In her mountainous castle hidden deep within the rocky crags that jutted forth on the mountain range, the Dark Queen of Mysteries noticed all this.
“Goodness gracious, something is happening over there,” she said. And once more, she determined to keep hers and herself well and out of it.
Woefully, that was very much what all other Great Beings said to themselves … save for a feisty new being by the name of the Fire Lady.
“Goodness gracious, something is happening over there!” she cheered, shaking her hands in the air. Just then, she hovered as a mist above the rocky chasm wherein she dwelled. Deep down lay her castle, settled within the very lava of the earth. She, being the Fire Lady, could travel through flame and fire and see all. And she liked what she saw.
“Trouble trouble too-da-loo,” she said gleefully, diving down to ride a tumbling current of air into Farfadel. Sparks danced in her wake and her ashen hair waved in the wind. Chains jangled about her hips and her long coat rippled like smoke about her.
Through firepits she popped, spying here and there upon the misery of the common folk. Oh! She was gleeful! Oh! She was excited! For she knew that these whispers of malcontent rode the winds of change. And no one loved change more than the Fire Lady.
“Trouble trouble toodle dum,” she hummed before spying – a chipmunk? What? She turned right about in the torch she was floating above. And sure enough, why! She spied with her little eyes a chipmunk.
With a sword.
The Fire Lady blinked again and cocked her head to the side in amusement.
The very tired chipmunk marched up to the torch bearer- a farmer upon the farthest edges of Farfadel who was ushering his sheeps into the barn for the night.
“Kinsman!” squeaked Adelaide, planting her hands her hips.
“What? Who is there?” and the farmer whipped about, jutting his torch before him. He looked all round with his beady eyes- and saw no one. This gave him quite a fright, especially as Adelaide kept talking.
“Kinsman!” she squeaked, bouncing up and down with a chirp. “I am your Queen!”
“Oh good lords!” squealed the farmer, thinking that some evil spirit was upon him. He turned round and dashed towards his house, tripping as he went and sliding upon the damp grasses. A spark hopped off his torch and landed in the grass. There it sputtered.
A tall flame rose, and in it stood the Fire Lady, regal and sneering.
“Well hello, chipmunk,” she said, stooping to look down upon Adelaide.
Adelaide put her fists on her hips and looked up as proudly as she could. “I am Queen Adelaide! Who might you be?”
“I am the Fire Lady,” cooed the Fire Lady, extending a finger of smoke to tickle Adelaide’s chubby cheeks. “And you must be the princess Adelaide.”
Adelaide scowled as hard as her little chipmunk face could. “I will be Queen! I have an army! And a prince beloved! I will rule Farfadel!”
“Oh? Will you?” and the Fire Lady smiled tenderly. For she, the Queen of Passions, was the power behind burning love. She knew too well the sacrifices one would make for those they held dear. So she nodded to Adelaide.
“Your spark is strong, little one,” she said warmly. “Need you anything?”
For a moment Adelaide paused. Then her face softened. “A horse,” she said lamely. “I cannot walk all the way to the castle fast enough. I must meet my beloved and rescue my parents from the Frog King.”
“My, my, quite a lot for someone your height,” said the Fire Lady, amused in a warm and gentle way that she had not been in some time.
“I can do it!” said Adelaide. “My prince and I have great plans for Farfadel!”
Ah, thought the Fire Lady. You are the spirit on the winds of change. But she loved change, and so she loved Adelaide instantly. She nodded, patting Adelaide a little thumpily atop the head. “Of course you can do it,” she said gently. “And I shall help you do so.”
“You- you shall, Great Lady?” asked Adelaide, surprised. For many a Farfadelian feared the most volatile of the Great Beings, thinking her temperamental. They were wary, saying that her volatile spirit was too strange for their gentle lands. Well!
“I shall spur you on your way!” cheered the Fire Lady, giving Adelaide a final thump atop the head. Then, straightening, she plucked Adelaide up in one hand. With the other she blew down the door to the barn.
Within, an astonished band of sheep, a plucky old horse, and a terrified goat looked out.
“Behold!” cheered the Fire Lady, lighting a giant (and completely unnecessary) flame in her hand. The poor animals frighted and even Adelaide was startled. But the Fire Lady strode boldly into the barn. Her footsteps left smolderign marks on the hay, her breath was steaming smoke.
With a thud she dropped Adelaide atop the goats’ back. “Hold on tight!” she cheered, whirling her arms so the air swirled and caught up around them like in a windstorm. Sparks flew, and beyond, lightning flashed across the sky. The animals were quivering in fright. The spirited goat had had enough. With a bolt and a ‘be-e-e’ of fright, the goat sprinted out of the door. Adelaide bounced, caught ahold of its horns, and flapped in the air above the goat as it ran. And ran. And ran.
For the firestorm that had begun did not abate. Instead it was chasing the poor goat, whooping and cheering and roaring as it ran. Adelaide squealed as the fire cam far too close. The goat shrieked. The road itself seemed to scream in terror as the burning fire bolted after them. Farfadel careened around Adelaide as she waved through the air, still clutching for dear life atop the goat’s horns.
Then, by some magic or other, the goat ran straight into the city of Farfadel.
Now, gentle reader, it takes a solid day atop a strong horse to get across Farfadel, and more so if your horse is lame or blind. A goat, no matter how terrified, could only have crossed such a great distance by virtue of magic. Physicists, those silly people who rely upon mathematics and numbers, would conjecture that the heat of the fire created a vaccuum effect which sucked the city of Farfadel closer and straight up to the running goat. That is quite silly. Of course it was magic because the city of Farfadel was not one of those lands that moved. Farfadel was firmly rooted.
However. We can argue the virtues of Farfadelian physics another day. Suffice to know, dear reader, that all of a sudden! With a rush and a boom! A sparkle and a dash! The Princess Adelaide, nay, the Queen Adelaide arrived in the capital city!
And no one saw it.
As the goat crossed the city lines, there were no guards holding post at the gates. As its tiny hooves pitterpattered across the stone walkway, there was no one about to hear it. As it drew to a heaving and snorting halt – well there was no one around!
“Where is everyone?” asked Adelaide, looking about. Her words echoed back to her …
And then there was a rustle.
A prying eye peeked out from the shadows, brilliant and golden like the sun.
“Well hello,” whispered a man’s voice, soft and silky. “I have seen you coming.”
Supposing that he was speaking about the giant column of fire that had chased her here, Adelaide nodded. Well, she told herself matter-of-factly, Queenship begins now. So she straightened her back, looked down her small nose, and declared “I demand you show yourself!”
And he did.
With a silky rustle, a tall and slim shape moved out of the shadow, not so much seperating itself from it but stretching out from it. He was a man, tall and spindly, with ashen grey hair that hung down past his hips. It reminded Adelaide of the Fire Lady’s. His face was tender and smiling, his hands bony as he reached for Adelaide.
“Hello,” he said before poking her on the cheeks.
With an outraged sound Adelaide swatted at his finger. What was with everyone and her chubby cheeks? “Ah! I am your Queen!” she squealed. Then, pointing a finger up at him, she demanded “Kneel before your Queen!”
“Ah, yes,” he said in a silky voice. “Where are my manners?” And he sunk down upon one knee before the chipmunk Queen, bowing his head.
Adelaide nodded, satisfied. “Rise!” she squeaked.
The man did, pressing his lips together to stifle a smirk.
“Now!” Adelaide shifted to stand upon the goat, looking left and right at the deserted street. “You must tell me what is happening around here!”
“Well your highness,” the man said sweetly, allow me to introduce myself. “I am the Oracle of the Dust road.”
Adelaide nodded. “I have never heard of you,” she announced.
The man laughed softly. “Many have not. But I saw your arrival, and before that I saw the arrival of your prince, and before that the arrival of the frogs. Tell me-” and he hesitated, lifting a finger. “Would you like to know what happens next, my Queen? For I can tell that you truly are the princess Adelaide, which not many other would.”
This gave Adelaide pause for thought. Were this many truly an oracle of good strength, she ought to keep him by her side. Especially if he alone could verify that she was indeed herself. “What is it you want, oracle?”
He sunk down upon his knee once more, this time keeping his gaze level to hers. “I see myself in the Great Halls of Farfadel, beside the throne upon which a Great Queen rules contently. I wish to see those days – and my future that comes from it. For I see a beatiful woman dressed in red and I should very much wish to meet her.”
Red? Adelaide thought, rolling her eyes. Red was such a common color! Everyone loved red! Why, her prince and her both wore red! Narrowing her eyes, she hoped that he didn’t fancy her prince, unwittingly thinking him a princess.
But the honest face of the man, and his powers to recognize her, swayed her to keep him by her side. “Very well,” she declared boldly. “If you are to prove your powers to me – and I should very much like to see you prove them – I will have you stay by my side. Now answer my questions! What has happened to the good people of Farfadel in my absence?”
The oracle smiled sadly. “They have fled the great city, your majesty. Some still hide in the darker streets, as do I. For the frog soldiers have conquered the city since the,” and he hesitated, then plunged on. “Since the Frog King ate both your parents up.”
“He what?” squeaked Adelaide, horrified.
The oracle bowed his head, nodding miserably. “May they rest in peace,” he murmured.
Adelaide reeled. Her gaze cast around miserably. She had never intended for this to happen! It was all that hunters’ fault! Why, if he had not taken her away, they would have rescued her parents before this horrid event! And yet – “where is the Denerspellian army?” she asked. “Have they not taken over the lands yet?”
The oracle shrugged as if he had not given them much thought (which he truly hadn’t). “I suppose they ate their fill and left. They were seen charging away a few days ago, straight back into the forest whence they came from.”
Adelaide wept bitter tears. No parents! No family! No army! What was a Queen to do without her army?
Well, she dried her whiskers and straightened her back. Conquer is what she would do! “Very well!” she chirped. “Oracle, you and I shall take back this city!” And she drew her little sword. “Huzzah!”
“Huzzah,” cheered the oracle softly, waving his hand gently in the air. “Now we ought to go hide before the patrols find us.”
“The patrols?” chirped Adelaide.
“Why yes,” the oracle said gently. “The frog patrols.”
“March!” “March!” “March!” “March!” cheered on the little frogs as they hopped and bounced down the dark streets, their spears slung over their shoulder. Little steel caps sat on their heads and toothpicks in their belts should things come to close combat.
“That’s them?” asked Adelaide, peering out from behind a shed.
“Oh yes,” said the oracle softly. “And their toothpicks are very sharp.”
“Humph,” said Adelaide, watching as the frogs turned round the corner and disappeared. “Well we shall have to do something about them.”
“Hmm,” the oracle said, tilting his head to the side.
“I need to regain the throne!” muttered Adelaide. “and I need an army!”
But where was she to find one?
Things, at just about that time, were going terribly for the prince. By virtue of a piece of meat trailed through the woods the hounds had been led in a very large circle. The army, following the hounds, was thereby being led along by a piece of meat on a string.
Worse, the prince was dreary, dismal, and even dejected. Thankfully he was also determined, decided, and definitely not going to give up. Yet his army, oh my, was feeling dull, disenchanted, and even … damp on account of a fine drizzling of rain that had begun to fall. What was the prince to do?
“My armor is going to rust!” whined a footsoldier who already had so much rust on his armor he looked orange.
“My sword is going to rust!” complained another soldier armed only with a spear.
“My feet are cold!” said a soldier with a club foot.
“It feels like we’ve been walking in circles all day,” said one of the few sensible souls in that army. Promptly, everyone hushed that soldier.
“That’s enough of that kind of complaining!” roared the commander, still hopeful for a promotion. “We’re obviously not where we started off today and -”
“They are right however,” said the prince coolly to the commander. “We must halt!”
“Halt!” bellowed the commander, thinking that maybe if he shouted loud enough he’d get the promotion?
“Halt!” said the lieutenants.
“Halt!” said the corporals.
“Halt!” repeated just about everyone else.
“What are we doing?” asked the houndsmaster, turning around in confusion.
“We stop,” said the prince. Then, dramatically combing his beautiful hair back from his face, he looked his army over. “Dear soldiers,”
Oh goodness, said the forest, another sweet monologue. And the trees and the birds and the bees leaned in to hear the prince’s sweet voice.
“We have been travelling hard and long. I do not know why the route is so difficult or long. I do not know where it is leading us. But I know my beloved is at the end of it,”
At that the elves in the forest looked to the ‘beloved’, also known as a fat slab of meat. The elf holding the meat held it up and made kissy faces at it.
“And we must find her,” pleaded the prince.
To which, the elf gave the meat the most sorrowful gaze and held it close to their heart. Another elf gave the first a small smack on the back of the head.
“Let us set up camp, take shelter, and bide until tomorrow,” said the prince sorrowfully. For he feared every moment him and Adelaide were apart was a moment she was suffering. He feared for her heart, her well being, and for whatever dastardly things could happen to a chipmunk in a glass bottle. Suppose she got too hot? Suppose she was thirsty?
Ah, that night the prince wept sorrowful tears in his tent. Ah! Adelaide, Adelaide, he thought. She was all he thought of.
And from not so far off, the prince was all the other prince thought of.
“Ah, look at that silhouette,” said the elf prince, looking at the silhouette cast upon the side of the tent by the lamp within.
Sheer’a, his commander, coughed into her elbow. “That’s the houndsmaster’s tent sir. The prince is in the other one.”
“Oh,” said the elven prince, his ears perking at the sight of – the dark tent wherein the prince was actually sleeping by now. “How lovely.”
All the elves within rolling distance rolled their eyes. The elf prince took another heaving sigh, and sat down on a fallen tree trunk to watch the dark tent. His elves, dark as the pitch of night and blending into it, set up their own camp around the other camp. By virtue of being dark as the pitch of night and blending into the forest as only elves could, they tripped mightily over each other and bumped over each others’ toes in the process. It was a bit disenchanting, but mercifully no one but themselves saw it.
The night passed gently. The elves slept in fitful rotation in their camp, and the humans slept lightly in theirs. The rain pitter pattered softly above all, streaming down tree trunks and slithering across the earth in tiny rivers that sunk into the ground.
The next morning the rain had ceased. The sun rose, its rays glinting off raindrops that clung to leaves still. The human guards cried out “First light!” and went around awakening their fellows.
The elves stretched and yawned silently. Panther-like, they slunk closer to the humans to watch as the day developed anew.
The prince rose, combed his hair, and stepped outside of his tent. Ah! These first-born rays of sun glowed gently upon him. Ah! How the trees wished to stoop and caress his hair with their branches. Ah! The elf prince sighed and propped his elbows in some sticky sap as he watched.
“Dearest everyone,” was how the snarky prince began his monologue.
And “Kidnap him,” was how the other prince ended that monologue.
It took everyone by surprise! The elves took a moment to think of how to do it. But once they had their minds wrapped around it- the surprise passed on to the humans.
“Hark!” shouted a lookout as the elves slunk from the forest like dark shadows with pointy swords.
“Ah!” squealed the commander, for once forgetting about his promotion.
“Bow wow!” cried out the dogs, knowing that these were the people with the good meat.
The prince lifted a hand. “We come in peace-” he started, knowing that the elves of this land were usually sensible. How often had he travelled these parts and not encountered a problem?
“Greetings,” said the elf prince, raising his own hand in return to the other, more beautiful, prince. The sticky sap on his elbow glinted in the sunlight. He walked forward stealthily, smoothly, with his eyes fixed cat-like upon prince Shadow. “I know what you have come for. And I know you shall not find it. For you see-” and here the elf prince showed his slightly villainous nature by monologuing and laying all his plans bare as only villains do. “I have led your army and yourself on by a bit of meat. Your hounds followed, and now you are hopelessly lost.”
“All hope is not lost!” said prince Shadow fiendishly with a determined, dastardly, and devout look to his eyes. “I will find my princess and-”
“Oh, I do not want to hear you talk about her ever again,” the elf prince said with a most effeminate flip of the hand. “Shoot him,” he ordered.
“What?!” yelped the prince, reaching for his sword.
In vain! Alas! Woe! Tarnations and damnations! The very effeminate hand flip was a secret gesture amongst the elves and it meant ‘shoot him’.
Fortunately, the elves were armed with blow guns set with stunning potions in the barbs. With a whirring fwump!, one elf placed a blowgun to their lips and the prince was shot in the shoulder.
For a moment he staggered. Wooziness claimed him. His limbs grew weak. His soldiers watched in horror as he grew limp and fell- straight into the awaiting arms of the elf prince.
“Ah Romeo, Romeo,” sighed the prince as he hefted the other prince up into his arms. With hearts in his eyes and love in his heart he walked over to Shadow’s horse and placed him upon it. Then, his eyes flashing with royal determination, drive, and dastardly… oh bother. He was motivated.
“You can go home now!” he announced to the Denerspellians. “I shoo you away!”
This prince (Not to be confused with the other prince laying unconscious upon the horse) was not quite that good at monologues. The Denerspellians looked back at this prince, blinking.
“What are we shoeing?” asked the houndsmaster.
“The prince,” muttered the commander, wondering who was going to give him a promotion now.
“Ugh, I just can’t stand this,” said the pampered royalty that was the elven prince. “Look, someone get rid of this army. Hurry up now, I don’t have time for this.” And he tossed his own glorious silver hair over his shoulder and looked haughtily down at his commander.
Sheer’a refrained from rolling her eyes. Then, she snapped into ‘dealing with humans’ mode.
“Arrrr!” she said, crouching down and bearing her teeth. “We’re going to eat ye’ all!”
“Arrr! Munchies we have!” repeated the other elf soldiers, crouching down and bearing their teeth.
“Run! Run and hide!” said Sheer’a, shaking her fists before her like she was squeezing out invisible juice. For extra effect, she rolled her eyes up into the back of her head.
The Denerspellians cocked their heads to the side.
“What are we doing?” asked the houndsmaster.
“I do not know,” said the commander quietly.
“This usually works on most bandits,” said Sheer’a, a bit embarrassed as she straightened her hair. “Uhm, follow us. We shall see you home.”
The pampered prince rolled his eyes and sniffed. Then, quite happily, he looked over his hostage. “Ah, Romeo, Romeo,” he muttered under his breath. With a light hand he caressed Shadow’s hair. Then, taking the reins of the horse, he began to lead it away. Similarly, several elves took it upon themselves to lead the Denerspellians home – and the two parted ways.
Now, you see, both the prince and the princess had no more army. My! What are either of them to do?