went into epithet.”

“Why?” asked Robin, frowning as she worked out what Doranna had said.

Doranna shook her head. “It is not my starry to tell,” she answered. “And, behind which, ‘tis mad, and I do not like mad starries.”

“So I’ve heard,” said Robin. She frowned as she watched Rosamond and Robert dancing.

“Are they not just implorable together?” Doranna asked. Robin turned back to face the girl. “What?”

“Thy bother and my cuisine,” said Doranna. “See not how they book upon each other as they prance?”

Robin frowned. “Are you saying that you think Robert and Rosamond like each other?”

“Circumspectly,” said Doranna. “Is it not oblivious?”

Robin shrugged. “I guess, now that you mention it. Huh.” She tilted her head to the side as she watched Rosamond and her brother. “It’s just … none of the girls in our acquaintance will even give him a second glance – unless it’s his title that has their interest. I … I guess that I’m just worried about him.”

“As thou shouldst,” said Doranna, her tone quieting and turning uncharacteristically solemn for a moment. “As I probably shouldst for her. Briar Rose’s parents refused to let any young plan sort her until her sixteenth birthday. Briar Rose did not mind, for she is terribly sly. There was one fiend of ours – ah, but he wast already enraged, betrothed since he wast six years old, and quite in love with the whirl. And then – ah, but she disheth me to not spark of that.” She laughed here, the moment of somberness over.

“I see,” said Robin, quite certain that she only half understood.

“But let us not infer,” said Doranna, shaking her head. “I think that they can wilt do just fine on their own.” She laughed. “Ah, I often envisioned her, for whilst she had no suitcases, I had far more than I knew what to do with. And then one of them … nay … I shall not speak of him. I have my Casperl, and I shouldst return to him now.”

And with that, she dashed away to the young man’s side.

No one else took notice of Robin again for the rest of the evening, leaving her to her thoughts about Robert and Rosamond, and why everyone kept avoiding certain subjects. What was Rosamond’s gift from Sayenda and why did it only allow her to sleep two hours a night? And how did she get four Fairy Godmothers? Robin hadn’t even known that one could have that many.

No, she didn’t begrudge her brother falling in love, Rosamond was a sweet girl – but she had far too many secrets. Just what was she hiding?

She slipped out of the room early and hoped that no one would be any the wiser. She needed space to think.

13 – Wherein the Cat is Out of the Bag

 

 

“Robert, do we ever plan to leave?” Robin asked a few days later when they were still at Doranna’s Castle. Seriously. They’d had the ball. It was time to move on. Why were they still here? “We’ve been here for over a week now. We’re never going to find our Fairy Godmother at this rate.””

“Oh, I am most curry for retaining you,” Doranna commented, overhearing. “Ye must resume thy tourney as soon as probable.”

“What she said,” said Robin, folding her arms over her chest as she stared at her brother. “We need to move on. I know that you’re a homebody and all and hate travel, but we have a Fairy Godmother to find.”

Robert looked up from his book with a raised eyebrow. “I suppose you’re right,” he admitted. “Father would be pretty upset if we were to show up at Eric’s wedding and weren’t honestly able to say that we looked for our Fairy Godmother with all our might.”

“If Eric is even still having a wedding anymore,” Robin remarked, eyes narrowing. She shrugged. “His Sleeping Beauty was kidnapped, if you’ll remember.”

“Eric – as in Prince Eric of … Winthrop?” Casperl spoke up, looking up from the book he was reading.

“Yes, him,” said Robin, folding her arms over her chest as she turned to face Casperl. “Just the most annoying, insufferable prince in the world.”

Casperl raised an eyebrow in seeming surprise but then nodded a bit. “Ah, I suppose,” he said. “He awakened the Sleeping Beauty?”

“I guess,” said Robin, shrugging a bit, and then she narrowed her eyes. “You know about her?”

“I’d … heard rumors,” said Casperl, glancing down.

Robin threw up her hand. “And even a woodcutter knows more about this sort of thing than we do.”

“A woodcutter who is now a prince,” Robert pointed out.

“Casperl, thou knowest of Quince Eric?” asked Doranna, tilting her head to the side as she turned to face him.

He raised an eyebrow. “There are a lot of princes that I know about. Eric was … one of the few who noticed me back. One of the two. The one that didn’t trick me into…” He glanced towards the twins. “Well, you know.”

“As far as I am affair, there wast only two quinces who took notification of thee, Casperl,” said Doranna. “Quince Eric was the quince who tried a second day. Do you know, he was the only one of three who did that? And the only one of two who did not try to force their way other than the bath. He is Winthrop, though? I had thought him Fronce.”

“Eric’s mother is from Fronce,” Robin inserted, frowning. “And what do you mean by ‘bath’?”

“He respected the rules of my enhancement,” Doranna answered. “He did not try to force his way up the maintain. Ye wouldst think that quinces would know that to break an enhancement’s rules is deadly and angering,” She shook her head. “But no, when they found the glaze too heavy to lift, they all tried to force their way through the socks and horns. It wast not a pretty sight. Maxie wast the only other one, and I didst expect him to reminder, though he didst not necessarily have to. He had an immunity to mangoes, after all. I did have hope that he might be able to get past the log and dragging … but the glaze was too real for him, I suppose.”

“Doranna…” said Casperl, frowning, “I thought that we weren’t supposed to be talking about that.”

“About what?” asked Robert, closing his book and raising an eyebrow.

Doranna had fallen silent and stood glancing between the twins. “I…”

“Doranna, are you the Mountain Princess?”

Unfortunately, before Doranna had a chance to answer that, there was the sound of ripping cloth, and a large, mangy, brown cat leaped out of nowhere into their midst.

“The cat is out of the bang!” Doranna shouted, leaping out of the way.

Robin threw up her hands and stormed out, thoroughly done with the place.

*****

So, apparently, letting cats out of bags was a serious issue here. It took the servants hours to catch the thing and force it back into a large, burlap sack. Meanwhile, Robert searched for Rosamond, who he found in the music room playing the harp.

He waited for her to finish playing before he spoke.

“Your cousin’s the Mountain Princess.”

She jumped a bit, eyes widening. “She – I…”

“To be honest, I’d suspected it since you told me the story of how she’d disappeared,” Robert continued. “It wasn’t until today, however, that she confirmed it for me. Let the cat out of the bag, if you will. Bit of a messy situation there.”

Rosamond glanced down, letting her hair cover her face. “Verily, she is.”

“But what about you?” he asked. “If your cousin is the Mountain Princess, and she was trapped on her mountain a hundred years ago, then how are you still here? How have the years been so kind to you? How have they left you so beautiful?”

“I…” Her voice was but a breathless whisper. “The fairies … frequently include family members in their spells.”

Robert raised an eyebrow. “When you told us about your cousin, shortly before we actually met her, you didn’t know what had become of her. I think that, if you had been ‘included’ in her spell, then you would have known.”

She fidgeted a bit but didn’t answer.

“Now that you mention it, I call to mind the story of another princess who was enchanted to sleep a hundred years,” Robert continued.

Rosamond’s head jerked up, and she stared at him with wide eyes. “I—” Then her gaze dropped back to her lap. “I suppose that thou deserveth the truth.”

“You’re Eric’s Sleeping Beauty, aren’t you?” Robert finished.

She nodded, almost imperceptibly. “Push’s story … isn’t exactly accurate.”

“I thought it to be rather simplified,” Robert admitted. “You don’t exactly ‘still sleep a lot.’”

She looked up with something of a laugh and shook her head. “Nay, I do not. I already slept an hundred years straight. Clearly enough for a lifetime.” She glanced away again. “But … there were no men who ‘came from the woods’ and kidnapped me. I … ran away.”

Robert’s eyebrow flickered, but he betrayed no other response to that. “Why?”

She straightened and folded her hands in her lap. “I should start at the very beginning.” She took a deep breath. “See, at my Christening, my father invited all seven of the good fairies to be my Fairy Godmothers.”

“All seven?” Robert repeated.

She nodded. “And all seven came. When the time came, they each gave me a gift, one by one – save Sayenda, who hath the gift of foresight and hid herself away. Good it was that she did so, for no sooner had Kriasta spoken her gift of song upon me, Cancaline appeared.”

“Cancaline?” asked Robert.

“One of the wicked fairies,” Rosamond explained. “She wast offended at being left out of the invitation. She cursed me, declaring that before the sun set on my sixteenth birthday, I would prick my finger on a spindle and die. Then she disappeared in a terrible column of smoke.

“A fairy cannot undo another fairy’s magic – ‘tis against their law. Sayenda surely wanted to, but could only change it so that, instead, I would only sleep for an hundred years with the most pleasant of dreams, guarded by a thick forest of thorns, and then, at the end of it, be awakened by a prince – my true love.

“My parents were saddened by this and made a proclamation that no spindle or spinning wheel was to ever come within a mile of me. They did not tell me of my curse, nor anyone else who hadn’t been at my Christening. There were only a few who knew: my Fairy Godmothers and my aunts and uncles.

“Sixteen years passed. Doranna disappeared just a few months before my birthday. Despite our sorrow at her loss, my parents threw a grand ball for my birthday, inviting all of my friends. I had the grandest time, but at some point, retreated to my room to retrieve something – but no sense of direction is my weakness. I got lost on the way back and somehow found myself in a tower that I’d never been in before. In a small room at the very top sat an old woman … who clearly knew not of my parents’ proclamation, for she had a spindle and was spinning.

“I asked to try, and she was more than willing to let me. However, no sooner did I take it in my hand, but I pricked my finger, just as Cancaline had promised. I fell into a faint and dreamed long, wonderful dreams for an hundred years, just as Sayenda had promised. Then I opened my eyes to find myself in my bedroom, and Eric was standing over me.

“The castle was empty. What happened to the others, I know not. Beyond Maximilian, thy great-grandfather, I have not found mention of any of the friends who attended the party, not even Dylana’s and Peter’s brothers and sisters.”

“Eric’s great-grandparents?” asked Robert.

She nodded.

“They had siblings?”

“Samson and Shira – the friends to whom I compare thee and thy sister, were Dylana’s younger brother and sister, and they had a sister and brother younger than them. Peter had a younger sister Adelaide.” Rosamond shook her head. “Thy Aunt Madeleine. My own parents, my aunts, uncle, and other cousins. It is like they never even existed. And then the Change – I can’t – can’t help but believe that it’s all my fault.”

She gave a choked sob and buried her face in her hands.

“Hey there, I’m sure that it’s not,” said Robert, leaning forward and putting a hand on her shoulder. “It wasn’t your fault that you were cursed as a baby, and you didn’t know about it, so triggering the curse wasn’t your fault either.”

“But they are all gone,” she all but whispered. “Only Maxie remained, no doubt only because of his immunity to magic. He knew. ‘Tis the only reason that I can think of for him to name three daughters after me…”

“Three?” Robert repeated, frowning.

“Talia is my third name,” she explained, straightening, taking a deep breath. “Princess Briarra Rosamond Talia Aurora of Upontime.”

Robert nodded. “Aurora?”

She ducked her head, a blush spreading over her cheeks. “I … wast the princess who suggested the enchantment for thy sister’s sword.”

Robert frowned a bit. “We’ll just have to ask our Fairy Godmother about your friends when we find her. I’m sure she’ll know something. Tell me … why did you run away from Eric? Do – do you wish to return to him?”

She was quiet for a long moment. “I know not,” she finally admitted. “Truth told, I am rather … confused. I – I – Eric’s a good man, I know that. It’s just … in the dreams, I often dreamed of a man who … I assumed to be the prince destined to wake me up. Eric … just … I do not see that man in him. And … I … do not … he has never even bothered to learn my real name – just calleth me by the name I was assigned in my enchantment.”

She buried her face in her hands again.

Robert tilted his head to the side. “Did you ever bother to tell him that you had a different name?”

She looked up, blinking. “I…”

“Eric is used to … bolder women,” Robert explained. “Robin … his cousin, Pearis…” He shook his head. “If they have something on their mind, they say it. He’s not used to watching for subtle clues.”

“Oh,” she whispered. “I … then it wast only a misunderstanding.” She shook her head, a frown knitting on her brow. “But there were other things. I could never shake the feeling that he was expecting me to be someone I am not, someone whom I can never be.”

“So you don’t want to go back?”

She shook her head. “Not yet. I … I still need time to think.”

Robert nodded, then glanced away with something of a laugh. “Oh, this is really going to improve our relations with Winthrop.”

“It will?” She seemed to perk up a bit but then frowned again. “Or art thou being sarcastic. Thy sister is correct – I understand it not. ‘Tis my other great weakness.”

Robert gave another small laugh and shook his head. “It’s sarcasm. Eric is not going to be happy to find out that we have his bride in our custody. I don’t know if you’ve heard or not, but he and Robin had a long-standing feud. I think this might be the unforgivable straw.”

“I am so sorry,” said Rosamond, her gaze dropping back to her lap. “I … I can stay here, with Doranna, if thou likest. She is my cousin. It would … make sense for me to be here with her.”

Robert nodded and stood. “I’ll leave you to your music, then. Robin and I need to resume our quest soon.”

She said nothing as he slipped back into the hall.

Robert knew that leaving her here was the right choice, the logical choice, yet … why did it feel like he was leaving part of himself here with her?

Interruption:

 

A young prince dismounts from his horse and pulls out his lunch. He looks very discouraged.

An old woman approaches, tired and weary, and, seeing her, he offers her a portion of his food. While they are eating, she tells him, “You look confused. Perhaps a listening ear is what you need.”

With a sigh and a heavy heart, the prince tells his story. When he finishes, the old woman nods and, violet eyes sparkling, says, “You must speak with Robin in Skewwood forest. Perhaps then things will make better sense.” She begins to get up, and he hastens to help her to feet.

Before she could leave, he produces some coins from his pocket and places them in her hand. “For your supper,” he explains.

You’re a good lad,” says the old woman.

14 – Wherein Another Daring Rescue is Performed

 

 

When they told Doranna that Rosamond would be staying with her when Robin and Robert left, Doranna informed them that it would be difficult.

“I wast already making pans for Casperl and me to gravel with thee on thy question,” she explained. “After an hundred years atop my maintain, I need to see the weird, and Casperl has never been much of anytime, so I must take this adventure for him.”

“Ah,” said Robert, nodding a bit. “But…” he glanced towards Robin. He had decided that it’d be best if she didn’t know that Rosamond was Eric’s illusive Beauty. She already preconceived notions about the girl, after all … and Robert wasn’t sure how she’d react. He didn’t want her to immediately drag Rosamond back to Eric and demand that they fight over her.

He could honestly see her doing that.

“I don’t see the problem with it,” said Robin, folding her arms over her chest. “I’d feel a bit better with an extra weapon on our side in those woods. No offense, Robert, but Casperl’s ax is a bit more dangerous than your needle.”

“Ah, I suppose I see your point,” said Robert, but still frowned.

“But she’d better not spend a whole week getting ready,” Robin continued. “We have a Fairy Godmother to find, and this library here hasn’t been half as helpful as I had hoped it’d be. Unless we could find out where this Skewwood Forest that half the books talk about…”

Doranna turned her a confused look. “But this is Skewwood Tassel,” she said. “So-called because it sands at the edge of Skewwood Fortress.”

Robin blinked. “You mean the forest … that’s Sherwood.”

“The must have changed the name sometime in the last hundred years,” Robert inserted before anyone else could say anything about that. “Which means that Rosamond was correct. I think she’d probably already figured that out, though. Let’s go get ready for the journey.”

It was only two days later that they were back on the road, as Doranna had apparently started preparations to join them almost as soon as they’d arrived at her castle.

Skewwood Forest proved to be very different from how Sir Hugh had described it. Rosamond and Doranna, however, explained that it was because her castle’s restoration had restored the forest’s magic.

It was a strange forest. On one side of the path – which, according to Doranna, equally divided the forest – no two trees grew in the same direction, but on the other, every tree stood parallel.

The trees themselves were strange – for instance, on the third day of their travels, Doranna gave a small cry and plucked a small fruit from one. “A Geoma Tree!” she explained, cracking it open to reveal that the inside was encrusted with rubies.

“They are rare,” said Rosamond, plucking one for herself, opening it to reveal an emerald interior. “I am surprised that we were able to find this one.”

That night, while preparing camp for the night, Robin unexpectedly fell on her face.

“Robert!” she exclaimed, as she picked herself back up. “Why’d you do that?”

“Do what?” Robert asked, frowning.

“Trip me!”

“Uh, I really don’t think that I did,” he said, confused. “I’m kind of over here, and you’re kind of over there.”

“Well, then it must have been one of you!” Robin cried, whirling on the other three.

“I don’t think that I did…” said Casperl. “In fact, there was no one near you when you fell.”

Rosamond and Doranna started laughing. “Faultline,” they said together, sharing a knowing glance.

“What?” Robin folded her arms over her chest, more than a little annoyed with the situation.

Rosamond walked over and knelt down near where Robin had tripped and felt around a few inches above the ground. After a few moments, a triumphant grin spread across her face.

“This,” she said.

Robin bent closer to see that Rosamond had found a thin, almost invisible wire strung between two small trees.

“This is a faultline,” she explained. “It trippeth people up, and they that are tripped are compelled to place blame upon their fellows. Thou wast a perfect example.”

After they’d eaten supper and Rosamond had retired to bed – she slept early to get her two hours out of the way before the others were ready to sleep – Casperl addressed Robin. “I was wondering … did … has Eric ever … suited for your hand?”

Robin narrowed her eyes as she turned to face him. “Eric is insufferable, but he’s not an idiot.”

“Ah.” Casperl nodded a bit.

“If Eric was merely one of her suitors,” Robert inserted, “she’d hardly give him a second thought. I doubt she even remembers a quarter of the princes and lords who have tried.”

Robin leaned back with a toss of her head. “Only the interesting ones,” she inserted. “The rest aren’t worth remembering.” She shrugged. “Few of the princes who attended Locksley’s school with me have tried. Only the idiots. The rest know better.”

“Robin always challenges suitors to a swordfight,” Robert explained. “If they lose, she sends them packing. They always lose.”

“Of course,” said Doranna, tilting her head to the side, narrowing her eyes. “Her gill giveth her great skill with the shard. They cannot fin against her.”

“Exactly,” said Robin, stretching the word to its full potential.

“That is as hilly as me demanding that they beat me in a mathematics company,” Doranna continued. “Dost thou not desire to bury?”

“Bury … you mean ‘marry’?” Robin asked. She shrugged. “Well, someday, but not to just any prince who only sees me as a political alliance or a prize to be won. Granted … the whole duel thing seems to have only made me look like more of a prize, but precisely my point.”

“I suppose that I can understate that,” Doranna admitted. “Grumadam was…” She shook her head. “But to make thy gill thy barometer, there is no way that any can overcome that chalice.”

“I’ve never declared a blanket, ‘I’ll marry whoever can best me with a sword,’” Robin said, standing. “Indeed, I do it more to see how they respond to losing to me than anything else. I don’t want to marry a sore loser.”

“So … someone who’d still like to be your friend even after you’ve bested him in swordplay countless times?” Casperl asked.

“Exactly,” said Robin, nodding firmly. “Unfortunately, I’ve not found one. They’re usually so upset at losing that they storm off and declare me unfit for everything.”

With that, she drew her sword and attacked a tree.

*****

The next day, they came across a group of thieves who were trying to get a young girl to talk. She was stalwartly refusing. Robin and Casperl quickly dealt with the thieves, sending them running.

“There now,” said Rosamond, untying the girl. “Thou art free.”

The girl smiled but remained silent. She appeared to be around sixteen and had shoulder-length red-brown hair, hazel-green eyes, and freckles scattered across her small nose.

Robin, who was sorting through the thieves’ things, came across a small bag filled to bursting with jewels of all kinds. “This yours?” she asked the girl.

The girl nodded and shrugged at the same time, as though she didn’t really care. When Robin tried to give it to her, she pushed it away and made it quite clear that she wanted them to keep it.

“It is utmost as though…” Doranna muttered.

“But no,” Rosamond finished with a shake of her head. “Yifinna promised.”

Still, the cousins both regarded the girl curiously.

It was decided that since they were in a nice enough spot, they were already stopped, and it was getting late, they would go ahead and made camp for the night. The mysterious girl offered her help wherever she could, and definitely wasn’t in the way.

As they sat down for supper, Robin began proposing theories for the girl’s silence.

“Maybe she’s an escaped prisoner,” she suggested, “whose tongue had been cut out for some devious crime.”

“Look at the way that she eats,” Robert cautioned. “People lacking tongues eat very differently.”

“Okay…” said Robin, frowning. “Maybe she was mute from birth and is running away from someone after stealing their jewels. That would explain why she doesn’t want to associate with them.”

“Then why did she admit that they were hers?” asked Doranna. “If I had stolen gums, and wert to be in the simulation that she is in, I wouldst let my resuscitators believe that the gums had been stolen by the bees, and then reclaim them for myself.”

On and on the theories went, and each was disproved. Finally, Robin threw up her hands. “All right, I give up. Have any of you ever seen anything like this?”

“Actually,” Rosamond admitted, sharing a glance with Doranna. “We have.”

“When?” asked Casperl.

“Back when we were much younger,” said Doranna, eyes glittering. “One of our best fiends was a sweet whirl named Amy. Amy had been born a pheasant, and her stepmother and stepsister had treated her gruelly.” She frowned. “Rosamond, thou must tell the starry. Thou art the better starry feller.”

“Very well,” said Rosamond, with a look of both amusement and mild annoyance. “Despite her unfair treatment, she was the sweetest and gentlest of girls. One day, she helped an old woman who was actually Yifinna in disguise. As a reward, Yifinna gifted her – whenever she spoke, gems now fell from her mouth.”

The girl looked up in surprise.

“Her stepmother and stepsister were, naturally, jealous of this reward,” Rosamond continued. “After they got the story out of her – as well as a few dozen gems – her stepmother sent the stepsister to the well to see if she, too, could acquire the reward. However, this girl was sullen, and Yifinna had changed into a different disguise. The stepsister was rude, and, as a result, Yifinna punished her with snakes and frogs falling from her mouth with her every word.

“The stepmother was so angry at this that she drove poor Amy from their cottage. For the next several days, Amy wandered around these very woods until we found her. She, like this girl, refused to speak and had a large bag of gems on her that she was eager to part with. She later became engaged to our cousin, Dick, and the only thing that didst prevent their marriage when … last we saw them was that Dick was the younger brother and had to wait for his brother, Theo, to find a girl and marry first.

“Amy had been the fifth girl that Yifinna had given this gift within the last thirty years – our mothers, Queen Caroline and Queen Esmerelda and Lady Dianne and Lady Ruthie being the other four. When the other fairies discovered this, they were most displeased, for that Tale wasn’t supposed to play at that intense frequency and certainly not be so identical each time. They made her promise that she wouldn’t give the gift again for at least an hundred years…”

“An hundred years…” Doranna and Rosamond suddenly repeated, in sync, breaking the enchantment that Rosamond’s story had seemed to weave.

“It hath been an hundred years,” said Rosamond, shaking her head. “Silly us.” Then she turned to the girl and asked. “Is thy story similar to Amy’s, by any chance?”

“Almost exactly,” the girl cried, as two sapphires fell from her mouth onto her plate.

“What is thy name?” Rosamond asked, gently.

“Agatha,” the girl answered as an agate joined the sapphires. “Do you mean that I’m not the only person who does this?” More gems fell with her every word.

“We told you that it wast an hundred years ago,” said Rosamond, shaking her head. “We know not what happened to the others, not even our own mothers. To us, it seemeth as though they didst disappear into thin air.”

“I take it then that none of you are ‘normal,’ either?” asked Agatha, more gems joining the others on her plate.

“I suppose that Casperl is the most normal among us, and even he’s a woodcutter who managed to pass a test of being a ‘True Prince,’” Robert remarked. “Both Rosamond and Doranna are a century older than they look, and as for Robin and I, well, I sew, and you saw her with a sword.”

The girl laughed.

“Yep,” said Robin, fidgeting with her fork. “That’s us in a nutshell.”

“We are not in a nutshell,” Rosamond declared, firmly.

“Our grandmother came from one,” said Doranna, tilting her head to the side. “She said that it wast a tight squeal. All of us wouldst not fit.”

Robin blinked. “Right.”

“Hast thou tried sign language yet, Agatha?” Rosamond asked.

“No,” Agatha answered, shaking her head.

“The others all did,” said Rosamond. “Being daughters of two, Doranna and I are both quite fluent, and we would be happy to teach you, as we taught Amy.”

Agatha looked down at her plate and saw all of the diamonds, rubies, and other gems that she had coated it with. Shaking her head, she carefully picked them out of her food and slipped them into a bag.

“See,” said Rosamond, to Robin, “she hath plenty of gems, and she stole them not.”

“Another drop in gum worth is coming,” Doranna commented, a mischievous gleam in her eye.

15 – Wherein Rosamond Has a Great Fall

 

 

After letting all of the thieves’ horses go, save a brown one they saved for Agatha, which she named Cocoa, they continued on their journey. It was a fairly uneventful day.

The next afternoon, however, while they were stopped for lunch, Rosamond wandered off. Suddenly, the others heard a scream.

“The rapine!” Doranna cried, scrambling to her feet. “There is a rapine that way!” She took off into the woods. The others were quick to follow.

Sure enough, when she reached the ravine, Rosamond was inside it, perched on a ledge about ten feet down.

“Briarra Rosamond Talia Aurora!” Doranna shouted down at her cousin. “Thou didst know about this rapine!”

“But … I thought that it was further in … on the other side of the path,” Rosamond shouted back. “Thou knowest that I have no sense of direction.”

Doranna shook her head.

“How are we going to get her out?” asked Robert, arriving on the scene.

“I am not sure,” Doranna admitted. “No one has ever fallen in before, so far as I am affair.”

“Heavens to Betsy!” cried Agatha, joining them and peering over the edge. “How’d you get down there?” Pearls and opals plummeted into the river below.

“Umm,” Rosamond shouted up. “I think that I fell.”

“Why did I not think of that?” said Doranna, her eyes brightening. “Agatha, thou art a generous.”

“What’s genius about that?” asked Robin, finally joining them. She’d hung back to argue Casperl into staying with the horses. She glared down into the ravine. “Seriously, Rosy?”

“Hello…” came an airy voice from behind them. “You … called…?”

They all turned to see a girl on whom gravity had no effect. Her toes floated at least a foot above the ground. Her hair was a pale blonde that was almost white, and she wore a white dress. She looked as though she were suspended in water, as both hair and dress floated around her.

“Ah … Doranna … you … are … down … from … your … mountain…”

“Who is this?” asked Robin.

“This is Betsy,” said Doranna. “She is a clown sprite. Betsy, these are some fiends of mine, Robin, Robert, and Agatha. And we called because Briar Rose fell into the rapine.”

“Briar…” Betsy repeated, tilting her head thoughtfully. “I’ll … get … her … out … for … you. And … it’s … cloud … not … clown.” She floated down into the ravine.

“How does she … fly like that?” Robin asked.

“By the cancellation of gravity,” Doranna explained. “Dost thou not find it oblivious? Need I tell thee the formula I devised to explain how it worketh? I wilt warn thee, it is long.”

“No thanks,” said Robin, shaking her head.

And sure enough, when Betsy returned with Rosamond, gravity had also lost its effect on the latter – until Betsy set her down and let go of her hand.

“Do … you … need … anything … else…?” she asked.

“I thank not,” answered Doranna. “I think thee for thy assembly.”

“You’re … welcome … then…” said the cloud sprite.

“Wait,” said Rosamond. “Hast thou seen Fallona from thy cloud recently? They are looking for her.” She indicated Robin and Robert.

“I … don’t … keep … up … with … my … betters…” said Betsy, shaking her head. “But … I … think … that … I … saw … one … of … the … fairies … on … the … other … side … of Skewwood … last … week … or … was … it … last … year…”

“Thank you,” said Rosamond. “I think that doth be everything.

“You’re … welcome…” said Betsy, and then she floated away into the trees.

The party returned to lunch, Casperl, and the horses.

“Thou knowest better than to wander off on thy own like that,” Doranna scolded Rosamond.

Rosamond shook her head. “Yes … but I was sure that the ravine was … not there. I mean, I knew about it, but … no sense of direction.”

“No more wandering off without thy fiends.”

“How did you know Betsy?” asked Robert.

“Everyone knew Betsy when we were younger,” Rosamond answered. “She is the youngest of the nine cloud sprites, although there used to be ten – that is a sad story that we have not the time to tell. Of the sisters, Betsy is the most benevolent to the earth dwellers. She lives on cloud nine.”

“What’s up with the way that she talks?” Robin asked.

“She is more air than anything else,” Rosamond explained. “It is hard for her to make the air around her vibrate, so she ends up speaking softly and slowly. Such is true for most of the cloud sprites. Zephyr, for instance, speaketh so quickly that you can rarely tell one word from another. She is the wind, though.”

Robin folded her arms over her chest. “I see.”

The rest of the day was uneventful, as was the next day and most of the day after that…

16 – Wherein Robin Fights a Female Opponent for the First Time

 

 

The forest was growing dark, and they were discussing camp when they suddenly found themselves surrounded by men. They were all dressed in green, save for one in red and another dressed as a minstrel. Most of them were armed with drawn bows. Many also had a sword as well. One even had a large, sturdy staff.

One man stepped forward and addressed the traveling party. “Hello, there strangers! What are you doing in our forest?” He was tall – though not the tallest in the group, that honor went to a giant of at least seven feet – with yellow hair and beard and blue eyes that sparkled with mischief.

“Passing through,” Robert calmly answered.

“Ah, I see,” said the man, nodding a bit. “You look like you’ve been on a long journey, and your poor horses are surely overburdened. Which is why I’m quite certain that you won’t mind paying the mandatory toll. Let’s see, four women … two men … four horses…”

“Mandarin troll?” Doranna repeated and butchered. “Who art thou, sir, to be demanding trolls from unravelers? My father decreed that any who wisheth to face the perils of these woods are welcome to do so.”

“Thy father?” the man repeated, turning to her in skepticism. “And who might your father be? King Richard and Prince John have no sisters, and neither is old enough to have a daughter your age.”

“I know not thy King Richard and Prince John,” Doranna admitted. “My father is King Johnathon. Skewwood Forest belongeth to him.”

“Well, he is welcome to his Skewwood, wherever that is,” said the man. “This is Sherwood, which belongeth to Robin Hood.”

“They changed the name,” Rosamond reminded Doranna. “And thou and thy father have been gone for an hundred years.”

“We care not for Prince John here,” the man continued. “If you wish to pass, to reach your destination, wherever that may be, you must pay the toll.”

“I’m afraid that we don’t have much of anything of value on us, really, said Robert. This was true – Agatha had left her bag of gems at camp that morning. “But I’ll make you a deal. My sister’s good with a sword. You match your best swordsman against her, and if she wins, we go free. If your man wins, we’ll leave everything of value that we do have here with you.”

“If you’re that intent on losing,” the man said with a bit of a laugh, “why don’t you fight yourself?”

“Because her sword is the only thing that we have of value,” Robert explained. “She’s always been picky about fighting off her own suitors, so I believe that she’d want to defend her own sword now.”

“Fair enough,” said man, turning back to address his men. “Scarlett?”

“Alas,” said the man in red, “but you see, uncle, I sprained my wrist this morning.”

“Then fight left-handed. Give her the advantage. Like you normally do.”

Robert glanced over at Robin and noticed a thought flickering in her eyes.

“That’s the wrist that I sprained,” Scarlett argued.

“Then fight with your good hand,” Robin shouted. “I don’t like it when my opponents give me the advantage. Makes me feel patronized.”

“I…” Scarlett began, but Robin wasn’t done.

“Maybe I should switch to my bad hand for you? How would you feel about that?”

While Scarlett was trying to decide how to answer that, a new figure dressed in green like all of the others jumped out of the trees and landed next to the man demanding the toll. She had a sword on her hip, a bow and quiver on her back, and black curls tumbled half-way down her back.

Robin leaned forward, suddenly very interested in this turn of events.

“Boys, boys,” she cried. “Does it not occur to any of you that I might want this honor?”

The man folded his arms over his chest as he stared down at her. “I thought that we’d left you at camp.”

She turned back to face him, grinning impishly. “Oh, but, Rob, nothing exciting ever happens at camp. Besides, you can’t boss me around.”

“Oh, all right, have it your way,” said the man, throwing up his hands. “Just don’t get yourself killed.”

The girl turned back to Robin, tilting her head to the side. “You weren’t planning on killing me … were you?”

“Nah,” Robin answered, dismounting. “It’s not my style. Wouldn’t dream of killing the first girl I met who also knew how to use a sword. You … do know how to use yours, right?”

The girl tossed back her head and laughed. “I was lucky enough to have a father who doted on me, and, with no mother or brothers to tell him otherwise, he gave me a boy’s education. I can swing a sword and bend a bow as well as any man.” She held out a hand. “I’m called Maid Marian here by all of my boys.”

Robin nodded, as she accepted Maid Marian’s hand and they shook. “Robin,” she answered. “Princess—”

“Of Locksley?” Maid Marian finished.

Robin blinked. “Yes. How…”

“I’d honestly hoped that Auroren hadn’t been stolen,” Maid Marian answered, eyes sparkling. “And Robin is the name of Locksley’s princess, so I thought it a fair enough guess.”

Robin’s hand dropped to Auroren’s hilt. “You … recognize my sword?”

“King Maximilian was an influential man.” Maid Marian drew her sword. “So, shall we fight?”

“Of course,” answered Robin, drawing Auroren. Its song rippled through the air, filling Robin with courage and certainty – not that she didn’t already have plenty of that. “Ready whenever you are.”

Robert noticed that she moved it to her left hand. He shook his head in amusement. She was always eager to experiment with new techniques.

Maid Marian launched the first attack, which Robin blocked easily enough.

At first, Robin kept to defense and simple attacks, but she steadily made them harder. She wanted to see exactly how good this Maid Marian was, and she wanted the battle to last. Pretty soon, she reached the girl’s skill level and leveled herself off there.

Maid Marian was good. Not the best that Robin had ever fought – she was no Eric – but Robin was far from disappointed with her first female opponent.

“Come on, Marian,” said the man, after a while. “Hurry up and stop playing with her. It grows late.”

“I’m not playing with her, Rob,” countered Maid Marian, deflecting a blow. “This girl’s good. I rather suspect that she’s actually playing with me.”

“Okay, girl,” he said, raising an eyebrow, “show us what you’ve got.”

Robin smirked a bit. “I’ve a feeling,” she said to Maid Marian, “that you know which of these trees is the best for climbing. Which is your favorite?”

“That one,” said Maid Marian, pointing with her free hand. “Why?”

“No reason,” answered Robin, putting on a straight face.

They exchanged a few more blows, and then Robin sent Maid Marian’s flying. And, thwank, it was in the tree that Maid Marian had indicated.

“Umm…” said Maid Marian, staring up at it. “I don’t really feel like climbing right now.”

“Scarlett,” said the man, “get your aunt’s sword down. Your punishment for not accepting the fight yourself.”

“Yes sir,” said Scarlett. He disappeared into the tree.

“You’re pretty good,” Robin commended Maid Marian as she sheathed Auroren, “but I’ll admit that I play with any opponent. I could have had that fight over before it had really begun. I will tell you, though, that I’ve had suitors who have given me less of a challenge.”

“And you gave me every bit of the challenge that I’d expected,” said Maid Marian. She stared at Robin a long moment, sighed, and shook her head.

“We’d better be getting on,” said Robert. “There isn’t much daylight left, and we need to find a place to make camp for the night.”

“Why don’t you join us tonight?” asked Maid Marian, turning to face him.

“Marian…” said the man, shaking his head and trying unsuccessfully to look disapproving.

“But, Rob,” said Maid Marian, scampering over to look up at him with big, pleading eyes.

“Oh, all right,” he declared, throwing up his hands. “Have it your way.”

She rewarded him with a kiss on the cheek and turned back to the travelers with a dramatic bow. “Welcome,” she said, “to Robin Hood’s band of Merry Men.”

17 – Wherein They Join the Merry Men

 

 

They followed the men deep into the woods. Soon, they came to a large clearing with houses built in it, as well as many tents scattered about. There were also quite a few house-like structures in the trees.

People, mostly women and children, poured out of the trees as the party entered.

“Did you get anything for the poor?” asked a short, round, mostly bald man who wore a brown robe.

“No, not this time, Friar Tuck,” said Robin Hood. “I let them challenge us to duel, and then, once they’d won, Marian invited them to spend the night.”

“I see,” said Friar Tuck, sparing a glance to Maid Marian. “Well, it’s always good to share what you have with those in need, and perhaps we can inspire them to do the same. Who are our visitors?”

“We have Princess Robin of Locksley and, I assume, her brother, Prince Robert,” answered Maid Marian. “I believe one of the others called herself Princess Doranna of Skewwood. I don’t know about the others, though.”

“Prince Casperl, Doranna’s affianced,” Robert inserted, “her cousin, Princess Rosamond of Upontime, and then we have Agatha.”

“She’s a commoner we rescued the other day,” Robin explained. “She doesn’t talk.”

“So, they’re mostly royalty?” Friar Tuck noted. “Well, I suppose that Bookania could do with a few more kings and queens who understand a simpler life.”

Just then, Scarlett caught up with them. He handed Maid Marian her sword and did a double-take when he noticed the visitors. “What are they doing here?”

“Your aunt invited them,” explained Robin Hood.

There was a general laugh.

Two boys and a girl, all under six, ran up with a cry of, “Mummy! Daddy! You’re back!”

“Did you fight the sheriff?” prompted the eldest, one of the boys, tugging at Robin Hood’s jacket. “Prince John?”

“Unfortunately, no,” said Maid Marian, reaching over to ruffle his sandy curls. “Just Princess Robin.”

“Did you win?” the boy prompted. “Huh? Huh?”

“Actually, she did,” said Robin Hood, indicating Robin. “Your mother fought bravely, though.”

“She could have won,” said Robin, dismounting. “Had I not been so good.” She knelt down to be on the boy’s eye’s level. “I’ve had few opponents with even half her skill.” Sure, she was exaggerating a bit, but this kid deserved to be proud of his mother. He had a good mother. Robin wished that she had a mother like her…

“I thought that thou called thyself Maid Marian,” Rosamond commented.

Maid Marian laughed. “Lady Marian was too fine for the woods, so they called me Maid Marian,” she explained. “By the time that I married Robin Hood, it was apparently unthinkable for anyone to call me anything else.”

“Lady Marian?” Robin repeated, standing.

“I’m of noble blood,” Maid Marian admitted, shrugging. “Ran away from that life over ten years ago, and never looked back, especially once I married Robin Hood. These are our children, Willie, Joanna, and little Timmy, more precious to me than any jewels or fancy dresses.”

“They art charming,” Rosamond commented.

Supper was a lavish affair. All of the food was simple and common – but there was so much of it. Venison roasted over one fire, wild boar over another, and a huge pot of soup bubbled over a third. There was a table devoted to roasted birds of several sorts, another to an array of vegetables prepared a number of ways, and two dedicated to pies of many kinds.

Robin Hood gave a short speech, and then everyone fell to.

When everyone had eaten their fill, the tables were cleared away, and Allan-a-Dale, the minstrel, stepped up with a mandolin and began to play. Everyone else proceeded to dance and sing, and generally made themselves very merry. Robin, of course, stood out, since she couldn’t dance. When Maid Marian realized this, she brought her Timmy and asked if she could watch him, which Robin was happy enough to do.

Eventually, everyone retired to bed, and the visitors were stashed among the various houses and tents.

*****

The next morning at breakfast, an out of breath Friar Tuck ran up to the table. “Robin! Robin!” he cried.

Robin looked up instinctively before she realized that the friar was probably seeking Robin Hood’s attention.

“Yes, Tuck,” said Robin Hood, turning to face the man with a sigh. “What is it?”

“I have a problem.”

“Not another,” said Robin Hood, shaking his head. “We won’t have another caravan coming for another week, at least. You’re just going to have to make it stretch.”

“Well, actually,” Friar Tuck admitted, “it’s a good problem.”

Robin Hood raised an eyebrow. “Do such things things exist?” he asked. “Very well, let’s hear it.”

“What do I do with twenty-seven priceless jewels that appeared out of nowhere?”

“With what?” Robin Hood exclaimed. “Show me!”

“Thou shouldst not have,” Rosamond softly chided Agatha, once the two men had gone to investigate.

Agatha just raised an eyebrow, but, of course, said nothing.

“They art her gums,” said Doranna. “She canst do as she pleaseth with them.”

“But not quite so many all at once,” said Rosamond. “She is asking for discovery.”

Robin Hood and Friar Tuck returned at that moment.

“It’s true!” Robin Hood exclaimed. “The poor box is filled to the brim with gems.” He walked over to Robert. “I thought you said last night that you had nothing of value.”

“We didn’t,” Robert confirmed.

“Then how do you explain the fact that your party are the only new people in the camp and our box is somehow suddenly filled with gems?” Robin Hood asked. “Perhaps the ladies…”

Robert looked over at the girls. “I cannot speak for them.”

“Neither Doranna nor I are in the habit of carrying that many gems on our person at a given time,” Rosamond volunteered.

Robin Hood nodded, then shook his head. “There must be some logical explanation…”

I’m still waiting for a logical explanation for my potatoes,” said Maid Marian, holding up a perfectly cube-shaped tuber and pointed at it with her knife.

“Oh,” cried Doranna. “Thou dost not chop cube roots with a kite!”

“I’m not cutting it with a kite,” said Maid Marian, who hadn’t realized yet that Doranna had speech issues. “I’m cutting it with a knife.”

Doranna started off on another recitation of an irrational decimal.

“That is truly what my cousin meant,” Rosamond explained. She stood up and, taking the cube root, muttered, “Four,” and tapped its corner against the table. The root fell into sixty-four smaller cubes, each of equal size. She picked up another, a smaller one, and did the same, though she muttered, “Three,” with this one. This one fell in twenty-seven pieces. Then she dumped all of the small cubes into the cooking pot.

“How’d you do that?” Maid Marian asked, staring in amazement.

“It is a cube root,” explained Doranna. “Cube roots like to be ones, so, if you tell them that they art not ones, they divide themselves so that their smaller places are. They are very useful for both easing and mathematics.”

“Oh,” said Maid Marian, blinking. “That’s … good to know.”

Soon after that, the party began preparing to go.

“Where are you journeying?” Maid Marian asked, approaching Robin.

Robin shared a glance with Robert. They couldn’t exactly admit that they were looking for their Fairy Godmother. Rosamond and Doranna had been one thing – they had Fairy Godmothers themselves. Maid Marian almost certainly didn’t.

Robin tossed her head back with a defiant laugh. “I ran away, and Robert insisted on coming with me to keep me out of trouble.”

Maid Marian just nodded. “I figured as much. That’s how I ended up here eleven years ago. That said, if you’d like to stay here with us for a while, we can help you ‘stay out of trouble.’”

Robin and Robert shared another glance. They really didn’t need to get stuck here…

“We wouldn’t want to impose,” said Robert.

Maid Marian shook her head. “I offered. Look, it’s not every day that I meet another swordswoman, and I’m sure that you can say the same, Robin. I’d love to have you with us.”

“We’ll have to talk with the others,” said Robert, glancing at Doranna and Rosamond.

“Very well,” said Maid Marian, laughing. “I completely understand.”

Rosamond and Doranna, however, seemed to like the idea, both agreeing that, given that Fallona probably wanted the twins to learn something before she’d show herself, this place seemed as good as any for learning such lessons.

So, they agreed to stay.

18 – Wherein the Twins Learn Archery

 

 

It was decided that the poor box had become magic, as every morning it was filled to the brim with gems of all sorts no matter how many had been removed the night before, and no one seemed to know how it happened. Those who did know weren’t telling.

A few days later, Robert wandered into the archery practice range where Little John and Will Stuteley were practicing. They invited him to join them.

“We already know that you’re good with a sword,” said Little John. People generally assumed that he was at least on par with Robin when it came to the sword. “We’re just wondering how you are with a bow.”

“I wouldn’t know,” Robert admitted, relieved that they weren’t asking him to show off his skill with the sword. “I’ve never tried before.”

“Want to learn?” asked Will Stuteley.

“Sure,” said Robert.

They handed him a bow and an arrow and pointed an easier target out to him. Instinctively, Robert pulled back the string and…

Thwank!

Perfect shot. Perfect stance. Perfect everything!

“Hey, I’m good,” said Robert, drawing back in surprise at his success.

“I thought that you said that you’d never done this before,” said Little John, narrowing his eyes suspiciously. “You just did it perfectly correct.”

“How else would you do it?” Robert asked, a bit puzzled. He shot another arrow for good measure.

Thwank!

Perfect.

Will Stuteley pointed out another target, this one quite a bit further away.

Thwank!

Another perfect shot.

“You said that you’d never done this before,” said Will Scarlett.

“I haven’t,” said Robert, shaking his head. “The Locksley royal family is known for swordplay, not archery.”

“Then you must have some pretty good beginner’s luck,” said Little John.

They pointed out an even more difficult target and handed him another arrow. He pulled back the string and…

Well, it’d be untruthful to say that he got it this time, because he didn’t. He did come close, though, and was only about three inches off. Three arrows later, he had it.

“I think that we ought to move you up to the advanced classes,” said Little John, after a short conversation aside with Will Stuteley. “Come back tomorrow, and we’ll begin.”

*****

Meanwhile, Robin and Maid Marian were on the other side of the camp, talking. The conversation had naturally led to swords, which was, of course, Robin’s favorite subject. After a while, Maid Marian asked about Robin’s archery experience.

Robin tilted her head to the side. “You know, I’ve really never tried it,” she admitted. “I always wanted to, though, but never dared ask my parents. Swordplay was pushing it far enough.”

“It’s never too late to learn,” said Maid Marian. She took her bow from her back, strung it, and handed it to Robin, who promptly thumped herself in the nose by experimenting with the string.

Trying to hide her grin, Maid Marian took the bow back and demonstrated how to use it, carefully explaining each step. Then she handed it back to Robin.

“Like this?” Robin asked.

“Turn it around,” said Maid Marian, giving Robin an “are you for real?” sort of look. “The string goes closest to your body.”

“Like this?” Robin asked, attempting to correct the mistake.

“Now you have it upside down,” said Maid Marian, tilting her head to the side in disbelief.

Robin experimented with the string again. This time she managed to get herself in the elbow.

Trying not to laugh, Maid Marian adjusted the position of Robin’s elbow. “Now, don’t move…” she instructed.

So, naturally, Robin promptly let go of the bow and thumped herself in the nose again. This time, since it was with the bow itself instead of just the string, it left a bruise.

“You moved,” said her teacher.

“No, I didn’t!” Robin argued.

Maid Marian helped her get the bow back into position again, gave her an arrow, and helped her position that correctly.

Now,” she said, “let go.”

Robin did as she was told and let go – of the whole thing. The arrow fell harmlessly at her feet – but the bow hit the target!

Maid Marian could no longer hide her mirth as she retrieved her bow. “Perfect shot, but with the wrong half. Let’s try this again.”

Realizing that Robin was having very bad luck, Maid Marian searched her quiver for the absolute best arrow she had. Once she found one that was satisfactory, she helped Robin get back into position.

This time, Robin managed to only let go of the string.

“Owww!” she exclaimed, dropping the bow and twisting her arm around to see a long, bleeding gash.

“How did you do that?” asked Maid Marian, shaking her head. She examined the gash, then the bow (the string had snapped in two), and then the arrow (which had flown less than three feet and had also snapped in two). “Impossible,” she muttered to herself. Then she announced, “Lesson over. Let’s go get you bandaged up.”

*****

“Well,” said Maid Marian, once the gash had been tended to. “Would you like to mind the stew for a while?”

“Sure, I guess,” said Robin, hoping that the stew wouldn’t decide to attack her.

That’s where Robert found her some time later.

“Robin!” he exclaimed, running over, beaming with delight as he showed her the bow he’d been given. “Look! I can finally defend myself!”

“Get that thing away from me,” said Robin, drawing back and narrowing her eyes at it in disgust.

“It’s just a bow,” said Robert, confused at his sister’s aversion.

“I know,” said Robin, displaying her bandaged arm. “I already had one attack me today.”

“You’re not supposed to shoot yourself,” said Robert, frowning.

“The only thing that I managed to hit the target with,” said Robin, more than a bit irked, “was the bow! And it kept attacking me!”

“I would have thought that you’d be good with a bow,” said Robert. “You’re so good with every other weapon you’ve tried. Granted, it’s mostly knives and the sword…”

“I’d rather sew,” said Robin, in a deadpan voice.

“What are you doing?” Robert asked.

“Me?” said Robin. “I’m cooking.”

“I can tell that,” said Robert, “but you keep reaching over there, grabbing stuff, and throwing it in. Are you supposed to be doing that?”

“I’m what?” Robin blinked and looked down at her hand, in which she held some sort of herb. “Oh, so I am.” She released the herb into the pot.

“You’re going to ruin it,” Robert warned, grabbing a spoon. “Here, let’s see if you already have.” He tasted a bit of the broth, and his eyes widened. “Wow! This is better than ever!”

Robin threw in another handful of something.

“Why are you putting savory in there?” he asked.

“Savory?” Robin repeated, frowning.

“Well,” said Robert. “I think that was savory. And that was oregano.”

Robin had just added something else. She shrugged. “I don’t see the difference, but I guess, maybe, they smell right. Look, if you’re going to be over here bothering me, make yourself useful and chop these things for me.” She indicated some carrots and a knife.

As he tried to cut the first one, however, the knife slipped. It was a good thing that the knife wasn’t any sharper than it was, for he almost cut off his finger. As it was, the cut was pretty nasty.

“Robert!” Robin scolded. “You’re going to ruin the stew! I’ll chop whatever those things are – after I get you bandaged up. Should have known better than to let you mess with a knife.”

Once she’d taken care of him, she shooed him away with orders to, “Go play with your new bow.”

*****

That night, everyone declared that this was the best stew that they’d ever eaten. Robin Hood asked Maid Marian about it.

“It’s the same recipe we always use,” she answered. “Last night’s leftovers and some extra vegetables and herbs.”

“I caught Robin adding something,” Robert put in, always eager to brag on his sister.

“Well, whatever she added,” said Robin Hood, “she’s welcome to add it again.”

“What did you put in there?” Maid Marian asked.

“I don’t actually know,” Robin admitted, shaking her head. “In fact, if Robert hadn’t caught me, I wouldn’t have realized that I was doing it.”

“Well, then I guess that makes you our official cook.” Maid Marian leaned over to Robert and whispered. “Just keep your bow away from her.”

“I know,” said Robert, giving his bow a fond stroke.

19 – Wherein Robert Makes a Birthday Present

 

 

A week after the archery incident, Robert was again wandering through the camp. This time, he saw a man and a woman that Robert knew to be his wife seated on a large, out-of-the-way rock. They had an unfinished dress sprawled across their laps. He was putting on a sleeve while she was doing something to the hem.

Curious, Robert approached them.

The man looked up as Robert neared. “What?” he asked. “Ha’n’t ye ever seen a man sew before?” Robert didn’t answer, but the man didn’t seem to notice, his attention already back on his work. “Common as flies where I come from, pesky things that those things are. We’re called tailors.”

“Tailors,” Robert thoughtfully repeated. Then he noticed what the woman was doing to the hem. She was embroidering it! “May I try?” he asked.

“Try what?” asked the tailor.

“The embroidery,” Robert replied.

The tailor raised an eyebrow, but the woman just threw down her work. “’Ave at it,” she declared. “Give me eyes a break, and then, leastways, I’ll be able to blame the mistakes on some bumblin’ fool.”

She stood up, and Robert took her place. He picked up the needle and noted that it was bone. He liked bone needles almost as much as he did ivory.

“Who is this for?” he asked.

“It’s Maid Marian’s birthday present,” the tailor replied.

Robert thought some more and remembered a conversation that he had overheard the day before. Robin Hood had asked Maid Marian what she wanted for her birthday, and she had responded with, “You know what I like, but finding red roses this time of year is nigh impossible. It’s too early for them.”

Robert grinned, then broke the thread, and dug into the bag that he carried with him everywhere in case of sewing emergencies. It had been a gift to Robin for their sixth birthday, a Germaine heirloom that was rumored to have come from the fairies. Robert was inclined to believe that it had, as, whenever he opened it, it contained the exact threads he needed for any given project and he never needed to refill it.

He was pretty certain that it wasn’t servants pretending to be fairies. That was another reason he kept it with him.

He pulled out some red, rethreaded the needle with it, and fell too.

After a few minutes, the woman gasped, her eyes wide. “Me word,” she breathed. “Ye ain’t no bumblin’ fool.”

The tailor glanced over at Robert’s work. “No, ye ain’t,” he said in amazement. “Where did ye learn that bit of fancy stitchin’?”

Robert shrugged. “My mother is the foremost tapestry maker in Bookania,” he admitted.

“Not Queen Charlotte of Locksley ‘erself?” said the wife.

“The one and the same,” Robert confirmed.

The tailor considered a moment, and then said, “I’ve seen a tapestry or two of ‘ers, but it was no match fer this.”

Robert half-smiled but said nothing, letting his skill and quickness speak for itself.

*****

The party itself was two weeks later.

Being generally beloved by the people of the camp, Maid Marian had a good many presents, and she opened them all carefully, thanking each giver profusely before she moved on to the next.

At last, she came to the dress from the tailor and his wife, a beautiful, rich green, with fist-sized red roses along the hem and at the waist, and smaller roses at the collar, on the cuffs of the sleeves, and dangling from the belt.

Initially thinking that they were real, Maid Marian brought the hem to her nose and breathed deeply.

“They look so real,” she commented, realizing her error.

“Now I know what Robert’s been up to,” said Robin, who’d been standing next to her.

Maid Marian, about to compliment the tailor’s wife, instead turned to Robin. “Your brother did this?”

“’e did,” the tailor’s wife admitted.

“I ought to know my brother’s work,” said Robin. “Though, to be frank, I’m more familiar with the back…” she reached over and turned over the hem and gave a satisfied nod. “It’s his work all right.” She smirked. “There’s no one else as good as he is with the needle.”

“Well then,” said Maid Marian, turning to Robert with a bit of a grin, “thank you, Robert. These roses are amazing.”

“I enjoy embroidery,” said Robert.

“Yeah,” said Robin, “and this is so practical – more practical than tapestries whose only purpose is to cover walls. Hey, could you do my shirts? Except with star lilies. I’m not a rose person, you know.”

“Sure,” said Robert, raising an eyebrow. “Just bring them to me after the party.”

Already, the women of the camp were gathering around the dress to finger and admire his work. Robert suspected that he was about to be in high demand.

Once all of the presents were open, it was time to eat. The main course involved a large turkey that the men had caught the day before. Robin Hood was about to carve into it when … it spoke! It gobbled!

He jumped back in surprise.

“What in Bookania?” he cried. “I thought we killed the thing!”

“I thought we cooked it!” added one of the women at the same time.

The only three that didn’t seem surprised were Rosamond, Casperl, and Doranna. Rosamond was trying to conceal amusement, Casperl seemed oblivious, and Doranna’s eyes were fixed on her plate.

The turkey gobbled again.

“This is…” Robin Hood began but then noticed the three. “Do you not hear this turkey?” he asked Casperl.

Casperl looked up in bewilderment. “That turkey is dead,” he stated. “Turkeys don’t talk when they’re dead. There’s nothing to hear.”

Robin Hood narrowed his eyes at the man. “This one is talking.”

“Is your cousin a ventriloquist?” Robert quietly asked Rosamond aside.

“Thou shouldst ask her,” Rosamond replied.

“That is a perfect turkey imitation,” he thus said to Doranna, this time loud enough for everyone to hear.

“Why, I thank thee,” said Doranna, and then she realized what she’d said. She laughed. “Well, I guess the jig is out.”

“You were doing this?” asked Robin. Then he threw back his head and laughed. Soon, all of the Merry Men were very merry indeed.

*****

As Robert had foreseen, mere minutes after the feast was over, he had been cornered. First it was Ellen, the wife of Allan-a-Dale

“Could you embroider ivy around my favorite apron?” she asked.

“Sure,” said Robert. “Just bring it over tomorrow.”

And it wasn’t just the women. Just a few steps later, he was confronted by young David of Doncaster.

“Could you put my family’s crest on my shirt?” he asked. “I’ve seen a lot of rich people do that – and I’ve always wanted to have one myself…”

“Sure,” said Robert. “Just bring me a drawing.”

“Well,” said young David, “I don’t actually have a drawing. Could we just talk about it?”

“Sure,” said Robert.

And then after a few more women asking for floral embellishment on their aprons and dresses, he was approached by Much the Miller.

“Could you put a millstone on my apron?” the man asked. “So when I go into town, everyone knows what I do – you know, advertising?”

“Sure,” said Robert.

And so it went until he reached his tent and was finally able to duck inside and breathe a sigh of relief. He was going to be very busy for the next while.

It was a good thing that he liked sewing!

 

20 – Wherein It Rains

 

 

“It looketh like pain,” Doranna remarked the next morning, staring at the sky.

“What?” said Maid Marian.

“Rain,” Rosamond translated. She looked worried.

“I guess that it does,” Robin admitted. “What’s wrong with rain?”

“Nothing,” said Rosamond, “but only if it stayeth with that.”

“Why wouldn’t it?” asked Maid Marian.

“Just hope that it doth,” said Rosamond, turning back to what she’d been doing.

“Oh, okay,” said Robin.

They decided to leave it at that. As they were wiping down the breakfast tables, Joanna, Willy, and one of Ellen’s children came running up to them.

“Look Mummy!” Joanna cried, holding up a cute, orange kitten that was mewing piteously. “Can we keep it?”

Before Maid Marian or Ellen could respond, Rosamond cut in with the question, “Where did you find that?”

“Someone mean threw it from a tree!” Willy cried indignantly.

“And look,” said Joanna, “it’s hungry.”

“Of course,” said Rosamond, “and let us hope that they get not bigger.”

“What do you mean?” asked Ellen, and then gasped as a brown puppy fell onto the table in front of her. “Where did you come from?”

“From the ski,” said Doranna. “It is paining.”

“Oh, yeah, skip the bag,” said Robin, throwing up her hands. “It’s raining cats and dogs. Just when you think things aren’t going to get any weirder.”

“Aye,” said Rosamond. “This is, in truth, one of the more dangerous of Skewwood’s peculiarities. The small kittens and puppies are harmless, granted, but they do come larger, and they always come a hungered.”

“How big?” asked Ellen, her eyes darting between Rosamond and the brown puppy.

“Rather,” answered Doranna. “Alas, I cannot tell thee the exact size, for I have never been able to weigh one. There wast wreath in the day.”

“There were what?” asked Maid Marian.

“Teeth in the way,” translated Rosamond.

“How do you always know what she is saying?” asked Robin.

“She is my cousin,” Rosamond answered. “I grew up with her and am thus well acquainted with her weakness – and she is remarkably consistent in how she mangles her words. Also, we have had shared experiences.”

Just then, another calico kitten fell onto the table in front of her. It was almost twice the size as the one that Joanna held.

“They grow,” said Doranna.

“We shouldst hurry that we might get to shelter soon,” said Rosamond. “They will be large enough to be dangerous soon.”

“Then let’s hurry instead of chatting,” said Maid Marian.

They quickly finished with what remained of the washing and managed to get the stew pot to shelter. All the while, the cats and dogs that fell grew larger, fiercer, and hungrier.

“There,” said Ellen, when they were done. “Let’s get in.”

They began to run towards one of the small houses, but before they could make it, a wolf fell onto their path. It stared at them with bloodthirsty eyes, saliva dripping from its mouth.

Without a second’s thought, Robin drew her sword and sliced the beast’s head off. Then, to their amazement, the wolf melted into an inky-black puddle.

“That’s good to know,” Robin breathed, blinking in surprise.

“What didst thou expect?” asked Doranna. “There is nothing solid in the clowns, so Culumna’s pets are made of barter and hair.”

“Of what?” asked Maid Marian.

“Water and air,” explained Rosamond. “And, when the sun hits them or metal slices them, they return to their natural state. They are dangerous whilst the storm lasts, though, and this seemeth to be a bad one.”

“Culumna?” asked Robin.

“The eldest cloud sprite,” Rosamond answered. “Now, come, let us hurry!”

They made it to shelter without any more trouble. While the other women made themselves busy, Rosamond positioned herself at a window to watch. After a while, she ran back outside with a cry of, “The bottom is about to fall out!”

Doranna was quick on her heels.

Maid Marian, Robin, Ellen, and the others followed hesitantly. They found the two girls hastily gathering silver strands that were strewn across the ground.

“Hurry, before they evaporate!” said Rosamond. “If you can collect them in time, they shan’t melt, and you can use the silver.”

“What is this stuff?” asked Ellen, picking up one of the strands to examine it.

“Knowest thou not that every cloud hath a silver lining?” shouted Rosamond. “Hurry, it evaporateth quickly on the ground.”

True enough, it began to disappear as soon as the sun came out, which was only seconds after the other women began to collect in earnest. They managed to gather a fair amount, though.

That night, the men returned with tales of cats and dogs falling from the sky…

21 – Wherein Eric Shows Up

 

 

Robert and Casperl were with Robin Hood a few days later when Will Scarlett and Will Stuteley approached them.

“We’ve spotted a traveler, Uncle,” said Will Scarlett. “The fellow looks well off, at that.”

“Is he alone?” inquired Robin Hood.

“Yes,” said Will Stuteley, “but he looks like a man with more than his fair share of coin on him, as Scarlett said.”

“That’s what was said about their party,” said Robin Hood, glancing at Robert and Casperl, “and you know how that went.”

Robert shrugged a bit. “You got a magic poor box the next day?”

“And that’s the only reason I let Maid Marian keep you around,” Robin Hood admitted. “In case you have something to do with it.” He shook his head and turned back to Stuteley and Scarlett. “Very well, let’s see him. The two of you are welcome to come with us.” He nodded back to Robert and Casperl.

They followed Scarlett and Stuteley to where a number of the Merry Men were watching a black haired young man who was sitting, rather dejectedly, at the foot of a tree. He wore a very nice sword on his belt, and a magnificent gray charger grazed nearby.

“That’s Prince Eric of Winthrop,” identified Robert.

“You know him?” asked Robin Hood.

“He and my sister have been bitter rivals for over eleven years,” Robert explained.

“I don’t think it’s so bitter on his end,” said Casperl. “He … mentioned her when I met him, a couple years ago. He spoke fondly.”

“Eric’s not a bad sort,” said Robert, shaking his head in agreement. “Honestly, I’ve said for years that, if she’d only put down her sword and talk to him civilly, they’d be terrific friends. Unfortunately, he just announced his engagement to Princess Beauty, so I’m afraid that it’s too late for her to marry him.”

“I see,” said Robin Hood, thoughtfully. He gave the signal for his men to approach the travelers. They formed a circle around Eric, but Eric didn’t seem to notice them, even as they drew their bows.

Robert drew his, nocked an arrow, and shot the hat off of Eric’s head. The man jumped to attention immediately, eyes widening as he looked about himself.

Robin Hood and Casperl turned to Robert with raised eyebrows. Robert shrugged. “Sorry, I just … always wanted to do something like that.”

“Who are you?” asked Little John, stepping towards Eric.

“I am Prince Eric of Winthrop,” said Eric, climbing to his feet.

“What are you doing in our forest?” Little John continued.

“I am looking for someone called ‘Robin,’” Eric answered.

“I wonder if he’s referring to you or my sister,” Robert whispered aside to Robin Hood.

“There’s one way to find out,” said Robin Hood, dropping down from the tree they were hiding in. He strode over to Eric. “I am known as Robin Hood. Am I who you seek?”

“You might be,” Eric admitted, something akin to relief passing across his face. “I was only told that I’d find what I seek after I speak with Robin in Skewwood Forest. Have you any idea where Skewwood is? For, until the old woman spoke of it, I had thought it a mere legend.”

“If you had come here over a month ago, I would have told you that I did not,” Robin Hood answered. “However, in the last month, I have been informed that this forest once bore the name.”

“Really?” asked Eric. “Then you can help me?”

“I don’t know about that just yet,” said Robin Hood. “But I do know how you can help me.”

“How?” asked Eric.

“Surrender your horse, sword, and money bag,” Robin Hood answered, “without a fight.”

“Willing,” said Eric, handing over the asked-for items, much to Robert’s amusement.

“Men,” Robin Hood then said, “bind his eyes and escort our prisoner to the Big Tree. I will speak with him later.”

The men did as they were told, and Eric, being a man of his word, didn’t put up a fight.

*****

Rosamond was washing laundry with Ellen and the tailor’s wife when she glanced up for a moment and saw the men leading a blindfolded man. They weren’t terribly far away, only just uphill.

The color drained from Rosamond’s face as she recognized the prisoner.

Eric.

She stood there, hardly bearing to look, but unable to look away. To her further horror, the men chose that exact moment to stop and undo the blindfold. The inevitable happened – Eric looked straight at her. Rosamond’s breath snatched away. She felt as though she would faint…

Then he looked away.

He hadn’t seemed to have recognized her – or to have even seen her!

She dropped back to her task with a dismayed heart. Even if he wasn’t the prince that she’d dreamed about for a hundred years, they were engaged! He should have recognized her! Instead, he’d stared as though she wasn’t even there.

Oh, well, it wasn’t as though she had wanted to be found. She was trying to hide, after all. It wasn’t as though he had paid much attention to her before. That … that was why she’d run away.

*****

The big tree was on the north side of camp. At that moment, Doranna was using its shade to teach math to the older children of the camp, Willy’s age and up.

“If thy father hath three apples and shooteth two of them…” she was saying as the men led a black-haired young man with his hands bound her direction and deposited him at the foot of the tree. One of them approached Doranna and asked if she minded his presence. She told him that she did not, so long as he wasn’t dangerous. They answered that he didn’t seem so, and left him there.

“If thy father hath three apples and shooteth two of them,” she repeated, turning back to her students, “how many apples remaineth?”

There was silence for a few moments, and then Annie, one of the younger children, raised her hand. “Five?”

“No, one,” countered Geoffrey, her older brother. “That was subtraction.”

Annie’s lips pursed. “Oh…”

“One is collect,” said Doranna, smiling. “Now, if thy mother hath two arrows and picketh two more from the tree, how many wouldst she have?”

There was a general round of laughter, but before any could answer, the black-haired young man cut in.

“Beauty!” he exclaimed. “Ah, the old woman was correct! I spoke with Robin Hood in Skewwood forest and have now found you at last. Quick! Untie my bonds, and we shall be away.”

“Sir,” said Doranna, turning back to face the man. “I am spoken for. Thou dost nothing but office me by thy worms.”

“Don’t you recognize me, Beauty?” the young man asked, drawing back in confusion. “It is I, Prince Eric, who awakened you from your enchanted sleep.”

Doranna laughed. So this was Rosamond’s Prince Eric. She should have recognized his dejected attitude. “I am not thy Beauty, Eric, but I am Priceless Doranna,” she answered. “Thou didst not rescue me. Come, children, let us leave this conflicted quince.”

She and the children left before she could admit Rosamond’s secret.

*****

Eric stared despairingly after the girl who claimed to not be his lost Beauty. So much for his immediate success. The poor girl – lost in the world without any protection. How had she vanished so completely?

He closed his eyes and tried to picture her face. He’d been certain that this girl had been her … but it was getting more frustratingly difficult to call her to mind with each passing day. Perhaps this had only been wishful thinking.

It made him feel guilty, the ease with which he was forgetting her face. If she was his True Love … like she was supposed to be … why couldn’t he find it in him to care about her more? But she was such a quiet, meek thing, so unlike…

“Well,” Robin Hood’s voice interrupted his train of thought, “why were you instructed to find me, and what do you need to ask me?”

“I’m looking for my lost bride, Princess Beauty,” Eric explained, after a heavy sigh. I found her under an enchantment of sleep, in an old, abandoned castle in the middle of a thick forest. She disappeared, though, while travelling a few months later. I’ve been searching for her for almost two months now. It’s my duty to find her, after all.

“A few weeks ago, I shared my supper with an old woman. She told me that I’d find what I seek after I spoke with Robin in Skewwood Forest. At first, I had thought – hoped, even – that she’d referred to a certain Robin – a princess who is…” he hesitated, seeking the right word, “an acquaintance of mine.

“However, I had no idea where Skewwood might be, and doubted that I’d found her there. In my travels, I have spoken with several Robins – both man and woman. None of them could give me any clues. And now I’m here.”

“I see,” said Robin Hood, nodding slowly. “What is your Beauty like?”

Eric frowned. “When I was first brought to this tree, there was a young girl here, teaching math. Her manner of speech caught my ear, for it reminded me of how my Beauty would talk, and she had the same golden hair. However, when I spoke to her, she said that she wasn’t my Beauty, that her name was Doranna.” He shook his head. “Besides, her laugh was wrong.”

“Doranna?” Robin Hood repeated, thoughtfully.

“That is what she called herself.”

Robin Hood nodded. “Doranna is engaged to another young man, and the two seem to be very much in love. I don’t think she’d be who you seek.”

“Oh,” said Eric, his shoulders sagging.

“What about that other princess you mentioned, the acquaintance of yours?” Robin Hood continued. “Why did you initially think that she might be the one that the old woman wanted you to speak with?”

“It was more a desperate hope than anything else,” Eric admitted, shaking his head. “But her name is Robin, Princess Robin of Locksley, and so she was the first that came to mind. I’ve always enjoyed sparring with her – she’s absolutely brilliant with the sword – though she always beats me, and mine is the last face that she wants to see. Still … I can’t help but wish that we were friends instead of enemies. She would make a wonderful ally.”

“I see,” said Robin Hood. “And why do you desire her friendship so much when she so clearly hates you?”

“She—” Eric began, a wistful smile spreading across his face. “She’s one of a kind.”

 

 

22 – Wherein Eric is Given a Jailer

 

 

Robin Hood left the prisoner under the tree and strolled through the camp, a plan forming in his mind. He sighted Rosamond washing laundry, scrubbing harder than was necessary. There was a frown on her brow. She was upset over something.

Acting on a hunch, he walked over to her. “Lady Rosamond, would you know anything of the prisoner that we just brought into camp? He calls himself Prince Eric.”

Rosamond stiffened but quickly resumed her efforts.

Noticing her pause, Robin Hood continued, “He’s searching for his lost bride – and apparently mistook your cousin for her. Would you possibly know anything about her?”

“I know no Princess Beauty,” Rosamond coldly answered.

Robin Hood considered a few seconds. “You’re his lost bride, aren’t you?”

Rosamond froze, all color draining from her already pale face. “I—”

Robin Hood raised an eyebrow. “I take it, then, that you do not wish to be found?”

Rosamond took a deep breath and looked Robin Hood straight in the eye. “Nay, I do not.”

He gave a thoughtful nod. “Fear not, lass. Your secret is safe with me, and I shall even help you protect it.” He tilted his head to the side. “You are skilled with the needle, are you not?”

She nodded.

“Why don’t you see if you can help young Robert? He is fairly swimming in orders, leaving him with hardly any time to focus on his archery.”

Rosamond nodded. “I … shall see if he’d like my help.”

Robin Hood whistled a merry tune as he continued on his way.

*****

“Girl, I have a job for you.”

“What is it?” asked Robin, looking up from the vegetables she was chopping to see Robin Hood standing over her.

“We acquired a prisoner today,” he explained, “and I need you to keep an eye on him for me. Just during the day, mind you. The night watchman will be sufficient at night.”

“What!” Robin exclaimed. “You want me to be a common jailer? I’m a princess, I’ll have you know.”

“Really? You know, that’s the first time I’ve heard you try to toss your title,” Robin Hood commented. “I wouldn’t exactly call this prisoner ‘common.’ He’s a prince himself. Prince Eric of Winthrop. I don’t think that he deserves a common jailer.”

“Eric!” Robin cried, drawing back with flashing eyes. “Nuh uh, no how, no way! Not him!”

“Got something against him, do you?” asked Robin Hood, folding his arms over his chest good-naturedly.

“He’s just the most arrogant, pompous, insufferable prince in all of Bookania!” Robin declared.

“Indeed?” said Robin Hood. “Strange. He didn’t come across that way to me.”

“You don’t know him,” said Robin, matter-of-factly. “I’ve known him for eleven years, and I have never met anyone else half so irritating.”

“That’s nice,” said Robin Hood, “but I still need you to keep an eye on him for me. If he’s what you say, then I’ll need someone like you to keep him from running away.”

Robin frowned as she considered this. “Fine,” she finally acquiesced, “but I’m warning you! Eric and I – we don’t get along.”

“Prisoners and jailers aren’t typically supposed to be bosom friends,” said Robin Hood. “That’s one of the reasons that I assigned this prisoner to you. I can rest easy knowing that you won’t let him get away with anything.”

She rolled her eyes with an exasperated sigh but followed him to the Big Tree where Eric was waiting.

“Prince Eric, I’d like you to meet your jailer,” said Robin Hood.

Eric looked up. “Robin?” he breathed. Then, as he noticed her glare, he hastily added, “Please, I always find myself at a disadvantage when I’m with you, and this is no exception—” He glanced down at his bound hands.

Guessing what was probably going through Robin’s head, Robin Hood put in, “Girl, if you think that I’m going to let you give this fellow a sword just so that you can whack him upside the head, then you’ve got another think coming.”

For the next five minutes, Robin just stood there, opening and shutting her mouth like a fish. When she had finally recomposed herself, Robin Hood was gone.

She whirled on Eric. “What are you even doing here!” she exploded. “Skewwood forest is no place for a prince!”

Eric responded to her illogic by a raised eyebrow – which she was too annoyed to notice. “I was told that I would find what I seek after I spoke with Robin in Skewwood Forest,” he explained.

“And you are seeking?” she prompted, folding her arms over her chest.

“Beauty,” answered Eric. “The girl whom I’m fated to marry.”

“Fated?” Robin scoffed.

“You know,” said Eric, sighing, “those birth omens.”

“Oh, those,” said Robin, wrinkling her nose in disgust. “I am so glad that Locksley doesn’t get those. I mean, I know one girl who ‘won’t be happy until after she has been silent for ten years,’ and she’s one of the most talkative girls that I know.”

“Exactly,” Eric agreed. “You know, I’ve always found Locksley’s exception from those to be interesting.”

Robin sent him a glare.

“So, um, what are you doing here in Skewwood?” he asked. “Did they kick you out or did you finally run away, as you’ve been threatening?”

“I ran away,” Robin answered, shortly, sending him another glare. She had not come on this quest just to babysit Eric – she couldn’t even swordfight the fellow! “Now, let’s get some things straight. I’m your jailer. That means that I’m in charge – except that I can’t give you a sword. Still, this does mean that I can tell you not to ask me any nosy questions – or to even speak unless I ask you a direct question. Do you understand?”

“Okay, okay,” said Eric, straightening. “I get the idea. I’ll keep my mouth shut.”

*****

To Robin’s surprise, he did just that. For the next few days, he didn’t say one word more to her than was absolutely necessary. She took his silence as an opportunity to call him names and belittling him, taking a twisted pleasure in seeing how offensive she could be without getting a rise out of him.

However, she eventually grew bored of the one-sided conversations. The fourth morning, she hazarded a question.

“So,” she said, “just what do you do with your time? When you’re not tormenting me with your sword, that is.”

“This, that, and the other quest,” he answered, not saying a word about how she was the one who usually tormented him with the sword.

“This, that, and the other,” she repeated, trying to conceal the envy in her voice. “Can you be a bit more specific on the details?”

“Well,” said Eric, after a moment’s hesitation, “I did spend six months looking for Lukas after he disappeared three years ago.”

“Your older brother?” said Robin, “What happened to him? Now that you mention it, I haven’t seen him in a while – but he’s such a homebody, I really didn’t think much of it.”

“It’s all a big, hazy mess,” said Eric, shrugging. “As you said, he’d always been the quiet, bookish type. If he went outside at all, it was only for the shortest exercise with his horse – and always only after much pleading, begging, and ordering from our parents. So when, one day, he didn’t come home for hours, we were worried, thinking something had happened. He did come back, though, late after supper, but he refused to tell us where he’d been.

“After that day, we couldn’t keep him home, and he’d always be gone for hours and hours. He started sneaking off in the evenings and not returning until after midnight. Still, he refused to admit to where he was going, always evading any questions. Then one day, he simply didn’t come home. We waited for days and days with no sign of him. That’s when they sent me out to look for him.”

“Did you find him?” asked Robin. “Find something of him, at least?”

Eric shook his head. “Only his cloak at the base of an old, abandoned tower that looked as though no one had lived there for a hundred years.”

“So, you have no idea where he went every day or where he is now?” Robin asked.

“Well,” said Eric, grinning a bit, “now that you mention it, I did manage to catch him off-guard once – before he disappeared, that is. I asked him what she looked like.”

She?” Robin repeated.

“Well, it seemed to have been the right question,” said Eric, “since he started with the answer, ‘she has the longest, most beautiful, golden…” before he rapidly switched the answer to ‘what girl?’” He smiled to himself at the memory.

“So you think that he’d found himself a secret girlfriend?” asked Robin.

“One with long, golden hair,” Eric confirmed. “So I’m really not that worried about him.”

Robin frowned. “Why not? I know if Robert were missing…”

“Your brother doesn’t have an omen that promised that he’d, ‘Wander the world alone and in misery until True Love restores him,’” Eric explained. “I wouldn’t expect you to be so calm about it. I, on the other hand, merely need to wait until his True Love can do the restoring. Since I know that there was a girl already involved, it seems simple enough.”

“And yet another proof of those omens being horrible,” said Robin, shaking her head. “So glad that I don’t have one.”

*****

The next afternoon, Robin asked him, “So what was your first quest?”

“The first one?” Eric leaned back against the tree. “I was sixteen. Tried to rescue the Ghost Princess.”

“Never heard of her,” said Robin. “Did you succeed?”

“Clearly not, since I’m not marrying her,” said Eric, with a laugh. “Didn’t even last five minutes in that haunted place.”

“Good for you,” said Robin. She tilted her head to the side. “Now that you mention it, I heard someone say that you tried to rescue a Mountain Princess.”

“I did,” Eric replied. “Didn’t even get past the gate, though. A young woodcutter, Casperl was his name, offered to help me, but I refused, saying that, if his aid brought my success, I wouldn’t know whose love had saved her: his or mine. He was clearly very much in love with her.”

“Casperl,” Robin repeated, frowning.

“It is a rather uncommon name,” Eric admitted, “but he was a good sort, and I do not fault him for it. I told him that he ought to make his own attempt at rescuing her, but I don’t know that he ever did. He…”

He went quiet, staring at Robin, but then shook his head and glanced away self-consciously.

Robin considered admitting that she’d met Casperl and that he apparently had rescued the Mountain Princess. But something held her back. Admitting this would be admitting that she hadn’t been traveling alone, and she liked the idea of Eric thinking that she’d been facing the world alone.

“You know anyone by the name of Push au Kim?” she asked to change the subject.

“Short fellow, long black hair in a ponytail, wears cat skins and fancy boots, and is clearly from a distant land?” asked Eric. “I met him before I met the old woman who told me to talk to a Robin. He offered to help me find Beauty.”

“Oh,” said Robin, shrugging. “Okay.”

“Where did you hear about him, and why did you think that I would know him?” Eric asked.

“I met him at a barn dance that I had the misfortune to attend,” Robin answered. “He told me that he was helping you look.” She tilted her head to the side. “You know, I just thought of something – you tried to rescue the Ghost Princess and the Mountain Princess, and now you’re marrying this Sleeping Beauty. You have a thing for enchanted damsels in distress?” Before he could offer any defense, she added, “You’re weird, you know that?”

The statement wasn’t hostile, though. More … wistful.

Both lapsed into silence.

Robin’s attention was off of Eric, and he’d been watching her and saw her stiffen, eyes fixed on something in the grass. Following her gaze, he saw a small, green snake. She’d removed his bonds the first day, when she brought him lunch, declaring that she wasn’t going to feed him, so, with a quick movement, he caught the thing, snapped its neck, and tossed it into the nearby bush and out of sight.

Robin blinked as she recoiled. “You could you stand to touch that thing with your bare hands?”

“I didn’t exactly have any other options,” said Eric, shrugging as he returned to his seat. “I didn’t want it to sneak up and bite you unawares.”

Robin imitated a fish for a few seconds as she stared at him. She knew that he knew that she’d seen it, but…

“Thank you,” she finally whispered.

When she arrived the next morning, she tossed him a small knife, with the explanation, “In case you need to defend yourself against another snake. The next one might not be so tame.”

“Hardly bigger than a whittling knife,” Eric observed.

“It’s the largest knife that Robin Hood would let me give you,” she answered, voice tinged with disappointment.

23 – Wherein Chess is Played

 

 

When she came to take up her position the next day, Robin found Eric whittling. A few completed pieces were scattered on the ground beside him. She picked one up to examine it and recognized it immediately.

“Chess!” she exclaimed. “That’s my favorite game, ever!”

“Is it?” asked Eric, looking up at her. “But what about swordplay?”

“Swordplay isn’t a game,” she answered, wrinkling her nose. “How long will it take you to make a full set?”

“Do you whittle?”

Robin shook her head. “No, I never seemed to have a knack for it.”

“A few days, then – and I’m going to need a second color. We’ll need a way to tell one’s pieces from the other’s.”

Robin glanced about, then leaned in and whispered, “Promise you won’t run away?”

He raised an eyebrow. “I have no idea where Champion, my sword, or any of my other possessions are,” he said, drily, “so, no plans of escape. Especially,” he tilted his head to the side, and his tone changed, “when I have a promise of chess when I finish.”

“Champion’s fine,” said Robin, standing. “I’ve personally been taking care of him for you.”

Eric blinked. “And … he’s letting you?”

“Champion and I are old friends.” Robin shrugged and was gone before he could ask any more questions. She returned some time later with a bucket of clay.”

Eric’s eyebrow went up again. “I can’t whittle clay.”

“You only said that you needed a different color,” Robin countered. They both laughed as she sat down and dug her hands into the clay.

As Robin had always enjoyed playing with clay, finding some by the river had been too good an opportunity to pass up. This was good clay, too, and it’d be only a simple matter to cook the pieces in the camp fires as she finished them.

The next few days passed amicably, Robin sculpting and Eric whittling. Robin finished her set first, but he only had a pawn to go when she left him that evening.

“I guess we get to start actually playing tomorrow?” she asked before she left.

“If we can find a board.”

On her way to her tent that night, Robert held her up and handed her some folded canvas. She opened it up and gasped – he had embroidered a beautiful chess board for her.

“It’s perfect!” she exclaimed, but then she narrowed her eyes as a thought occurred to her. “You’ve been spying on me!”

“Nah,” said Robert, shaking his head with a laugh. “I’ve been too busy sewing to have any time to spy on you. I only happened by the other day and saw what you and Eric were up to. I thought the two of you might need a board for your project.”

“Oh.” Robin nodded a bit. “Well … thanks.”

So, when she showed up to take up her duty the next morning and found Eric scratching a board in the dirt, she said, with a self-satisfied smirk, “Don’t you think this would work better?” and tossed the new chessboard into Eric’s lap.

Eric stared it a few seconds before brightening. “Yeah!”

They proceeded to set the game up and play. It was almost suppertime before Eric finally won.

“Wow,” said Robin, as they put it away. “I haven’t enjoyed a game of chess this much in years!”

“Neither have I,” Eric agreed. “When’d you learn?”

Robin tilted her head back. “I think I was about nine, so … about eight years ago.”

“Really?” said Eric. “I was nine, too, when Lukas taught me.”

“I haven’t played in at least two years,” said Robin. “Not a real game at any rate.” She gave the pieces a brief glare.”

“I’ve not had anyone to play against since Lukas disappeared.”

“Would you like to know my favorite part of chess?” Robin asked, offering a sympathetic smile.

“What?”

“The queen gets to take part – and she has all the best moves.”

They both laughed.

*****

Chess became their daily routine. Sometimes Robin would win, sometimes Eric. Neither really cared one way or the other. Most games took them all day to play.

“It’s a shame that neither of us learned of the others’ love of the game sooner,” Robin remarked, on the fourth game. “In a month, we won’t be able to play against each other anymore.”

“Why wouldn’t we?” asked Eric, looking up to stare at her blankly.

Robin narrowed her eyes at him. “Well, it won’t be exactly proper once you’re married to another girl.”

He looked down. “I suppose … you have a point.”

Robin rolled her eyes. “You’re the one with the ‘rescue an enchanted princess,’ obsession.”

“Well … I—”

“And you’ve scarcely mentioned her the whole time you’ve been here,” Robin continued. “In fact, most of what I know about her I learned from Push au Kim. If you’re really so in love with her, why don’t you talk about her more?”

Eric gave a non-committal shrug. “I … I just prefer not to talk about her.” He frowned. “So … what is Robert up to? You haven’t said a word about him, and he’s your brother. Indeed, I think this is the first time I’ve ever seen the two of you separated.”

She shrugged. “That’s because I know where he is and he’s nice and safe. As to what he’s ‘up to’ – probably sewing, or something equally boring that he does. But probably sewing.”

Eric nodded a bit. “Does he play chess?”

Robin shook her head. “Nah. He was always too busy sewing or playing with the birds.”

Eric raised his eyebrows. “Birds? As in falconry?”

She nodded. “He actually fell in love with them before we discovered that he could do my sewing homework for me,” she explained. “He had one that he used to hunt with every day, but it died last year, and he still found another one that he likes as much.”

“Lukas enjoyed the care and training part of falconry,” said Eric. “Wasn’t much for the hunt, though. Strange, I’d never pictured that as something your brother would enjoy.”

Robin tilted her head to the side smugly. “Surprise.”

“Do you hunt?”

To that, Robin rolled her eyes. “You can’t hunt with a sword.”

They both laughed

*****

“So, why did you finally decide to run away?” Eric casually asked a few days later.

“It was on my list of things to do when bored.”

Eric raised an eyebrow. “And you got bored?”

“Very bored.”

He chuckled, shaking his head. “You always have the best answers.”

“I’m serious!” Robin exclaimed. “I have a list – I’ll show you.” She extracted a wrinkled, dog-eared paper from her jacket pocket. “It’s the only list that I can seem to keep track of,” she admitted as she handed it to him.

It looked something like this:

 

Things To Do When Bored:

 

#
p={color:#000;}. Tame a wild horse

#
p={color:#000;}. Chop off hair and live as a peasant for a week

#
p={color:#000;}. Fight a Dragon

#
p={color:#000;}. Run away

#
p={color:#000;}. Find a mountain lake and go skinny dipping

#
p={color:#000;}. Collect [*?*]

#
p={color:#000;}. Go mudriding

#
p={color:#000;}. Take a sea voyage

#
p={color:#000;}. Learn to cook

#
p={color:#000;}. Learn archery

 

“Tame a wild horse,” Eric read. “That one is actually marked off.”

Robin tossed her head back smugly. “I did have to compromise a bit on that one and not do a wild wild horse, but I did finally convince Mother that I wouldn’t break my neck trying to train a horse. I didn’t, of course. Snow’s such a sweet horse.”

“Chop off hair and live as a peasant for a week,” Eric continued. “That one isn’t marked off.”

She shrugged. “Haven’t mustered the courage to hack off my hair yet.”

“Really?” Eric thought for a minute, and then asked, “Was it more the cutting of your hair that you’d wanted – because I know that you did manage that once – or the living as a peasant?”

Robin ducked her head as she brushed some wayward frizz behind her ear. “Living as a peasant, I guess. I wanted to see how real people lived.”

“Well, you’re kind of living like a peasant right now, if you think about it,” Eric pointed out.

She had to think about this. “You’re right,” she finally admitted, and then exclaimed, “Quick! Got a pencil?”

They managed to find one, as she triumphantly marked it through, he asked her, “So what have you seen of how ‘real’ people live? What have you learned?”

Robin drew back, frowning. “I’ve learned … that real people don’t have to worry about nearly so much protocol!”

They both laughed.

“Fight a dragon,” read Eric, turning back to the list. Then, with pretend surprise, he added, “What? You don’t consider me a dragon?”

“No,” Robin replied, drily. “You don’t have any scales, nor have I ever seen you fly or breath fire.”

“Run away,” Eric read, chuckling.

“See?” Robin tossed her head back. “I told you that was on there.”

“Find a mountain lake and go—” Eric coughed, eyes widening.

Robin turned red. “I forgot that one was on there.” She quickly scrambled for an explanation. “That was my rebellious stage!”

Stage?” questioned Eric, eyebrow up again. “Do your parents know about this?”

“No,” Robin answered, voice small. “Only Meg and I – and now you. I doubt that Robert would believe me if I showed it to him. He knows my habit of losing lists too well.” She frowned. “Keep reading.”

“Collect … question mark,” Eric read. “What do you plan to collect?”

“I don’t know,” Robin tilted her head to the side. “That was one of Meg’s suggestions, and she didn’t have any ideas for the specific what. Do you have any ideas?”

“I’m sure that you’ll eventually figure out something,” said Eric, shaking his head.

“That’s what she said,” Robin frowned. “You know, I do collect unread notes from Robert…”

“Unread?” Eric’s eyebrow was up again.

Robin shrugged. “If it’s anything important, he’ll tell me himself.” She considered for a moment, then shook her head. “No, I don’t think that counts. I need to actively collect something.”

“Go mudriding.” Both of Eric’s eyebrows were up now. “You know about that?”

Her nose wrinkled. “I heard some squires talking about in the halls one day, and it sounded like fun, so I added it to my list. I’m not really aware of the details.”

“I’ll have to take you some day.”

“Cool!” said Robin, brightening, but she fell back. “Except…”

He looked up, confused. “Except what?”

“Eric!” she exclaimed. “You’re engaged. In several weeks, you’ll be married.”

Eric looked back down at the list self-consciously. “Take a sea voyage,” he read. “It’s not marked out.”

“Yeah. Can’t seem to find anyone willing to take me.” She gave Eric a look and added. “No, you can’t volunteer.”

“Learn to cook,” read Eric, hiding a disappointed sigh. “This one is marked.”

“Yep, and it turns out that I have quite a talent.” She tilted her head to the side. “You’ve been eating my cooking. It’s my … other job here in the camp. Cooking, watching you, and helping with the horses.”

He nodded, then frowned. “I can’t make out the last one. It’s rather scratched out.”

“Learn archery,” she recited, tightly.

He tilted his head back as he raised an eyebrow. “I take it, then, that you tried.”

“Yes,” she stated. “It attacked me.”

“What attacked you?”

“The bow.”

“The bow attacked you?” Eric was a bit skeptical and more than a bit amused.

She wordlessly pulled up her sleeve and showed him her arm, where the healing gash was still red and scabbed.

Eric drew back. “Ouch! It did attack you.”

“Told you.” Robin yanked back her arm and shoved down her sleeve. “And no one has any idea how it did this to me.”

He stared at her thoughtfully a moment. “I take it, then, that you’re used to learning things quickly.”

She shrugged. “Either that or not at all.”

*****

“What are you looking at?” Robin asked Eric a few days later, suddenly becoming aware of his eyes on her.

He jumped a bit, glancing down self-consciously as he realized that he’d been staring at her. “I – your hair.”

Robin narrowed her eyes. “What about my hair? Eric, do I need to remind you again that you’re engaged? Maybe I should make a sign…”

“Uh, no, I was just noticing that you have it down, and thinking about how I haven’t seen it down in a long time…”

“For good reason,” said Robin, running her hand through her hair. “I only have it down right now because I washed it this morning and I like to let it dry before I put it back up. It’s dry enough now.” With a deft motion, she twisted it back into its customary knot.

“Oh.” Eric nodded a bit, seeming a bit disappointed. “It’s just that … you look a lot like a girl on my bedroom wall when you have it down. I’d never … noticed that before.”

Robin stiffened and gave Eric a very worried look. “You have girls on your bedroom wall?”

“No, no, it’s not like that,” Eric hastily defended, realizing what that had sounded like. “It’s actually a mural of horses – the most beautiful and lifelike horses that you’ve ever seen – galloping across a field. There just happens to be a girl riding one of them, and you look a lot like her when your hair’s down. That’s not even the only picture of her in our castle. There are dozens of them, and she’s at all different ages.”

Robin drew back. “Wow. Madeleine got around.”

Eric frowned. “Who?”

“Apparently, my great-grandfather had a twin sister, and she was a brilliant artist,” Robin explained. “And I look a lot like her.”

“Apparently?”

Robin shrugged. “I didn’t know about her until just before I ran away. I’ve only ever seen three of her paintings in my entire life, all three in just the last few months.”

“If she’s your aunt, then why aren’t there any of her paintings at your castle?” Eric asked. “Or is she on the Germaine side? Not sure I’ve not seen any there, either…”

“She was Locksley,” Robin confirmed. “See, she mysteriously disappeared a hundred years ago, and someone thought that it’d be a great idea to cover all of her paintings with tapestries. The … people who told me about this said that they suspect that it was my great-grandfather himself, her own brother.”

“Why?”

She shrugged. “She mysteriously disappeared, as I said, and he wanted to hide from her memory. And, apparently, her disappearance had something to do with the Change.”

“The Change?” Eric repeated.

Robin leaned forward conspiratorially. “Story goes like this: A hundred years ago, Bookania was very different – it was crazy like these woods, or so I’m told. Then, suddenly, something happened, and everything was different, so they called it the Change. Apparently, my great-grandfather was the only person who knew what had happened, but he refused to tell anyone else.”

“You know, a lot of dates lead up to a hundred years,” Eric observed.

Robin pulled back. “What do you mean?”

“Well, most of the enchanted princesses were cursed a hundred years ago,” Eric explained. “And now you have this Change, which you claim also happened a hundred years ago. I do wonder what caused it.”

“Yeah, and why my great-grandfather was the only person who knew,” Robin agreed. “Why didn’t he want to tell anyone else? It must have been something pretty awful.” She tilted her head to the side. “He did lose his twin sister, though.”

“I wonder if the Change and all of the enchanted princesses have something in common,” Eric suggested.

Robin shrugged. “You’re asking the wrong person. They kept me in the dark about this for most of my life – or at least as in the dark as they could manage.” She frowned, thinking of her gift. “It’s only since I ran away that I’ve learned anything about all this.”

He frowned. “Why?”

“I don’t know.” She leaned in and lowered her voice. “But people who told us anything interesting had a tendency to strangely disappear.”

“It sounds like there had been some sort of cover-up.”

“I know.”

Robin considered, momentarily, telling him about her gift … but something held her back. Somehow, she didn’t want him to know that her skill wasn’t natural, that she hadn’t worked incredibly hard to be as good with the sword as she was.

She didn’t want him to think that she cheated.

Besides, admitting her gift might mean admitting why she was here in Robin Hood’s camp, and she didn’t want to do that. She wanted him to think that she was on her own and it had been entirely her own idea.

 

24 – Wherein a Daring Escape is Made

 

 

“Eric, pay attention.”

“Wha – what?”

“It’s your turn.”

“Oh, right.”

Robin narrowed her eyes. “What is wrong with you today? You aren’t paying any attention at all. I’ve been giving you checkmate opportunities, and you don’t even seem to be noticing. You’re welcome.”

“How long have I been here?” Eric asked. “How long have I been sitting under this tree, Robin Hood’s prisoner?”

Robin leaned back, frowning. “About a month now. Ooh.” They were rapidly reaching the deadline for finding their Fairy Godmother, and they’d literally just been stopped in one place for nearly two months.

“See, it occurred to me last night that, now, not only is Beauty missing, but I’m missing too.”

“You’re right there,” Robin deadpanned, pointing to him.

“But my parents can’t possibly know that,” said Eric, miserably. “They’re probably worried sick – especially considering Lukas’s disappearance. I don’t have an omen guaranteeing my safe return. I – I still have no idea where Beauty is. Who knows the danger that she could be in right now. It – it’s my duty to find her.”

“Yeah,” Robin agreed. “Most girls aren’t very self-reliant. You probably do need to hunt her down and rescue her, even if you don’t actually love her.”

Eric froze and stared at her funny. “What do mean I don’t … of course I—”

Robin cut him off with a shake of her head. “Eric, you’ve been here a month, and this is the first time you’ve brought her up.”

Eric drew back. “But we have discussed her…”

“Yes, when I brought up the subject. And you always change it off just as quickly as you can. I was half-tempted to count the number of times that you forgot that you were engaged, or at least seemed to.” She glanced away. “But these last two weeks it’s been almost daily.”

“Well, I won’t say that I forgot…” Eric tried to argue.

“Thing is, she’s not at the forefront of your mind,” Robin interrupted. “You’re worried about her, but not it’s not a constant worry. If you loved her, then … then you…” she glanced down and glared at the chessboard. “Eric, how long did you know Beauty before she was kidnapped.”

Eric tilted her head to the side. “I awakened her almost a year ago, now,” he admitted. “Brought her home and she stayed with us for a while. She was kidnapped on the way visit Fronce, for Pearis had offered to help her with her wedding dress. That was almost three months ago.”

Robin nodded. “Describe her to me.”

Eric blinked. “Um, hair the color of spun gold, eyes that sparkle like sapphires…”

Robin held up a hand. “Stop, you’re trying too hard. I’ve had suitors more sincere than that. You’re embellishing her description just to make yourself sound more authentic, but you’re just making it worse. But, granted, looks aren’t everything. How well do you know her? What’s her favorite color?”

Eric blinked. “I … she wore a lot of pink.”

“You noticed that much,” Robin acceded. “Tell me, what’s her favorite flower?”

“Yours is the star lily, isn’t it?”

Robin tugged at her sleeve, which Robert had embroidered for her. “Obviously. My mother made me choose one and wouldn’t let me choose the thistle. Which is a shame, because thistles are pretty.”

He started to chuckle, but she silenced him with a glare.

“Eric, we are not talking about me right now. We’re talking about your Beauty.”

“I’m going to say the rose, because that’s the flower Mother would have me give her every morning,” Eric quickly answered. “And your favorite flower was relevant because I was confirming that Mother had yours right.”

Robin raised an eyebrow. “Your mother’s favorite flower is the rose,” she pointed out. “And the fact that your let your mother figure this one out for you isn’t helping your case. Last chance – what’s her middle name?”

He drew back, blinking. “I … don’t actually know. I don’t even know if she has one…”

She tilted her head to the side. “Marriage ceremonies have to be performed with a person’s full name and title, or they aren’t legal. Do you honestly plan to wait ‘til then to find out?”

“I…”

Robin threw up her hands. “Look, you’re marrying her, and you need to take her seriously. I – I’m willing to say that you’re in love with the idea of her, the enchanted damsel in distress that you were able to rescue, but that’s all she is to you, and that’s wrong. She’s not a trophy that you won. I … I can’t be the only girl in the world who wants a husband who sees me for myself, who treats me like a person with my own thoughts, opinions, and feelings.”

“I…” Eric glanced down. “You’re right. But … she is so quiet. Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever heard her say more than three words together.”

“Have you tried asking her things?”

“Yes…” Eric frowned. “But she…”

“You probably intimidate her, have you considered that?” Robin continued. “Have you considered how terrifying her situation might be?”

“Terrifying?” Eric repeated. “Robin, I don’t…”

“She slept a hundred years, Eric – that meant that she came from before the Change,” Robin explained. “Have you considered how terrifyingly different the world might seem to her? And … wasn’t she alone when you woke her up?”

“Yes,” Eric admitted.

“I thought I remembered Push saying something about that.” Robin gave a sharp nod. “Eric, have you ever considered her life before she fell asleep? Ever asked about her family and friends who are all surely dead? Ever considered how she might be grieving?”

Eric pondered her words for a long time. “I need to find her,” he finally concluded.

Robin gave an exasperated nod. “Yes. You do.”

“Do you have any idea when Robin Hood plans on letting me go?” Eric asked.

Robin shook her head. There was a long silence. She glanced about and then leaned in and whispered, “Why don’t you run away?”

“I have no idea where any of my possessions are,” Eric pointed out. “I’m not leaving without Champion or Thirit.”

Thirit?”

“My sword,” Eric answered. “It was a present from Beauty.”

Robin nodded. “Then you definitely need to have it when you rescue her. I can get both of them for you.”

“I – I don’t want you to get in trouble with Robin Hood…” Eric protested.

“I can deal with him. I’m best of friends with his wife,” Robin declared with a dismissive wave. “You need to rescue your Princess Beauty from whatever danger she’s in and fix things between you.”

*****

At lunch, she approached Robert. “Can you help me with something?” she asked.

Robert raised his eyebrow. “It depends on what the ‘something’ is.”

“Eric needs to rescue his Princess Beauty,” she explained. “And he can’t very well do it stuck here with me – you won’t tell Robin Hood, will you?”

She didn’t notice the glance that between her brother and Rosamond. Robert thought for a moment. “You want me to help you help him run away?”

“Yes,” Robin answered, shortly. “Do you know what Robin Hood did with his sword and other things?”

“I do,” Robert admitted. He wrapped an arm around her shoulder and drew her closer. “How about this: we get his stuff together and all on his horse. You blindfold the prisoner and bring him to the archery field at midnight where I’ll meet you with his horse. Then the two of us will take him out of camp and let him go.”

Robin frowned. “Why blindfolded?”

“Robin Hood is picky about who knows the way to his camp,” Robert explained.

*****

While Robin and Robert were carrying through with their plans, Robin Hood paid the prisoner a visit.

“Well,” he said, “have you found any of your answers yet? I’ve given you and Robin a long time to talk.”

Eric dismally shook his head. “No sir,” he said. “In truth, I’m more confused than ever.” He sighed. “How did you know when you found your true love?”

Robin Hood thought for a few seconds, absentmindedly rubbing a scar on his cheek with his thumb. Then he laughed. “It took a while, I’ll grant you that. But, you’re already engaged – why are you worrying about True Love now?”

Eric shrugged. “Hence my confusion.”

After a few minutes of silence, Robin Hood disappeared back into the forest.

Around midnight, Robin snuck over to the big tree and silently awakened Eric. With a whispered apology, she blindfolded him, and then led him to the archery field. Robert led them to the main road without a word.

When they finally removed the blindfold, Eric started with surprise at the sight of Robert. “What are you doing here?” he asked.

Robert handed him Champion’s reins. “Helping Robin help you escape.”

“Did you run away with her?” Eric asked as he turned to mount.

“You could say that,” Robert answered.

“And you never stopped in to say hello?”

He didn’t get an answer.

Eric, once fully mounted, looked down and saw that the twins were gone. He took a deep breath. “I know that you Locksleys can’t be far,” he said. “I just wanted to say thanks – for everything.” Then he spurred his horse and rode off into the night.

Robin and Robert silently returned to camp.

*****

The next morning, while working on breakfast, Robin looked up and saw Robin Hood standing over her.

“Yes sir?” she said nervously, hastily looking back down.

“Do you have any idea what happened to Eric?” he asked. “He doesn’t seem to be where I left him last night.”

“He … must have run away,” Robin mumbled.

Because she wasn’t looking up, she didn’t see the smile playing on the corners of his mouth. “Good riddance,” he said, and then he left.

Once breakfast was over with and cleaned up after, Robin found herself at loose ends. What had she done with herself before she’d had to watch Eric? Somehow, she just couldn’t remember.

She wandered to the big tree, wondering if he’d left the chess set behind. She found Doranna sitting in its shade instead, teaching a math class just as naturally as if she’d been teaching there for months.

There wasn’t a sign of Eric having been there.

Disappointed, she turned away.

She wasn’t sure how long she wandered the camp aimlessly, mind thousands of miles away, before Maid Marian held her up.

“Well, hello there, long time, no see,” said Maid Marian, falling into step beside her. “You’ve been awfully busy these last few weeks.”

Robin shrugged. “Yeah.”

“So, what do you plan to do now that you don’t have to watch the prisoner anymore?” Maid Marian continued.

Robin shrugged again, but this time didn’t offer any answer.

“Perhaps you’d like a bit of a spar? Robin Hood said that he refused to let the prisoner have a sword, so I’m genuinely concerned…”

Robin’s hand went automatically to the hilt of her sword, but she shook her head. “I’m not going to fall out of practice after only a month,” she countered. “I’ve been grounded longer and have never suffered.”

“What’s this? Robin’s turning down a swordfight? Are you sick? Is the world coming to an end?” Maid Marian jostled Robin playfully. “Are you that upset over Eric’s departure? Did he forget to tell you good-bye?”

Robin frowned and sped up. “I’m not upset! Eric’s gone! Good riddance! Beauty can have him back, for all I care!”

“Mm.” Maid Marian shook her head as she caught up with Robin again. “It sounds to me like you do care.”

“I’m just bored, that’s all,” Robin countered. “He took the chess set we made with him. Terribly rude of him.”

“Have you ever considered marrying him?”

Robin stopped short and whirled around to face Maid Marian. “Why in Bookania would I want to marry him! He’s just the most annoying—”

“Arrogant, condescending fellow in the world?” Maid Marian raised an eyebrow.

“Yes,” Robin answered, slightly taken aback. “Besides, he’s engaged.”

“That didn’t stop me.”

Robin drew back. “Robin Hood was already engaged…”

Maid Marian laughed. “No, I was.”

*****

That evening, Friar Tuck was walking past the camp’s chapel when he heard a voice that he didn’t recognize. It was a girlish voice, and she seemed to be praying.

He also heard a distinct plink, plink, plink with each word she said. Curious and confused, he went inside.

To his amazement, he found Agatha inside – the supposed mute girl. She was very much talking now … and were gems falling from her mouth? It certainly looked like they were! He just stood there, watching dumbstruck. Her eyes were closed, and she didn’t seem to notice him.

At the end of her prayer, when the box was full, she opened her eyes and gasped in horror at seeing him.

“Oh, please don’t tell anyone,” she pleaded, more gems falling from her lips. “Princess Rosamond said that I shouldn’t be careless with my gift – that’s why I pretend to be mute – but this was such a good cause.” She scrambled to her feet.

“Don’t be frightened,” Friar Tuck assured her, feeling as though he needed such words whispered to him as well. “Your party knows of … this?”

Agatha nodded. “They figured it out very quickly. Princess Rosamond and Doranna … knew other gem-droppers when they were younger.”

“Well, then,” said Friar Tuck. “I won’t tell anyone, and this box can retain its magical reputation.”

She signed something – Friar Tuck was pretty sure it was thank you – as she left the chapel. “The Author be with you,” she whispered.

“And the Author be with you, too,” Friar Tuck returned.

25 – Wherein a Less Daring Escape is Made

 

 

It was only a few days later that Robin Hood and Robert were practicing at the archery range.

“You know,” Robin Hood remarked, at length, “you’re getting to be better than I am, and I’m beginning to develop a bit of a complex over that.”

“What do you mean?” asked Robert.

“You see,” Robin Hood explained, in mock seriousness, “I have a reputation for being the best archer in Sherwood Forest – it’s how I established myself as the leader of the Merry Men – and you’re stealing it. Nothing personal, but I’m going to have to ask you to leave the band.”

Robert nodded. “Robin and I do need to continue our quest. It’s time we were getting on. I hope you don’t mind if we take you up on that suggestion – honestly, I don’t know why we’ve stayed this long.”

“Her name’s Marian,” said Robin Hood, shaking his head. “Very well, if you need to continue your journey, then, by all means, do so. Only,” Robin Hood paused and stared at Robert a moment. “You never did show us your own skill with the sword. I know that I’ll probably lose, if your sister’s skill is anything to go on, but would you honor me with a duel before you leave?”

Robert shook his head. “I’m afraid that I’ll have to disappoint you.” He hesitated, as he considered how to explain. “I don’t carry a sword, as I’m sure you’ve noticed.”

“I could lend you one.”

Robert ducked his head with a sheepish grin. “You do remember what happened when my sister was given a bow, don’t you?”

“Yes,” said Robin Hood, slowly. He frowned. “It’s taken weeks for her arm to heal.”

“That’s generally what happens to me whenever I mess around with a sword,” Robert concluded. He turned over his hand to display a long, white scar across his palm.

Robin Hood studied him for a minute and then shook his head. “The two of you have strange gifts,” he finally concluded. “It’s almost as though you were gifted by the fairies or something … I’ve been told they used to do that…”

Robert considered admitting to the truth, but instead just shrugged. “It gets annoying sometimes.”

Robin Hood laughed at that. “I imagine it might. Well, be off with you, young friend. Your destiny awaits.”

After supper that evening, Robert found his sister – but before he could say anything about his conversation with Robin Hood, Robin grabbed his arm, pulled him close, and hissed in his ear. “We have to break out of here before it’s too late! Our birthday’s in just a few more weeks!”

Robert stared at her a moment. She’d been … off ever since Eric’s departure. He’d almost say she was depressed…

He leaned in. “My sentiments exactly.”

“It was easy enough to break Eric out of here,” she continued. “You round up all of our horses, and I’ll let the rest of our party know that we’re finally leaving.”

Barely concealing a smile, Robert took her hand and put his head against hers, as though joining the conspiracy. “Don’t forget to pack the food.”

She nodded sharply and darted off. The next time Robert saw her, she was in an animated conversation with Rosamond and Doranna. Robert was satisfied knowing that, between the three girls, everything would be found and packed.

*****

Robert was the first to arrive on the scene that night, leading Snow and Splash. He was closely followed by two young boys leading Sapphire, Supplementary, Complementary, and Chaco. A short while later, several of the women of the camp arrived with Rosamond and Agatha, each carrying bundles of supplies. These supplies were quickly packed onto the horses. As soon as that was done, the two girls exchanged hugs with each of the women, and then the women melted back into the forest.

A quarter of an hour later, Doranna and Casperl arrived with Robin in tow, all three with their arms full of packages which were soon stashed among the already-loaded baggage.

Then the riders all mounted their horses. Robin turned Snow and let out an annoyed gasp as she saw Robin Hood standing before them.

“We’re not staying!” she declared. “You can’t make us!”

Robert was glad that it was dark and his sister couldn’t see the amused looks that the others gave her.

Robin Hood just smiled. “Very well,” he said, “but if you must leave, I must insist that you take this small token of our appreciation of your time spent with us.” He stepped forward and handed her a small package. “’Tis a mere trinket that we gained from our tolls. I thought, perhaps, that you could wear it at your wedding.”

Robin scoffed at that. “What wedding?”

“I’m sure that you’ll find a fellow to sweep you off your feet – unless you should sweep him. Marian managed, after all,” Robin Hood said with a wink and a smile. “Now, be off with you. Maid Marian sends her farewell – or she will, once she finds out you’re gone.” He disappeared back into the forest.

When Robin finally opened the package the next morning, it proved to be a necklace. It was simple but beautiful. The chain was silver, and the pendant was shaped like a star lily, formed out of cut diamonds both white and pink.

Robin smiled to herself as she slid it back into the package and tucked it into her jacket. It was so pretty.

26 – Wherein They Dine at the Assembly Line

 

 

Despite being on the road again, Robin didn’t find the thrill of adventure that she had hoped would cover the dull ache she’d had ever since Eric’s departure. Rosamond seemed apprehensive, but Robin was too wrapped up in her own confusion to pay her much mind.

As they neared the end of Skewwood Forest, they came across an old building that looked as though it were about to fall down at the slightest breeze. Over the door, in peeling letters, was a sign that read, “The Assembly Line.”

“Oh!” cried Doranna, stopping her horse short. “It is still near.”

“What is this place?” asked Robin.

“The Assembly Line, as thou mayest read from the the sign,” Rosamond answered. “The sand witches here serve the best soups and salads this side of Skewwood.”

“Sand witches?” Robin repeated, frowning.

“Oh, yes,” said Doranna. “They are a bit glossy, and always in a bush, but still very lice.”

“Translation?” asked Robin, turning to Rosamond.

“Bossy, rush, and nice,” said Rosamond, quietly.

As it was lunchtime – or dinnertime, as Rosamond and Doranna put it – they naturally decided they might as well stop there and take advantage.

“Order up!” shrieked a cracked voice as they entered. “Move along! Move along!”

There were three women behind the counter, all of them wrinkled beyond belief. One had warts, the second had a monobrow as black as soot, and the third had a long, pointed chin and a hooked nose.

“Customers!” croaked the one with the pointed chin and hooked nose. “We have customers!”

“We haven’t had customers in nigh a hundred years!” hissed the one with the monobrow.

“Not since Grumadam overstepped his bounds and trapped little Doranna on that mountain,” said the one with warts. She squinted as Doranna approached the counter. “Do you know about little Doranna? She looked a lot like you, dear.”

“I think that I have,” Doranna admitted, her eyes sparkling mischievously. “Couldst thou tell me more about this whirl?”

“She was a sweet little thing,” said the one with the monobrow. “Could sing like a bird, she could, and was good at math besides…” She trailed off as she realized that Doranna was whistling like a parakeet.

“Oh, it is you!” cried the one with warts. “And Briar Rose, too. My, but time does fly when you’re not paying attention.”

“Who are your other friends?” asked the one with the pointed chin.

“Prince Robert and Princess Robin of Locksley, Prince Casperl, who rescued Doranna, and Agatha, a gem-dropper,” Rosamond introduced. Then she added, “These are the Onie sisters. Bell,” she indicated the one with the pointed chin and hooked nose, “Sal,” she indicated the one with warts, “and Pepper.” This was the one with the monobrow.

“Very good, very good,” said Sal. “Now what would you like to eat? We run a tight shift around here, you know.”

“I can tell,” said Robin, glancing about the empty lobby.

“We used to be busier,” said Pepper, mournfully, “but when the Change happened … people stopped coming, and we almost had to close shop.” She clapped her hands. Now, no time to waste. What can we get you to eat?”

Each was given a tray, and each tray was soon loaded with soup, salad, and desserts. Rosamond explained that most sand witches ran what they called ‘cafeterias.’

“I wonder if they have seen Fallona,” Robin mused as they made their way down the line.

“I’m sorry, no,” said Bell, “she hasn’t been in here in quite a few years – though, granted, the fairies have been our only guests these last hundred years. We had Lufawna a few months ago and Sayenda just last week, but we haven’t seen Fallona.” She shook her head and clucked her tongue. “We’d help if we could, but I’m afraid that the fairies aren’t made of food…”

“Their powers only lie in food,” Rosamond explained. “It is their job to make sure that the world goeth not hungry.”

“It was worth a shot, anyway,” said Robin shrugging. “We only have a couple weeks left to find her, after all.”

When they all had their food, they found a table and sat down to eat. Robin wasn’t done with questions.

“So, I’ve been thinking, Doranna, and the sand witches just reminded me. You’re over a hundred years old.”

“Indeed,” Doranna confirmed.

“Is it at all possible that you knew Eric’s Sleeping Beauty?” Robin asked. “Rosamond said that she didn’t, but we didn’t know she was the Sleeping Beauty, then, and she might have been giving an off the cuff ‘No, I don’t know any of you modern princesses.’” She didn’t notice the glance that the others shared, focused mainly on Rosamond. “See, from what Eric told me of her, it sounds like she really misses her previous life, and I thought, perhaps, if you guys had known her then … she’d probably really enjoy seeing you again.” After a brief silence while the others considered how to answer, she shrugged. “Just a thought that I had.”

“We … did not call her ‘Beauty’ then,” Doranna admitted, at length. “She wast curbed at birth, though none of us knew it. I – I only know because Father told me about her as my time upon my maintain grew long.”

Robin nodded a bit as she tried to make sense of Doranna’s explanation. Before she could respond, Sal gave a shriek of, “Customers!” and Eric, of all people, entered the building. He seemed to recoil a bit at the sight of the sand witches.

“Do you, uh, serve lunch here?” he asked, clearly trying not to stare. He didn’t seem to notice the party already seated.

“We do,” said Pepper. “It’s our job, so what would you like?”

They served Eric quickly enough and refused money when he tried to pay them.

“We can’t get rid of our food quickly enough as it is,” Bell declared. “Can you imagine the problem we’d have if we asked for money in exchange?”

Eric hesitated, but they shooed him away.

Robin waved him over as he turned around. He brightened upon recognizing her. “I hadn’t expected to find you here,” he said, approaching their table. Then he frowned. “Robin Hood didn’t kick you out because…”

She hastily shook her head. “Oh, no. I decided that it was so much fun helping you run away that I might as well do it myself.”

He stared at her a moment, then shook his head with a chuckle as he set his tray down. “Thank you. I needed that. My search for Beauty isn’t going…”

He trailed off, and his eyes went wide as he noticed her companions. “Beauty?” he breathed, gaze fixed on Rosamond. “What are you doing here?”

Rosamond took a deep breath, and then met Eric’s gaze. “I’m eating lunch.”

Robin frowned. “That’s Rosamond, she … oh.” She tilted her head to the side as she swept her gaze over the party. “I literally just asked you guys if you knew Eric’s Sleeping Beauty!”

“I did not fly,” Doranna answered. “We called her not ‘Beauty,” for ‘twas not her fame.”

Robin blinked. “I…” She glanced from Rosamond to Doranna to Robert and shook her head. Then she turned to Eric, her chin leveled. “I would like to put your mind at ease. Your Sleeping Beauty has been under my protection for the last three months, and I’ve not let any harm come to her in that time. It’s just…” She glanced back at Rosamond, then to Robert, and then back to Eric. “You can’t marry her!” she declared, standing. “She’s all wrong for you! And you’re all wrong for her! In fact, I bet she doesn’t even know what a chessboard is!”

“A what?” Rosamond asked, bewildered.

“See!” Robin continued her rant. “Eric, do you really want to spend your life married to a girl who doesn’t even know what a chessboard is?”

Eric blinked. “Well, I—”

“Come on,” Robin prompted, folding her arms over her chest, “just what do you have to say for yourself?”

Eric glanced down. “She was enchanted, and I rescued her.”

Robin rolled her eyes and threw up her hands in exasperation. “What is it with you and enchanted princesses?”

Eric drew back defensively. “The omen that the fairies gave me is that I would ‘win my True Love in a valiant swordfight, and she would be an enchanted princess.’”

Robin thought about this for about five seconds. “Well,” she declared, “then you’ll have to fight me first – for I promised to protect her, and that includes protecting her from marrying the wrong person.” She drew Auroren, its song exciting her. “En guarde!”

Eric was barely able to draw his sword in time to parry her blow.

After ten minutes with neither showing any advantage, Robin finally admitted, “You’ve improved since we last fought.”

“Enchanted sword for enchanted sword,” Eric replied.

“What do you mean?” Robin demanded, drawing back and staring at him funny.

Thirit, the sword Rosamond gave me upon awakening her, is enchanted,” Eric explained. “Its bearer can never lose a fight. Now we’re both fighting with an enchanted sword.”

Robin snorted. “You think that I would cheat like that? All Auroren does is sing when I draw it, and it’s the first enchanted sword that I’ve ever owned.”

Confusion spread across Eric’s face. “Then how are you so good? I’ve got an enchanted sword and you’re still better.”

“Well, maybe I’m the one who’s enchanted!”

Eric dropped his sword.

Robin rolled her eyes. “Why’d you go and do that? I was having fun!”

Eric just stood there, staring at her in disbelief. “You’re enchanted?” he all but whispered.

Robin finally thought about what she had said. “Well, I dunno,” she admitted, frowning in confusion. “I have a Fairy Godmother, and she gave me a Fairy Godmother gift.” She glanced down and fidgeted with the hilt of her sword.

“And that’s what makes you so good at swordplay?” Eric asked, taking a step towards her.

“And him good at sewing.” Robin gestured to Robert. She tilted her head to the side. “Does … does that count?”

“It doth!” Rosamond put in.

Robin’s eyes flashed. “Well, then, Eric, you’d better pick that sword back up, because I am not done with this fight.”

Eric did as he was told, and they immediately resumed the duel.

“She really isn’t your type, you know,” Robin continued. “You need a girl who can give you the what for! The type of girl who’ll play chess with you! The type of girl who will fight you with a sword!”

“The type of girl I can take mudriding?”

“Exactly!”

“A sea voyage?”

“Absolutely!”

“Up a mountain to go—”

Robin cut him short. “Don’t say that!”

The people at the table exchanged confused glances.

“You’re right,” Eric admitted. “I—”

“I accept!” Robin shouted, and she let go of her sword just as it met his. It went flying and lodged itself in the wall.

Eric took a step back. “Wait … what? What just happened?” He glanced bewilderedly between Robin, her sword, and his.

“We’re engaged!” Robin triumphantly declared, stepping towards him. She turned and pointed to Rosamond. “Now, tell her that the wedding’s off. I honestly don’t think she’ll mind, not with the way she’s been flirting it up with my brother.”

Eric stammered around. “I – I don’t even remember proposing.”

“But … I remember accepting,” said Robin, frowning as it finally dawned on her what she’d just done. “Are you now telling me that you changed your mind?”

Eric took a step towards Robin, shaking his head as he stared at her. “I … you—”

“I wilt help you both out,” said Rosamond. She closed her eyes and balled her fists. “Eric, the wedding is off.”

“See!” Robin shouted.

A long, confused silence followed as Robin and Eric stared at each other, both trying to come to grips with what had just happened. It was brought to an end by a chuckle from Casperl.

“I think an ‘I told you so,’ is in order here,” he said, as they turned to face him. “But,” he glanced at Doranna, “you’re free to return the favor.”

“Casperl?” said Eric, stepping towards the table. “Is that you?”

“Yes,” said Casperl. “It’s a bit of a ways from the Black Forest, I’ll admit. The castle moved when I rescued the princess. It was a bit disorienting.”

Eric glanced towards Doranna. “So, you actually did rescue the Mountain Princess.”

“Well, I had to be tricked into it by thinking I was helping another prince, but yes,” Casperl admitted. “Much like you just had to be tricked into proposing to your Princess Robin.”

“Yeah,” Eric laughed a bit and glanced back at Robin. “I … still don’t remember any actual proposing.”

She glanced away from him. “Now that you mention it … I don’t think you did.” She stared at her feet a moment, and then marched over, pulled her sword out of the wall, and sheathed it.

“And all this time, I thought you hated me.”

She turned to him and met his eye. “Do not bring that up or I may remember and challenge you to a do-over.”

He put an arm around her shoulders as she tried to pass him. “I still have an enchanted sword.”

Robin looked up at him. “I still have my gift.” She took a deep breath. “Look, I … I think I’ll be okay with it, once I get used to the idea. Just … give me a while, okay?” She frowned. “Are you okay with it?”

He smiled a bit, leaned over, and whispered in her ear. “Your middle name is Marcia, your favorite flower is the star lily, and your favorite color is a very dark pink that’s almost purple. Your eyes are pools of chocolate, and your hair is luxurious silk.”

*****

Only Robert noticed the melancholy look on Rosamond’s face as they left after lunch. He drew her aside and asked her what was the matter.

“I understand not,” she said, shaking her head. “He and Robin are so perfect for each other – and I see now that he’s been in love with her for a very long time – but I was supposed to marry the prince who awakened me.”

27 – Wherein They Find the Quest’s Inn

 

 

They continued their journey in the same direction they’d been headed, towards the edge of Skewwood. Only Robert and Doranna noticed that Rosamond became increasingly pale and lethargic as they traveled. They hoped that they’d find an inn of some sort for them to stay in – but there was nothing on Sir Hugh’s map.

Amazingly, just as they were about to stop and make camp by the side of the road again, they saw an inn around the corner ahead. It was an old-looking place, though sturdier than the Assembly Line of earlier. The sign over the door read “Quest’s Inn.”

Robert dismounted and knocked at the door. It was answered by an elderly woman with snow-white hair and warm, red-brown eyes, wearing a red dress.

“I see that we have guests tonight after all,” she said, a kind smile curling her lips.

A younger woman appeared beside her. She had light brown hair, violet eyes, and wore a purple dress. “Oh my,” she said, her eyes fixing on Rosamond. “What are you doing up?” Then her eyes unfocused a moment. “Ah.” She turned to the elder woman with a raised eyebrow. “I see. We’ll have to talk about this.”

The two women went to the tired girl and helped her down from the horse. Rosamond opened her eyes and attempted to say something, but the women hushed her. They helped her inside, motioning the others to follow. Rosamond was taken to an upstairs bedroom, while the others were left to be entertained by a young girl barely out of childhood. She had long, black hair, blue eyes, and wore a blue dress.

“They’ll be back down quickly enough,” the girl said. “In the meantime, I’ll go get your suppers started. Have a seat, make yourselves comfortable.” And she disappeared into the kitchen.

“We can trust these wombats,” Doranna announced, sitting down at a table. The others joined her.

A few minutes later, the two women reappeared. “You are quite a large party,” said the older one. “Do you all travel for the same purpose?”

“No, actually,” said Robert. “We’ve just been thrown together for one reason or another.”

“So, then, why do you travel?” the younger woman asked Doranna.

“I had an extreme case of captain fever,” Doranna answered, “and Casperl has never seen the curled, so I thought that we might do a bit of exploding.” Her eyes sparkled with mischief. “I wouldst have thought that thou wouldst have surprised this by now.”

The younger woman raised an eyebrow, but said nothing in response to that as she turned to Agatha. “And what of you?”

“This is Agatha,” said Robin. “She doesn’t talk.”

“She suffers from the same completion that my mother and aunt did,” Doranna added.

“Does she now?” said the older woman, sharing a glance with the younger, who nodded. The issue wasn’t pursued, and attention was turned to Eric. “Why are you traveling?”

Eric frowned. “I’m … looking for my lost bride.”

“And you found me, remember,” said Robin, leaning back with a toss of her head.

“I … know,” said Eric, his frown deepening. “But for a second there, I thought…” He looked very confused.

Robin rolled her eyes, leaned forward and laid her head on top of his. “You found me,” she declared with finality.

“And what are you doing here?” the older woman asked Robert.

“My twin sister and I are looking for our Fairy Godmother,” Robert answered, indicating Robin. “Our gifts were mixed up, and we have to find her if we want to get them straightened out. We only have until our birthday, and that’s less than a week away now.” He sighed a bit.

“You’re what?” Eric cried, his face falling in horror as he glanced between the twins. “What do you mean?”

“Our Fairy Godmother somehow mixed up the gifts she gave Robin and me,” Robert explained. “Our parents searched for her for years before Sir Hugh brought back a message from a different fairy almost four months ago. We have to find her ourselves if we want to get them fixed. That’s the entire reason Father gave us permission to be out on our own.”

Eric’s gaze fixed on Robin. “But you said you’d run away.”

She gave a guilty shrug as she withdrew her hand from his. “I didn’t say that I didn’t have permission. Do you think that I would have convinced Robert to come with me if I didn’t?”

“May I ask just what your gifts are?” asked the older woman.

“Swordplay and sewing,” Robin answered. “I have the sword, and he sews. As I said, our gifts were mixed up.”

“I see,” said the older woman. “And you’re certain that is all that your gifts entail? Your Fairy Godmother specifically stated that ‘swordplay’ and ‘sewing’ are their exact ramifications?”

“Well, to be honest, we don’t know their exact nature,” Robin admitted. “But we know that we have gifts, and as good as he is at sewing, and I am with the sword – even from the first – they have to have something to do with our gifts.”

“Is there anything else that you’ve been good at ‘even from the first’?” the older woman asked, tilting her head to the side.

Robin and Robert had to think about that.

“Actually,” Robin admitted, “it turns out that I am a really good cook – and Robert mastered archery in less than two months at Robin Hood’s camp. But what could they possibly have to do with swordplay and sewing?”

“Robin,” Eric suddenly cut in, “without swordplay, you wouldn’t be you.

Robin froze up and turned to face him. “What do you mean? I—”

“What I love about you – the part I fell in love with, at least,” Eric explained, “is your sense of adventure, your self-reliance. In my search for an enchanted princess, I have come to love quests and adventuring. I don’t want to give that up. And the thought of having you there at my side – I like that.”

“But…” Robin shook her head. “Changing my gift wouldn’t change me … would it?” She shared a glance with Robert. “I … don’t actually know?”

“One can’t say for certain,” inserted the older woman. “Tell me, how old were you when you received your gifts?”

“We were babies,” answered Robert.

“Then it is impossible to know for certain the effect that your gifts had on your personalities,” said the younger woman, “especially given that you don’t actually know what your gift is. Maybe your love of adventure is innate, maybe it is an effect of your gift.” She tilted her head to the side as she stared at Robin. “If I were in your situation, I don’t know that I would risk it.”

The older woman gave a snort of laughter.

The girl appeared in the doorway before the younger woman had a chance to respond to that. “Dinner is ready,” she announced. “But I could use some help in serving it since I … you know.”

“Ah, yes, of course,” said the older woman, standing. “Come along, sister. Let’s leave the dear children to their thoughts.”

With that, both women disappeared into the kitchen.

Robert and Robin were both confused. They had thought – known – what their gifts were for so long, it had never occurred to them that they might not be just swordplay and sewing.

“Robin,” said Eric, “do you really want to switch your gift with your brother’s?”

She looked up at him. “Our parents want us to,” she whispered.

“Why?”

“Mother is convinced that I will never marry,” Robin explained, ducking her head again, “and ashamed that her son must cower behind his sister’s sword.”

“But, Robin,” said Eric, reaching over to take her hand, “you will marry, and, honestly, I can’t imagine any objections that your mother might have towards your choosing me.”

“And Robert has proven to be quite good with the bow,” said Casperl. “He has no need to cower anymore – if he ever did before.”

“Do you want to switch your gifts?” Eric asked again. “Do you really want to risk changing yourself that much? I – I don’t want to make this about me, and I’d like to respect whatever decision you make … but I fear that, if you switch, then you might no longer be the girl I fell in love with.”

Robin tightened her hold on his hand, turning to meet her brother’s eye, shaking her head ever-so-slightly.

“I don’t want to, either,” Robert admitted.

“Then it is decided?” asked the old woman, as she set a plate in front of Doranna. “Your gifts shall stay as they are?”

“Yes,” said Robert, firmly. “We don’t actually want them switched, after all.” He tilted his head as he stared at the woman. “Still, I would like to find our Fairy Godmother so we can at least thank her.”

“Well then,” said the old woman, a twinkle in her eye, “you’re welcome.”

“I had a feeling that you might say that,” said Robert, looking away with a nod.

“Wait, you’re our Fairy Godmother?” exclaimed Robin, starting up.

“I am,” said the old woman who was apparently Fallona, throwing back her head with a laugh, “and these are my sisters, Sayenda,” she indicated the younger woman, “and Yifinna,” she indicated the girl.

“I would also like to know how our gifts were mixed up,” said Robert, pulling his sister back down.

“The mix-up came from a lack of communication,” said Fallona. Yifinna glanced away. “You see, my gifts to the two of you are, in fact, talent with organic with Robert and talent with the inorganic with Robin.”

“It was at my request,” Sayenda inserted. “I reminded her how disappointed Robyn would have been to find out how obsessed her descendants had become with swordplay and embroidery.”

“They were good friends – Sayenda and your ancestress,” Fallona acknowledged.

Robin nodded, frowning. “So … you’re saying that it wasn’t a mistake and we weren’t mixed up? Not really?”

“Well, not on my end,” said Fallona, glancing towards Yifinna. “However, as I meant it, you probably wouldn’t have become so obsessed with swordplay, Robin, and you would have still been proficient with the needle – provided it was a metal needle, similar to how you can cook if you have metal pots and utensils. In Robert’s case, he probably would have found the bow and done well enough … however, Yifinna also gave each of you a gift. She decided to expand on your hereditary talents – best swordsman in the world for Robert and the best seamstress for Robin.

“Neither of us knew the other’s gift – ‘tis our policy – and thus we didn’t realize that we had created a problem. Then, since your parents loosed my gift first, Yifinna’s gifts found an aversion to metals on Robert and an aversion to cloth on Robin. They consequently switched themselves.”

“We have two Fairy Godmothers!” Robin cried, incredulously, glancing between Fallona and Yifinna. “But,” she frowned, “there was only one package for each of us.”

“The pink was mine, and the blue was Yifinna’s,” Fallona explained. “We decided to be efficient with the wrapping.”

“Oh,” said Robin, slowly nodding. “We always assumed…”

“You assumed many things,” said Fallona, gravely. “Many things have been forgotten since the Change – and your great-grandfather’s resentment of magic rubbed off on your father. But that is not our story to tell. There is someone else you must ask.”

“Who?” asked Robin.

“You’ll find her soon enough, and perhaps some other ‘someones’ along with her,” said Fallona. She turned her attention to Agatha. “Now, about your ‘condition.’” She gave Yifinna another pointed glance.

“I was only ordered to wait a hundred years,” Yifinna defended. “I kept my promise. It was only a couple weeks ago that I rewarded her kind heart. I don’t see why all of you dislike that gift so much…”

“It’s not the gift itself that’s the problem, it’s the frequency with which you’d give it and the lack of variety,” said Fallona. “We’ll discuss this later when all seven of us are gathered.”

“You were the old lady?” said Agatha, her eyes widening in disbelief. Gems clattered to the table.

“I know that you probably find it hard to believe,” said Yifinna. “But I’m older than I look – and fairies can change their appearance at whim.”

Sayenda turned her attention to Casperl. “There is a question in your eyes. You need not hesitate to ask it.”

“Ma’am,” said Casperl, glancing down, “I rescued Doranna from her mountain, but that was something that only a True Prince should have been able to do.”

Sayenda tilted her head to the side. “And you don’t think that you’re a prince?”

Casperl shook his head. “How can I be? I’m a woodcutter, the son of a woodcutter. I lived in a forest my whole life.”

“Ah.” Sayenda nodded. “Personally, I’ve always felt that royalty always puts far too much importance in their titles. Still…” Her eyes unfocused a moment. “Ah, but you are a prince. A prince among princes, at that. You must return to the place where you called home and dig up your roots. You must find your past – and discover your destiny.” She tilted her head to the side. “Eric, perhaps you should consider this for one of your quests now that you’re not running all over Bookania looking for a helpless princess to rescue.”

“Sayenda can see the furniture,” Doranna put in.

“The future, yes,” said Sayenda. “’Tis my unique talent among my sisters.”

Casperl seemed to find this information relieving.

“And, Doranna, before I forget,” said Fallona, “your math was correct.”

“What dost thou lean?” asked Doranna. “It is seldom wrong.”

“Indeed,” said Fallona. “You’ll understand soon enough. Any other questions burning in your minds?”

Robin remembered what Great-Aunt Talia had asked them to ask their Fairy Godmother when they found her. “What happened to our Great-Great-Aunt Madeleine? The one who did all of the paintings.”

“You will know soon enough,” said Sayenda.

“Oh?” Robin narrowed her eyes. “Did you see that with your future vision?”

Sayenda laughed and shook her head. “No, I just happen to know where she is. I … there is a block to my vision when it comes to Locksleys. I can’t see your future, and it’s difficult for me to see you in the futures of others. Honestly, it’s a miracle that I saw you in Eric’s.”

“Oh?” Robin frowned. “Why?”

Sayenda just shook her head. “I just can’t. Are there any other questions?”

Robin kicked Eric under the table. “You should ask about Lukas.”

Sayenda raised an eyebrow, turning to Eric. “Lukas?”

“My brother,” Eric explained. “He disappeared a couple years ago, and we don’t know what happened to him.”

“Ah, I see.” Sayenda tilted her head to the side again. “Do you not trust the omen I gave him?”

“That was you?”

“I’m the fairy who can see the future.” Sayenda’s eyes unfocused. “I can tell you that you will be the one to find your brother, though. Well, after he finds his True Love and she restores him.”

When they finished supper and went to bed, Robert stopped by the girls’ room to check on Rosamond.

She wasn’t there.

“Where is she?” he asked. “Did they put her in a different room?”

Robin looked at him like he’d grown a second head. “Who? Doranna, Agatha, and I are all here. Are you looking for one of the fairies?”

“No … Rosamond.”

“Who!”

Doranna looked up and caught his eye. Putting a finger to her lips, she motioned for him to return to the room he shared with Eric and Casperl. He reluctantly complied.

What had happened to Rosamond? Robin didn’t seem to even remember her. Doranna knew something, he was sure of it … but what?

*****

The next morning, he was the first one up. He hurried downstairs and found Fallona and Sayenda waiting for him. Fallona wore the same dress that she had the night before, but Sayenda had exchanged hers for an outfit of lavender leather, similar to what Robin wore. A long, violet-tinted sword hung on her belt.

“Where is she?” he asked them.

“You must find her,” answered Sayenda, not bothering to ask who he was talking about.

“But … where is she? You took her upstairs and now…”

“She is where she belongs,” answered Sayenda, standing, “though she won’t belong there much longer. Doranna knows where she is – and already understands what happened. You may ask her the questions that bother you. Now, your sister reminded me how much I enjoy adventures, so I’m eager to be off. And, ‘Lona, much as I love you, no more meddling with my Fairy Tales.”

“Rosamond’s as much mine as she is yours, even if you got the flashier role in her story,” Fallona countered. “Besides, Robert’s a Locksley and obscured your vision. Have fun. Don’t kill yourself.”

Sayenda shook her head. “We agreed to not joke about that.” With that, she faded from sight.

“Why doesn’t Robin remember her?” Robert asked Fallona, since she remained.

“She doesn’t need to,” answered Fallona. “We decided that it’d be best if only you and Doranna do. Now, I must go report in to the Author.”

Robert blinked. “You mean … the Author exists?”

“Of course,” said Fallona, eyes twinkling. “We’re just His messengers.” With that, she faded from sight.

Robert sighed and went back to his room. When he came back down with the others, food was set out for them – but other than that, there was no sign of the fairies.

While the others packed up to leave, Robert cornered Doranna in the halls.

“Where is she?”

“Thou must kind her,” she said, repeating the annoying answer.

“But where is she? The fairies told me that you could tell me.”

“My math wast correct,” said Doranna. “See, it had bothered me ever since I met Rosamond in Skewwood – according to my calculations, she should have still been asleep, for Sayenda’s worms were clear. She wast to sleep for an hundred years exactly, and she had been awake when I wast trapped upon my maintain, and I had thought that I had been there for exactly an hundred years.”

Robert blinked. “And when did you get down?”

“Just three days before I pet with you,” Doranna answered. “Thou understandeth my quarry.”

“And if your math was correct…”

“My cousin sleepeth still,” Doranna concluded. “It wast only an illustration of her who traveled with us – ‘tis something that can be done with Sleeping Beauties. Eric did not truly awaken her. That is for thee to do.”

“The others don’t remember her,” Robert pointed out.

“I emulsion that is to keep her safe from Cancaline – and perhaps to smooth out any tissues between thee and Eric. It doth be my gust that thou and I art the only two in Bookania who remember the events of thy question as they truly happened. Now, not another worm about the manner.”

As they were getting their horses ready, Doranna proceeded to bring up a cousin of hers who was under a spell that was due to be broken in less than two weeks. She asked that, since Robin had found her true love, would she begrudge her brother the search for his? She was absolutely certain that Robert and her spellbound cousin would be just perfect for each other.

There was also a good chance that they’d find Madeleine in the castle.

“So, it’s decided,” Robin declared. “We’re going to get Robert a bride. Don’t want him to get lonely when I marry Eric, after all!”

Epilogue:

A prince enters a thick and tangled forest, which opens of its own accord to welcome him. What he doesn’t notice is that it closes behind him, preventing the entry of his friends and party.

About The Author

 

 

Kendra E. Ardnek is the penname of Kendra E. Roden, a twenty-something writer with a passion for God. A homeschool graduate, he lives with her parents and younger siblings in the Piney Woods of East Texas. She loves Fairy Tales, and enjoys telling them in new ways. Along with writing, she enjoys drama and knitting, along with the occasional embroidery project.

Other Books by This Author

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The Ankulen

 

The Bookania Quests:

Sew, It’s a Quest (You’re Reading this!)[
__]Do You Take This Quest[
__]My Kingdom for a Quest

 

The Bookania Short Stories

The Prior Quest[
__]The Woodcutter Quince

 

The Rizkaland Legends

Water Princess, Fire Prince[
__]Lady Dragon, Tela Du

 

A Twist of Adventure

CinderEddy[
__]Poison Kiss (Coming August 7th. Available for preorder through select retailers!)

Connect with the Author:

 

Like me on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KendraE.Ardnek

Follow me on Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/KendraEArdnek

Follow me on Goodreads: [+ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5321999.Kendra_E_Ardnek+]

Explore my Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/kladybug/

Follow my Blog: http://knittedbygodsplan.blogspot.com/

Visit my Official Website: http://kendraeardnek.weebly.com/


Sew, It's a Quest (The Bookania Quests, #1)

Robin and Robert are royal twins. They are the only two to have received a Fairy Godmother gift in nearly a century, an amazing honor. Soon it was clear that their gifts had been switched and a search began to find the Fairy Godmother to right the mistake. When she is finally sighted by a knight, the family learns that the pair must find her for themselves and they only have until their 18th birthday ... only 4 months away. Will they be able to find her in time? This is the fully revised second edition.

  • Author: Kendra E. Ardnek
  • Published: 2017-06-20 17:35:21
  • Words: 49957
Sew, It's a Quest (The Bookania Quests, #1) Sew, It's a Quest (The Bookania Quests, #1)