Prince Shadow awoke feeling woozy and sore. With a groan he sat up – only to discover that he was in a bed with the sheets and blankets tucked up over him gently. He was no longer in his armor, instead being dressed in a light sleeping tunic. By the scent of flowers and perfumes, he had been bathed and his hair had been washed.
Blinking in astonishment he looked around. The room was sparse, a small round thing with a domed roof. The rock it was hewn into was a light grey. Sunlight streamed in through light purple curtains.
Gingerly the prince moved. Oh, his body ached. Oh, how there was a sore spot in the middle of his back.
But the prince was stubborn and so he moved, dressing himself with a set of clothes and boots that had been set beside the bed. Then, he stared down the dozen elaborate hair pins that were atop the bedside table. There was even haircombs with gems set in them for his use.
“What on earth are these all for?” he muttered to himself. Choosing the plainest comb and pin, he set about pulling his lovely hair back into a braid. That being done he pinned his hair up so it was safely out of the way.
After all, he thought, who knew what sort of horrid and dastardly adventures were about to happen? The last thing any adventurer needed was to have hair in the way!
Now ready to face the day, the prince stalked to the curtain. He brushed it aside and ah! How the light glowed gently over him! How the mountain cried out happily at seeing his face!
For beyond this tall window was a balcony, and beyond this balcony a courtyard, and further yet was the valleys and peaks of the craggly mountains.
With a gasp the prince realized he was in the Dark Queen of the mountain’s castle. Or a section of it at the very least. For where else would there be such a magnificent view?
Drawing the window open, he stepped cautiously out onto the balcony. Warm air greeted his face. Soft music drifted on the wind towards him. The scent of the forest filled his lungs.
Ah, what a lovely moment it was.
Then – he looked to the left.
“Oh,” he said, seeing someone looking back.
“Hallo,” said one prince to the other. For there sat the elven prince on a cushy velvet pillow, strumming a guitar. His long silver hair was coiffed in long braids that hung down his back. His tunic was simple but elegant in shades of green. His fingers were glimmering with gems as he played.
“You kidnapped me,” announced prince shadow, gripping the railing in fury.
“Oh don’t be so dramatic,” sighed the prince who was known for being the most dramatic thing on this side of the mountain.
“My beloved awaits for me to rescue her!” snapped Prince Shadow. “And you’ve gotten in my way!”
The elf prince strummed louder. “I don’t want to hear about her!” he called over. Then, stopping his music and setting his guitar aside, he rose to his feet. In three steps he was at the edge of where his balcony ended and Shadow’s began. “I’m your beloved now,” he announced.
“That’s the stupidest thing I’ve heard yet, and believe you me I’ve heard a lot of stupid things. Now give me back my sword and armor.”
“No,” said the elf snobbishly. “Aren’t you too sore to wear any armor?” Then, he added with a sneaky grin. “Have you any pain in your back?”
The prince scowled. Ah, he thought, the ruffian hath laid a curse upon me! But for all his sneakiness and cleverness, he was honest. “Well yes,” he admitted. “What spell have you cast upon me?”
“I placed a pea underneath your mattress,” said the elf prince most smugly. “I heard only the most refined and noble of human princes can’t sleep unless they are on the softest of beds.” The elf grinned victoriously. “This makes you worthy to be my betrothed.”
Prince Shadow scowled, straightening his back. “Ah, it is but a miserable little back ache. It does not prove a thing!”
The elf prince grinned. “It means everything!” And then, perhaps just to be irritating or perhaps he truly was attempting to woo the prince, he sat back down on his pillow and began to play a love tune.
“Oh bugger!” said Shadow, snatching at some moss off the wall and holding it to his ear. “Stop playing!”
“Hey!” squealed the moss. “Lemme go!”
“Ah!” the prince yelped and threw the moss at the other prince. The moss, which was a talking moss native to the talking marshes, landed with a soft thwump on the guitar. It oozed and squelched down to sit atop the elf prince’s knee. There, it hummed and began to sing along (just to irritate prince Shadow).
Prince Shadow threw a tiff. He marched back into his room, shutting the glass door that led onto the porch. He yanked the curtains shut as well!
But still, just to irk him, he could still hear that elf warbling on about their unending love. And still, he heard the moss singing along ‘sha la la’ in the background.
Prince shadow pulled out his hair pins and shook his hair down (for all glorious and dastardly villains think with their hair down and framing their face most evilly). Hair now suitably evil looking (and gloriously beautiful and glossy in the darkened room) he began to pace. And plot. And plan.
Finally, he tried the door to his room. Just to be sure it was locked.
Then he went back to pacing. And planning. And plotting.
After the third ballad was crooned to him from across the balcony, he came up with a plan.
It was a most dastardly plan. It was reckless, it was bold, and it was glamorous, er, uhm, brilliant.
So the prince set down and began tearing the bedsheets up into long and thin strips. This was harder than it seemed, as the seams were quite strong. But he channeled all his princely frustration into the ripping thereof, and he soon had quite a number of long strips. These he then began to braid together.
Picture if you will, gentle reader, the dark prince sitting in the shadows, smirking as he twisted and wrenched the fabric together. Beyond the curtains the sun was setting and shadows were creeping up the walls.
Just about as the prince wound the last braid and knotted it shut with a frustrated yank, the strumming stopped from the other balcony. The moss finished its last ‘sha la la’ and there was the sound of someone clearing their throat.
“Will you be coming for supper?” called out the elf prince. “My parents are expecting you.”
Prince Shadow yanked again on the knot just to be sure it was tight. “No!” he called out. Viciously, he imagined himself kicking a number of royal elves in the buttocks.
“Why?” whined the elf prince, his voice closer. “They’re going to imagine you don’t want to meet them!”
‘because I don’t’, mouthed Shadow. Then, he straightened and walked to the curtains. With a villainous sigh he composed himself and tossed his luxurious and quasi-hypnotizing hair over his shoulder. Then he brushed the curtains aside, pulled the glass door open, and marched on out.
It was a good thing he had chosen to do it too, for the elf prince had one leg slung over their railing. “Oh,” he said, “I was just about to come say hallo-”
Prince Shadow took him by the shoulders and pushed him back onto his side of the balcony.
“Oh!” said the elf prince, completely miffed. “You’re acting like you don’t like me.”
Oh, woe, thought prince shadow, pressing his lips together tightly. Then, with a glamorous sigh, he put the second part of his plan into action.
First, he swept his hair from his face. Ah, how the dark elf prince swooned, dazzled by such beauty.
“Listen,” Prince Shadow said in a most sweet and seductive tone that he could manage. “I need to be alone tonight.” And, for good measure, he combed his hair again from his face. “Men like I, who are so sensitive of heart and skin, we must be left to meditate upon things.”
The elf prince merely blinked, oblivious to all but how beautiful this mesmerizing creature was before him. Shadow might as well have been listing the virtues of one ox in the marketplace for all the elf prince noticed his words.
Shadow smiled sweetly, leaning forward across the railing towards the elf. “So you are going to leave me perfectly alone tonight? You won’t send anyone to disturb me? I really need to be alone.”
“Of, course,” said the elf prince as he leaned forward with stars in his eyes and heart a-flutter.
“Great! See you tomorrow!” and Shadow whirled away so fast his hair whipped the elf prince in the face. With a dart and a duck he was back into his room with the door and curtains shut.
The elf prince sighed and plunked his chin into his palm. “He likes me,” he murmured, staring off into the distance where his beloved had just been.
In his room, prince Shadow was gleefully holding a series of keys he’d just stolen off the crown prince’s belt. Holding it to his chest, he stifled a villainous chuckle. He combed his beautiful hair back from his face, and began to plot some more.
Now, as the elf prince skipped off to supper with his family and the stars began to shine in the sky, the dark prince by the name of Shadow had several plans in his head.
Firstly, the dark and nefarious prince wanted to rush out the window and be free! But he knew he would not get far without a sword, or armor. So he must find a way to get some.
Now upon this, he thought and thought and thought. And then he thought some more. As a plan of the most cruel and dastardly sorts came to fruition in his mind, he tiptoed to the wall on the side of the prince’s room and pressed his ear against it. There, he waited for some time.
Finally, he heard the sounds of the elf prince returning from supper. He was alone (perfect!, thought prince Shadow) and he was soon laying down with a creak on his bed.
Prince Shadow smirked. He hid the series of keys in a pocket in his tunic. He combed his hair back and stuck a very sharp hairpin in it. He selected a series of three other hairpins and placed them in his belt. Then, he stepped out onto the balcony.
Much like the elf prince had done earlier on, he slung himself over from one balcony to the other.
A cool breeze gusted over the prince, ruffling his hair and setting it to dance in the wind. His face reflected in the glass, and it was beautiful and almost innocent looking. Beyond, the curtains were drawn and so prince Shadow could not see into the room.
He tried the door, and it was locked fast. So he knocked gently on the window, calling out “It is I,” in a very soft and gentle voice.
There was a rustle and the sound of footsteps. The curtains were brushed aside, revealing a most perplexed prince. He unlocked the glass door and pulled it open.
“What are you-?” he started, but prince Shadow put a finger to his lips.
“Shhh,” Shadow said. Then, trailing his finger down to the elf prince’s shoulders, he pushed him backwards into his room.
Eyes widening, the elf prince moved like a happy puppet. Shadow shut the glass door behind them and drew the curtain. Just in case guards might look up. Then, he drew the sharp pin from his hair.
With one glance around, he saw that this room was much like his own, except that it was not quite as empty. There was a chest of clothing, a hand stand, and a very large and comfortable looking bed. Shadow smirked at the sight of the bed. He pointed at it with the hairpin.
“I am going to tie you to your bed with your shirt,” he announced in a whisper.
“Alright,” said the elf prince most naively.
Moments later, Shadow was still smirking. “I told you I was tying you to your bed,” he said as he sat down on the edge of the bed.
“Mff!” protested the elf prince who, indeed, was tied to the bed posts by virtue of his torn-up shirt. He was also gagged by virtue of a piece of shirt as well. He aimed a kick at Shadow and badly missed.
“Now,” Shadow said, reaching into his pocket. “If I recall well, you had peas placed in my bed. A thing I am quite sore about,” he muttered viciously while drawing several dried peas from his pocket. These were the ones that had been placed under his mattress and which he had discovered while plotting and rummaging around earlier on. “And since you are such a curious elf,” he stooped over and lifted the side of the mattress. “You shall find out if your skin is as thin as mine. There!” and he tossed the peas under the mattress. “Have a good night!”
“Mff!” said the elf prince in horror, knowing full well that he too would have a sore back by the morning if he slept on peas.
Shadow chuckled darkly to himself and let the mattress down with a thump. Then, sweeping his glorious hair from his face, he marched to the chest and began to rummage in it. Several moments later he found that the sword he was looking for was directly beside it.
“I’ll be taking this,” Shadow said, taking the sword and its belt and tying it around himself. “And this,” he said, stealing a magical chest plate that made one look most manly and handsome. “And this,” he said, taking the shoulder pauldrons that magically never mussed one’s hair or snagged them in any way. “And this,” he said, taking arm bracers that magically … something or other.
Then, dressed and ready to run for his life and that of his beloved, prince Shadow drew open the curtain. But first, he, like all true villainous people, had to monologue.
“Good bye my not-so-beloved,” he snarked, executing a bow. “Rest well!” And then he drew the glass door open and crept out onto the balcony.
The elf prince rolled his eyes and hmphed in disdain.
Outside, the moon was glowing gently among some fluffy clouds. The air was now crisp and cool. Gentle breezes rustled through leaves and carried the scents of the forest to the prince.
It was the perfect night for an escape.
The prince let down his rope of braided bedstuff. It was long enough to trail onto the grass of the gardens. With a gleeful smirk he thought himself so lucky.
And then, just as he swung himself off the porch and began his descent – the moss started to holler.
“ALARM ALARM! The hostage/guest of honor is escaping! ALARM! ALARM! He’s braided a rope of bedstuff and is climbing down from the porch! ALARM! ALARM!”
The prince cursed. How he hated talking mosses!
So the prince scurried down that rope as fast as a snake! He scurried, he rushed, and he darted out into the dark garden.
Within moments a series of elven guards arrived upon the scene, their armor glistening in the moonlight and their lovely hair shining as well. Swiftly, under the clever orders of Sheer’na, they encircled the gardens and began to ruffle through the bushes.
The prince, meanwhile, was up in a tree and observing all this. Oh, how lucky he was, he thought. Unless they thought of looking up, he would still be able to sneak away.
And then he leaned against the mossy tree trunk.
“ALARM! ALARM!” shrieked that moss. “The handsomely dastardly prince is up in this tree! ALARM ALARM!”
Oh, goodness. How the prince hated talking mosses. How he also hated blow guns as another sleeping dart thudded into his neck, narrowly avoiding the armor he wore. As wooziness and sleep claimed him, he fell from the tree with a thud.
When the prince awoke, he was tied to a bed by virtue of – not his shirt – but by what looked like very solid rope. He had been stripped of the armor and there was twigs and leaves in his lovely hair.
Several guards stood about the room with cross expressions on. Amongst them, with the most unhappy expression of all, was the humiliated elf prince.
The prince had a tunic on, but there was no clothing that could hide that look of damaged pride.
Prince Shadow looked at him guiltily. “I suppose you won’t let me tie you to your bedposts again?”
“Augh!” the elf prince shouted, snatching up a pillow from the bed and beating Shadow about the head with it. “You horrid, stinky, awful, thing!”
“There, there,” muttered Sheer’na, pulling the flustered prince away from the bed. “You said yourself he told you what he was going to do.”
“But, but!” wailed the elf prince while Shadow spat out a mouthful of feathers.
“Hush,” muttered Sheer’na. “Please be quiet until your parents arrive.”
“Parents?” squawked prince Shadow.
“Yes,” said the elf prince smugly, holding the pillow to his side. “You have broken our law by attempting to leave without permission – and so they will judge you harshly!”
A sense of dread settled over prince Shadow. What was he to do? For the Dark elves of the mountain were known for being cruel and just as mysterious and strange as the Great Queen who ruled above them. What sort of punishments would they reserve for someone … attempting to leave?
Ah! How Prince Shadow wondered!
And Ah! So shall you. For behold! Another cliffhanger.