Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Prince and the Desert Queen, part 1

The prince could see nothing but glistening gold sands all around him. He blinked his eyes, adjusting to the brightness, and thought over what a peculiar state of affairs this was. Just one moment ago, he had been out hunting in the forest; he was still holding his hunting bow at his side. He had been intending to hunt only foxes and rabbits, but just as he was aiming his bow for a shot at a particularly large fox with particularly vivid red fur, he was interrupted by the sight of a large peahen. The prince had only ever seen a peacock or a peahen in picture books. He had hunted in those woods since he was a young boy, and knew every furred and feathered creature that dwelled there and exactly when to expect to see them. He had never in his life encountered a peacock or a peahen.
            The prince had lowered his bow and studied the bird intently. It was a particularly beautiful example of a peahen; she was certainly much larger than those he had seen in pictures, though he could not be sure of the exact size of a normal peahen from pictures alone. Her feathers were the exact color of the winter’s first snow, as opposed to the stony grey feathers that are usual for a peahen. At her neck was a striking arrangement of feathers the color of real turquoise and emeralds. It was the sight of these feathers that prompted the prince to go after her.
            He wasn’t going to kill her; he would never kill a female and risk orphaning its child. He only wanted to get close enough to her to pluck off one of the turquoise colored feathers. He wished to take one home to his betrothed, the princess of the neighboring kingdom, who loved the turquoise color to the point where she was never seen without some form of it on her person. She could tie the feather to a cord and wear it around her neck, or else weave it through her hair or pin it to her dress. There were any number of things a princess could do with a feather as beautiful as that, and so the prince knew that he must get one for her.
            The prince retreated into the shadows of the trees to sneak up on the peahen. He knew all about sneaking up on animals, and though he had never dealt with a peahen before, he figured it could be no different than any other creature he might have to take by surprise. He would catch it by the neck, pluck off a turquoise feather, and let it go off on its way. But this peahen wasn’t going to allow herself to be captured, whether she was to be killed or not. She took off, running at a speed that he never imagined such a bird could be capable of. The prince gave chase, utilizing his fastest sprinting speed. He chased her off the hunting trail and into the brush. He made large leaps over the undergrowth, refusing to be slowed down by it. He chased the bird until his legs simply wouldn’t run anymore, and he fell to the ground.
The bird had disappeared, and the prince found himself in this desert. The first thing that came to mind was that the bird was perhaps a fairy creature, and this was its land. This thought was disconcerting—fairies were tricky and often outright malicious creatures that played cruel games with humans. Stories were passed around of fairies that stole babies and little children, usually girls. There were fairies who spirited away humans and sent them back home confused, disoriented, and without a name or any memories. There was even an old rumor that the nearby kingdom of Ellian had its throne usurped by a fairy creature, which managed to make itself look human enough to bear children with the queen, so that every member of the Ellian royal family was now tainted with fairy blood.
        If the prince had been spirited away by a fairy, he knew that his chances of returning home—or at least, returning home in a healthy state of mind—were now very slim. He remembered his betrothed back home and hoped that these particular fairies were willing to be generous with him. Then he began heading out into the desert. 

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