“Help! Help!” squeaked Adelaide the chipmunk, battering her tiny fists on the glass bottle. But it was no use. Far away, through the tall grasses, she saw her future, her beloved, her army, and all that good stuff, growing small and distant.
“No one can save you now!” cackled the hunter in a most villainous way.
“Oh yeah?” squeaked Adelaide. “How about myself?”
“Oh,” said the hunter, lifting up the glass bottle and rattling her before his face. “But you’re a chipmunk.”
“So what?” Adelaide squealed, kicking the bottle. It made a dull thunk. “I’ll show you!” and she drew her tiny sword. Whack! A chip of glass went flying off of the inside of the bottle. Whack! Another chip went flying. Whack! A crack appeared in the glass.
“Oh,” said the hunter again.
“Hah!” said Adelaide, landing the final whack. The glass shattered – and Adelaide fell. Whump!
“Oh,” said the hunter again, looking at the suddenly free princess.
“Freedom!” squealed adelaide the chipmunk, throwing her fists (and tiny sword) up into the air.
“No!” barked the hunter, diving down to snatch at Adelaide. But it was a trap!
Adelaide smacked! Whacked! And nearly knocked the hunter silly upside the head with her sword.
The hunter reeled. Adelaide darted off into the woods.
“Oh bother! Bugger! Booger!” said the hunter, stomping his feet as the little chipmunk in armor chipmunked away and up a tree. From the safety up there, she pulled her tongue at him.
All the villainous villain could do was look up and shake his fists. That, and think. But he was not the thinking sort of villain. No, he brooded instead, crossing his arms and sulking.
For several moments, he burrowed in self pity.
Next, he went through all the stages of moping.
Then, he indulged in a little self-gratification, thinking that at least he’d gotten the chipmunk this far and why did he even bother? Pfah! Fairies and their honey-
Oh. Then it occurred to him that he already had the honey. Why bother and walk all the way to Denerspell when the chipmunk was already good and gone?
“Ah ha ha ha ha!” he laughed most evilly – then whack! An acorn thudded onto his forehead.
“Take that!” squeaked the very angry Adelaide. “And that!” she shook a branch, causing a small pelting of acorns to shower down.
“Ouch! Ouch!” and the villain scampered away, chased by the angry chirpings of the chipmunk. Off he went to do villainous things. Like pruning his trees. He was very fond of that. And lurking, mostly lurking. He liked lurking.
Shadow, the prince of valiant hair and beautiful spirit (er, was that backwards? Nevermind, just keep reading) was dutifully charging on with his army sort of lagging behind just then. Unlike the hunter, they did not have magical boots to slip them across magical threads and thereby zip across the valley. For that was the secret to the villainous hunter’s caterpillar like strangeness yet snake-like speed. He followed special magical threads that ran through the valley and thereby sped him along like hot wind currents through the sky. That, dearest reader, is how he crossed so very far across the valley and into the woods while the prince was still galavanting after them.
Shadow, seeing with his keen eyes that the enemy was no longer visible, drew his horse to a halt.
Oh! his hair floated in the wind about him!
Oh! his armor shone magnificently!
Oh! How fabulously beautiful he was as he peered around in despondent love.
“Commander!” he called in a melodious voice.
The commander reined to a halt next to him. And Oh!
How his hair was not floating in the wind!
Oh! How his armor was not shining magnificently!
Oh! How not quite beautiful he was as he stooped and panted atop his horse.
“Yes, your majesty, your highness, and your gloriousness?” he panted as if it was he and not his horse who had been galloping across the fields.
The prince tossed his magnificent hair. “Prepare the hounds! We must chase down that vandal! He stole my princess!”
The commander gulped air. “Yes your majesty, your highness, your gulfiness-” and he gulped more air “it shall be done.” And then he let out more air with a ‘whoo!’ and gulped some more. The prince gave him a most disgruntled look.
“Hurry up,” the prince snapped.
“Yes your magnificence!” And then the commander wheeled his horse round to face the rest of the army (which was arriving in straggling bits behind them). “Prepare the hounds!” he bellowed in a definitely not melodious voice.
“What – for what?” asked the houndsmaster. “Am I putting them in frills with bouquets on their heads?”
“No you bladder-brains!” the commander barked. “For hunting! We must chase down that princess!”
“No!” called out the prince, turning his horse around to face his army.
Oh! How the sun glowed like a halo ’round his head.
Oh! How his beautiful hair lifted majestically on the wind.
Oh! How earnest and beautiful he was as he addressed his troops with a hand upon his heart.
“She is my beloved! My closest ally and dearest friend! We must not hunt her down! We must rescue her from the clutches of that horrid -”
And here even his beauty faltered a little as he considered what to call the hunter.
“Baboon-caterpillar,” he finally declared.
And oh! How everyone was moved by this speech – to the point of tears!
“Ah, true love,” whispered a very sentimental dolt. Sniffles went round. Everyone was so roused to rescue the princess …
Except the houndsmaster. “So what am I doing?” he asked daftly. “Bouquets or no?”
Someone clouted him on the back of the head, thankfully.
“Prepare them for tracking down that horrid baboon-caterpillar!” called out the prince. “Ready your horses for speed, and prepare your swords for battle!”
Then, as an afterthought. “Why not some wildflower bouquets? Just to,” he waved his fingers “dress up the situation.” After all, he didn’t want the dogs to intimidate his beloved!
And so it was! Gentle reader, imagine the scene. All the horses were valiant and glossy as they tramped proudly on. All the soldiers were brave and dastardly (and not suffering from attacks of the honeycakes). At their head was the most beautiful prince with his hair billowing in the wind, the godly scent of his shampoo misting around him. Before him, the well-bred hounds struck up the scent, barking and nosing around as dogs do when on a hunt. Even the flower crowns upon the hounds’ heads somehow suited the occasion.
It was this touch that caused the fairies to nod their heads. “They are doing a farewell procession,” they said with arms crossed and chins nodding imperiously.
“Oh look!” the bees said excitedly. “A procession!”
“Ah,” said the good people of Farfadel, watching from their small houses in the valley. “A procession!”
And everyone breathed a sigh of relief.
“They must have eaten their fill. Look at them go!”
And all the people, and the birds and the bees and the happy gnomes and trees, all of them began to wave and cheer. And because all of them were waving and cheering, everyone thought that indeed, this was a goodbye procession. The fairies applauded each other and patted the other upon the back.
“Well done!” they said to each other.
The prince, on account of being blinded by love, did not exactly notice any of this. He was focused upon the hounds bobbing on ahead of him, and was worrying about his dearest Adelaide.
His soldiers, however, were glad to accept the last few honeycakes that the passerby’s gave to them…
Far away, evening descended upon Farfadel. The Frog King burped and demanded more food. The King and Queen moaned and wrung their hands, worried sick on account of their daughters. They alone were not celebrating the departure of the Denerspellian army as it had taken their beloved children away.
“Oh, whatever shall we do?” moaned the King, wringing his hands as wealthy people are wont to do.
“We must be stout! Stoic!” said the Queen, keeping her upper lip stiff. Then, clapping her fist into a palm she came up with a plan. “They must have taken our daughters as ransom for future goods! They probably want honeycakes for the winter!” A glimmer appeared in her eye. “We will secretly prepare honeycakes, hide them from the Frog King, and send them to Denerspell over the winter in exchange for our daughters!”
“What a magnificent plan!” cried out the King.
“Rubbit!” said the Frog King, blasting down the door.
“What a magnificent plan!” jeered the dozens of (not so miniature any more) frogs.
“Oh bother,” said the Queen.
“Bugger,” said the King.
“Rubbit!” said the Frog King.
And then he ate the King and Queen up.
Do not despair, gentle reader. This is a happy tale. No one dies.
The one who was despairing was the Hunter. Just as he thought that all that nonsense with the chipmunk was over and he was going to be able to restfully lurk in the comfort of his home – why! It was gone!
Or, more precisely, it was neither here nor there.
“Bugger!” said the very buggered Hunter. For his home was on a patch of land that was not part of the moving marshes but rather was friends with the moving marshes. So it up and left whenever the fancy took it. Often that fancy would happen when he wasn’t around to scold it. This meant quite often he would leave home to do some proper villainous skulking and return home to a stinky patch of marsh that had traded place with his dear home.
Well! He had big words and small words and colorful words to describe the patch of land – but instead he whistled through his teeth.
A great mare burst out of the nearby trees (literally, the trees gentle reader, not the space between them) for it was a spirit of the woods.
It was a great black pawing beast. A noble creature of stalwart heart and battle-tried courage in times gone by when battles were a thing. It was bored in these last few centuries and had come to like the human who gave it apples on account of trotting him around to places that were more colorful than these dark woods. So they made a happy pair. The horse wanted apples and the human was sick of walking himself around.
“Ho! Great beast of the forest! Nay, do not despair-”
And some rather bad poetry/monologuing ensued on the part of the hunter. Suffice to know that he often tried to impress the horse spirit with his speeches. The horse was half deaf and could not care less. It was happy to munch on the half of a carrot the hunter drew out of his pocket and offered to “the very great and verbolicious horse that lays her enemies flattened before her.”
Sufficiently flattered and bored, the horse allowed the hunter to mount atop her back. Then, she began to amble off in whichever direction she pleased.
For the hunter hadn’t the slightest idea where his home had gone off to. All he knew was that it was on the other side of the mountains, trading places and perhaps playing cards with some very talkative marshes. Which made him sad, really, for he hadn’t wanted to live on that side of the mountains.
The people there were far more stalwart than the Farfadelians, and he’d have to lurk, prune, and sulk harder in order to impress them. Which all around was just more work. Bugger!
Now, one might think that Adelaide and the prince Shadow were on a collision course. Nothing could be further from the truth. For Adelaide, spirited and determined Adelaide, was destined to return home. And her prince was destined to get horrifically lost.
For you see, the flowers that were placed upon the hounds’ heads were very strongly scented. “Ah, what beautiful aromas!” the houndsmaster had gullibly said while placing them upon the hounds’ heads.
Now, as the giddy fates who guard Farfadel would have it, those very same flowers were the ones that the fairies used to brew the sweetest meads and beers. They were, magically, filled with a gentle and sweet alcohol that misted into their scent.
The dogs, at first, noticed a chipmunk (not Adelaide) and strayed a little from their path. They then strayed back towards the path and overlooked it. Then they noticed a stream and pinholed for it, thirsty from the sweetness of the flowers. Then… then bugger it all, the dogs just wanted to lay down.
The houndsmaster was confused by the slightly wobbly appearance of his dogs. Yet he was a proud houndsmaster and did not want to let on that he did not know what he was doing. Truth be told, he knew quite a lot about dogs – but he had learned all that by watching how nobles behaved. He knew little about dogs in and of themselves. More so, he knew little of what could cause a dog to abruptly start wobbling and swerving and laying down on the scent.
So the houndsmaster did what most nobles do when in a bind. He improvised.
“The princess must have drank from this stream,” he said as his dogs thirstily lapped at the gushing and gurgling waters.
Then, “The princess must have rested here,” he said as his dogs lay down and heaved drunken sighs.
But it all came to an abrupt end when the moon hung heavy like cheese in the sky and the velvety darkness coated the sky. The stars sparkled the way as best they could and the moonlight glinted gently off the forms of the trees and bushes and the very thick brambles that the Denerspellians were wading through.
The hounds had had enough. Drunk enough to start giggling and throwing jokes at each other, they shook off the flower crowns for good and flopped down. One instantly began to snore.
“Ah, this must be where they rested-” invented the houndsmaster quite lamely, nudging his dogs with a toe.
“Oh bugger it all!” shouted the prince. “You haven’t the slightest idea what you’re doing!”
The houndsmaster hung his head and mumbled a faint apology. The prince dismounted. His glorious hair caught the moonlight and glinted like a silky curtain down his back. He combed it from his face and half the forest swooned. Even the crickets began to sing love songs.
It is this love for the prince, they say, that kept them safe from all real trials and tribulations that the dark forest could hold for lost travelers.
For the prince had them lay down their blankets and sleep for the night. He ordered some troops to stand watch while the other rested, and so on and so forth during the night. This would have been little help had the buggerbears or the waspbits attacked them. Yet the forest was entranced. The trees sighed and swooned, weaving their branches into a canopy above the prince and whispering gentle words about him into the winds.
The rest of his army, to put it quaintly, was attacked by the honeycakes. All night, one by one, they tiptoed past their own guards and rushed into bushes and brambles to battle with their bowels. Ah, the forest was not so pleased of them. It put thorns in their side and tripped them on their way back to bed.
But overall, it was a pleasant night. When the dew settled and the stars gave way to the sun, many a soldier rose well rested. The prince, of course, rose as if he had had the gentlest of beauty sleeps. It is hard to reminisce properly about how beautiful he would have looked right then, for all the magic of the forest had poured itself into him in the most restful and beautiful of ways.
Suffice to imagine that he had the most shining of hair, the thickest and darkest of lashes (which he blinked slowly as he roused), the softest of skin, and as he sat up, gentle reader, imagine a shower of rose petals all about him. The prince was just that beautiful.
And so he tossed his luxurious and stupendously beautiful hair over his shoulder and demanded that the day begin. The forest swooned, sighed, and shed a dew-drop tear of good-bye. For by the next day, the prince ought to have left the forest and strayed across the moutains into the marshes that talked incessantly.
Yet – the winds had whispered far. The winds had whispered wide. And now and entire tribe of dark elves were suspicious of this person who had so entranced their forest.
As the army began to collect themselves and shake off the sleep from the night, an army of eyes watched from nearby.
“Well,” said a very sensible elf. “They do not look ready for trouble.”
“It is time!” called out the prince. “We must ride to rescue my beloved! We will not stop until we find her!”
“Oh,” said a not so sensible elf. “But he is handsome.”
All elven eyes, glowing golden and purple and all the strange colors of the night, turned to the elf prince.
“Oh bugger,” muttered the more sensible elves. For they knew, without a doubt, that their prince was shallow and vain. But above all he was selfish and rather spoiled by his gentle hearted parents.
“He can ride in my lands,” purred the elf as the prince tossed his gorgeous hair over his shoulder and prepared to mount his horse.
The elves collectively rolled their eyes. The prince was too naive to notice this was directed at him. For he was not unkind. He was simply shallow. And so, without any malice in his heart, he came up with a plan.
“Direct him to my lands,” he said cheekily. “And we shall see for how long he can remember his beloved for.”
Again, the elves rolled their eyes. But they did as they were told.
The prince, unwitting and unprepared for any of this, mounted his horse and set off after the hounds.
Adelaide, for her part, was having a somewhat better time of it all. For she was a stalwart and sturdy chipmunk, and had wandered around these parts quite often upon her voyages to meet her beloved prince Shadow. After a night of napping atop a tree, she roused herself at the first scraps of dawn. Instantly she shook the dew drops from herself, scrubbed her face, and began the long journey home.
Due to her size, it was a very long voyage. But thanks to her being small, she went unnoticed by most of the forest. Once, a hawk spied her and thought she might make a tasty morsel. Upon closer inspection, it noticed that she was wearing armor. Not sure what to do with a chipmunk in armor, it soared away to find easier things to roast.
By the end of that first fateful day, Adelaide was barely reaching the edge of the forest. Night had settled and the stars shone when she climbed the last tree. There, she looked out across her home. Finally, she could see it.
Finally, she thought, all will be right again!
And, rest assured, all would be. But just not quite as quickly as she had hoped it would be.
For that day, that fateful and fate-filled and fate-touched and fate-ilicious day, the Frog King assumed his power upon Farfadel.
And the clouds grew thick and cast deep shadows across the lands. The cows grew ill and ceased to give milk. Wheat rotted on the stalk and corn fell unripened to the ground. Even the crows sought out shelter, cawing to each other that a storm was coming.
For the magic of the land had grown upset. Farfadel’s magic was not made to be reigned over by a half-witted magical creature. It was meant to be ruled over by partly-witted and rather endearing folk of the human nature. It was the good nature of gentle humans that gave Farfadel its charm and glory. Greed and slovenliness was never meant to rule here, as either a virtue or a pride, yet now it did.
And that upset everything.