The Lost Princess
Written by Ariana
Chapter 1 - The Night Is A Dear Friend
Mirandella gazed into the scenery, deep in thought. The sky was shining in bright colors, the evening rainbow landing south, near to Blossomvale falls. Moonmist forest was slowly falling under the shadow of the Gentle Giant Mountains and small twinkles were already beginning to appear at Wayward hills. Mirandella leaned forward, resting her weight on the balcony railing, and let out a small sigh. Yet there was a smile on her face - she never could look down at the domain and not smile. Still she was troubled in her thoughts, so troubled in fact that she never noticed the fluttering of wings behind her, nor the light footsteps approaching. She didn't even notice anyone standing beside her, before a hand gently touched her.
She turned to her side, startled. The slender young girl standing beside her wore a simple short dress in shades of green and blue. The evening light glistened in her almost transparent wings, silently making twinkly play with every known color, and some yet unnamed. And she was looking at her, eyes full of such warmth that Mirandella felt a touch of dizziness. She always did when she saw her. "Afalaleia!" She cried out with a small yelp. She took the girl into a tight hug. "Oh I'm ever so happy to see you!"
The girl returned the hug heartily, then again looked right into Mirandella's eyes. "See, is why I'm here, silly you!" Behind, her wings fluttered the tiniest bit as she spoke, as they often did. "Now tell my dear friendlet, what called me to you?" She looked puzzled. "Oh, you seem to be - troubled by something. That's, see, you'll have to tell me yourself what's wrong."
"Oh, with all the help you've always been to me, you know I would never ever want to bother you with my troubles..." Mirandella gave a gentle laugh, "... but that, I gather, just isn't possible. Bothering you." She ended with a wide smile. "I have missed you, you know." she said, quietly.
"Yes, silly, troubles could never cause bother to any fairy folk. And much so less me! And as for missing me", she lightly lifted the small brigh jewel pendant that Mirandella wore as a neclkace, "you could just call me. It is not a bother." She smiled and tapped Mirandella on the nose with her finger. "Silly." They laughed lightly together.
"Well come inside, lady Afalaleia, queen of the fairies. I'll offer you my most royal blend of tea!" Mirandella opened the balcony door and gestured her guest inside with an excaggerated bow.
"Your invitation is accepted with all the kindness of our people, queen Mirandella." The fairy queen glided in with a small nod.
Very soon they were sitting at a table in a cozy living room, fireplace rattling in the corner. It was the one place in the castle Mirandella most thought of as her own, where she loved to stay and read. Most of her guests woudn't ever see this part of the castle, much less be invited here to sit for a tea. But Afalaleia was no guest, she was a friend, and Mirandella would have felt awkward anywhere else. The castle maids had brought in two cups of tea and a very large teapot. They had sat down, and drank a few sips in silence, before Mirandella started speaking.
"My sister. Millidalie. She's... Well, lately she's been very distant. And ", Mirandella resisted a small sob, "well she's disappeared! I haven't seen her in two weeks!"
Afalaleia took a sip of tea and tilted her head sweetly. "Oh."
"I mean it's not like she ever been anyone for much company... She rarely came to visit court, and wasn't much to attend parties either. But she'd at least be there, to visit... but its gotten a lot worse! Even when we had the Grand Celebration Ball this spring she was curled up in some distant wing of the castle. She rarely goes out to visit the people at all these days. So... so I didn't even notice that she was gone! Oh I don't know... it's not like she didn't have any friends, but of course, I started asking them. No help - and I was only making everyone worried so I stopped." Mirandella gulped a bit and couldn't resist a tear falling on her cheek "It's... I... I shouldn't be crying!"
"Oh my dear silly friendlet. Mir, listen to me. It's ok. We will find her."
"But Af, I don't know how! I'm lost with this! I've tried!"
"You have sent people to find her?"
"Oh you know I won't ever give commands... But people have searched, yes."
"The people... they love you?"
Mirandella nodded, and wiped her eyes clean. The fairy queen across her started breathing more deeply, and closed her eyes. She took Mirandella's hand in her own, gently.
"And your sister, she loves you too?"
"Yes. Why do..."
Afalaleia shushed her. The fairy's wings slowly spread out to show their full pattern. And then it felt like the whole room was suddenly engulfed in playful, vibrant colors! Mirandella burst out in laughter of pure joy. Time itself slowed down, and Mirnadella was just gazing at the soft figures of the beautiful Afalaleia, how she surely was prettiness itself landed down from the heavens. And in her, she suddenly saw Millidalie, first just a glimmer, then it was like she was right there...
... And then it was over, her wings folded again. Afalaleia was looking directly at Mirandella, had been looking for a while it seemed. She was stroking Mirandella's hand softly with slow strokes.
"Welcome back, friendlet. I'm sorry." she said with a warm smile. "Well, I don't know where your sister is. But I do know where she's been."
"How? You never..."
"I'm of fairy folk, Mir. And not just any fairy, even - I'm the queen. There are things I can do." she ended with a small giggle.
"And Milli? So now you know where Milli has been?" Mirandella almost leaped out of her chair.
"Yes. At seaside, in a gathering place people call The Ferryman's Torch." With a more thoughtful voice, she added "Well that's where she's been latest I believe. She's spent many days time somewhere around Willow ****s, and she's been even further. The wisps, who knows, she might have seen them."
"What? Why? Ferryman's Torch... she's not been taken overseas!" Mirandella stood up and started pacing around the room. "Oh no! She could be anywhere by now!"
Afalaleia followed her, and tried to calm her down. "No, Mir, look, I don't believe so. Mir. Listen. I don't think she was *taken* anywhere."
"But can't you just tell me where she is now?" Mir asked desperately.
At that, the fairy queen looked suddenly confused and lost.
"I... I should be able to. But I couldn't."
"Oh. I'm sorry. I didn't mean... you've already helped me more that I could imagine! Afalaleia, you helped me much more than needed - again, my dear friend."
The fairy queen blushed, just slightly. "Oh, anything, my friendlet."
Mirandella walked to the door, and tugged on a light cord, sounding a small bell. One of the servant girls appeared quickly, with a smile on her face. "Jizzi, could you fetch me my city coat?"
"Of course." She paused for a while. "Milady, you're leaving at this hour?"
"Most certainly! Ask Pictor to get ready too, tell him it's important." The girl nodded in response. "And, oh, Jizzi would you be kind enough to accompany me?"
"Me?!" The girl looked startled. "I'm honoured. I, of course, yes!" Her confusion turned into a smile. She ran away from the room, noticably giddy and excited.
"Mir, you're going right now?" Afalaleia asked.
"Yes. She could be in trouble. Af, you have no idea how worried I've been!"
"Acutally I do." she said quietly. Mirandella never noticed, she was already gathering things from a drawer. Quill and paper, some small bottles of different coloured ointments, small clothes.
"Mir", she added, "I really had hoped we could have danced together."
Mirandella stopped what she was doing, and turned to the fairy. She walked up to her, and took her hand. "Oh Af, I wouldn't have the heart to refuse a dance with a fairy. And you're not just any fairy - you're the queen." She smiled widely. Afalaleia's wings made the tiniest flutter, and her wide smile lit the room with joy.
As the exited Jizzi finally returned to the room carrying the queen's coat, she found the room empty, but for the music of the castle's best musicians playing a joyful tune, carrying all the way from the ballroom. She stood there for a while, puzzled, but as she understood what was happening she felt even more thrilled, and ran as fast as she could to join the dance of the fairies!
Chapter 2 - A Road Of Memories And Views
The hooves moved so quickly it was hard for any eye to follow, especially in the dark of night. Yet the movement had such grace the steed could barely be heard before they had passed, leaving any onlooker to stare puzzled, wondering what it was that went past. Had they seen the steed clearly, though, they would have been even more amazed. This wasn't just any steed, but an unicorn. The most fierce, yet slender white horse, with a single, silvery horn piercing the air like a spear. There was an air of magic around him, and he was carrying two riders - the queen and her servant girl.
"And that turn she did, it was like she's been in two places at one! And I was right there with her, in the air, and then next being turned by you, yet falling into her arms..."
Jizzi had been going on about the dance ever since they had left the castle. Mir participated with the occasional giggle and affirming uh-hum. It had been wonderful, but she'd danced before while for Jizzi it had been her first time. Not that she'd ever ridden an unicorn either, but there really was no comparison to fairy dance.
"Dear Queen Mirandella, tell me is it always like that?"
"Really, Jizzi, you have to start calling me just Mir. I insist." Mir replied with a shy look. "And yes", she sighed, "it really, really is." Her thoughts went back to the time she'd danced with Af for whole of three days, and her face became the sweetest smile.
Jizzi sighed as well. "I'll never ever forget this night!"
Mir giggled. "The night's not yet over. We'll be in Isle's Rock well before daybreak."
"What? That's not possible." There was surprised fright in her voice.
The clear, deep voice of their steed answered. "Oh please. Easy."
"She's never ridden an unicorn before, Pictor."
Pictor nickered. "Girl, Isle's Rock is near. I could get to the end of this whole realm before daybreak if I wasn't keeping the ride smooth for you."
"Oh I meant no offense!" Jizzi yelped.
Pictor's voice sounded rather amused. "No worries. I'm not easily offended."
"Queen Mirand..." she gulped her voice "I mean, um, Mir. What is The Ferryman's Torch like? It's just, I haven't heard that many good things about Isle's Rock. But maybe that's only me."
"People in my realm - they are good people, all of them. Yes, Ferryman's Torch is a dockside tavern. They might not be the friendliest places in town, but we're in no danger, Jizzi."
"You have been there?"
"Well I have been in Isle's Rock once before."
Jizzi tuned down her voice, and leaned forward toward Mirandella's ear, as if speaking a secret. "I hear Isle's Rock is where smugglers, thieves and conmen gather to trade. With money! I've seen a true coin that came from Isle's Rock, I swear! Their docks are filled with strange ships from distant lands. Oh I'm not at all sure we should be going to a place like that in the dark."
Mir twisted her head to briefly look the girl in her eyes. "Jizzi, it will be perfectly fine." she said with a comforting smile.
She had, in fact, never been to any of the more remote docks of her realm. She did feel bad about it now and then, the queen should know her realm. But really there was no reason to visit such places. She had the most beautiful grand royal harbor in Silvershore, only moments away from her castle, where her flagship made port. And when she traveled it was mostly to attend festivities, meet ambassadors, hold conferences to discuss the grand issues of the realm - all the sort of queenly duties that took place in the larger cities. The one time she had visited Isle's Rock was already over hundred years ago, when she was still a small child. A princess, traveling with her mother and sister. It had been a brief visit and she didn't remember much of it. But she knew the people in her realm were good-hearted.
The thought of her mother brought back a lot of memories, and she held tighter on to Pictor for the comfort of his warm body. She missed her, still, always would. But though for Mirandella it still felt like yesterday, the old queen had made her travels to the great beyond many, many moons ago already. Years, was it even decades already? She had grown most beautiful in her last times, with long silver hair falling down all the way to her knees. She had always been full of such grace and warmth. And that smile, she never took it away. But she had been tired, Mir could tell, for when the the white lords finally called for her departure, there was joy in her eyes. There had only been a small gathering of her closest friends and family, and as the white lords came to the castle they were welcomed with open arms. Mir remembered how she held Milli's hand oh ever so tight, as they watched their mother take the hands of the two most beautiful lords at her side, and the three of them faded away. Gone.
The wind of the passing air dried her tears quickly.
The frantic rhythm of the hooves slowed down, and the light of a settlement grew visible.
"Queen Mirandella, miss Jizzi - Isle's Rock." The unicorn's deep voice brought Mirandella back.
Isle's Rock really wasn't a big town, much smaller than she'd remembered. The streets were silent and only few lights shone down from the windows. They paced though the moonlit streets, soon appearing at the main square, then following downward to seaside. The docks couldn't be missed, really. While the town itself was very quiet, there was a steady hum of chatter, mixed with badly sung shanties to be heard from few blocks away. Then the ships came into view - most weren't very large, not by Mir's standards anyway, but there were plenty of them. No, this wasn't some remote backwater restingplace, it was a busy center! Sure, Mir had heard the name of Isle's Rock come up in conversations, but she'd never thought of it as being of much importance - none of the shipping lanes had stops here, there were no significant places nearby, nor was it situated at any important crossing. What, indeed, were all these ships doing here? And what strange ships, too! Some of them were in odd shapes, some had an off number of masts holding strange sized sails. It was hard to tell the purpose of most, and even the familiar ones seemed to have strange markings on the sails. The largest of them, anchored, looming in the distance, was rugged and visibly armed to the teeth with cannons, yet wasn't the size of the nasty foreign warships Mir had seen before.
"Oh we should never have come here." Jizzi whimpered, "The pirates will take us as slaves!"
Mir tried to soothe the girl down. But while she wouldn't have admitted it to her, these docks did have an ominous feel to them.
She leaned to Pictor's ear and whispered "Might be better you don't draw attention to yourself here." He nodded in acknowledgment. Yet this was her own domain, she reassured to herself, they couldn't be in any real danger.
They rode along the docks but weren't paid much attention to by the men, thanks to Pictor's aura. Most of the people were simply there to guard the docked ships. Not taking the guarding with very much care, it seemed, as many were gathered in small circles, trading stories and even taking the occasional drink. There was a rowboat traveling to one of the anchored ships, and another one with men holding their fishing rods with patience. It all did seem peaceful enough, but there was clear tension to be felt in the air as well.
Jizzi pulled her coat a bit tighter on. "I wish the fairy would have joined us." She spoke in a subdued voice.
"You know, Jizzi, so do I." Mir sighed. "Af... Afalaleia, she is... Well, we're very close her and me."
"Well, then..." she made a pause and let Mir interrupt her.
"Why didn't she come then, right? Well. The thing is, she can't come for long. She lives in the fairie land, and she can only come briefly for that much distance."
Jizzi looked puzzled. "But... the fairies live in Bluepeak valley. It's not that far."
Mir burst out a small laugh before she got her composure back.
"Oh, Jizzi, I'm sorry, I don't mean... Um, no, I'm afraid the fairies don't live there." Jizzi was about to interrupt but Mir pressed on, "Yes, there indeed is a fairy colony there, you're not wrong. But fairies, you see, they have a whole world to themselves. It's not somewhere you can travel. Well, not easily."
"She made a visit. A fairy visit. Af, she wasn't really here you see. Well, kind of wasn't."
Jizzi blushed and looked away. "It sure felt a lot real to me."
Mir took her hand, and turned her face to look her in the eyes. "My dear Jizzi, I guarantee you it was very real. And Afalaleia will remember it all more clearly than you or I ever could, the next time you meet her. She'll remember you well."
Her eyes lit up, though warily. "I'll meet her again?"
It was Mir's turn to look away. "Lets hope so."
The tavern appeared into view after they had traveled a few blocks from the dock area. It was easy enough to spot. The singing grew louder and bursts of deep laughter paced the chatter coming from inside. A lantern was hanging near a purposely rough-cut sign, depicting the face of an old, bearded man. The Ferryman's Torch, it read.
"I will leave you here." Pictor said as the girls had dismounted. "I will stay near enough, just call me when you're ready."
Jizzi stepped closer to Mir. "Are you really sure we should do this?"
Mir hesitated. She stood for a while, looking at the tavern sign, listening to the sounds of rough men. She took a breath, then firmly opened the tavern door.
Chapter 3 - Meetings Of A Different Kind
It wasn't like a tavern Mirandella had seen before. For one, there was less light. Most of the tables were illuminated by only candles. Though there were few torches they only lit well the area near the counter, the huge dark logs of the bulding walls absorbed most of it. You could hide here, in the shadows, with no difficulty. And the people inside seemed as rough as the building itself. The tavern was full of life. Large jugs were smashed together, spilling ale onto the drinkers with rowdy laughter. There were sudden bursts of shanty songs now and then, with nearby tavern folk joining in for half a verse. And there were some punches exchanged at a card table. This was were roughened sailors came to relax. Some of the guests were more low-key, hunched together at dark tables near the wall. Not all of them were human, either. There was a mixture of some merfolk and men in a heated conversation at one corner, and one pair clamly sharing a drink were quite furry, and even in the dim candlelight Mir could be sure they had snoats and tails. There was even a small dragonoid of some sort, buzzing on the shoulder of one handsomely clothed man leaning against a pillar.
The counter was handled by a giant of a man, with a large brown bushy beard and furrowed face. As Mirandella and Jizzi approached, and ominous silence started to spread in the tavern. They felt the eyes turning to stare at them all around. There were a few wows and whistles, even. Jizzi emitted a tiny yelp, quickly tied her bushy brown hair together with a loop and grabbed Mir's hand, squeezing tight. The queen kept on walking steadly toward the counter, eyes on the barkeeper now leaning to take the order.
"Jug of mead, please", Mir said in what was for her a sturdy voice. She glanced at Jizzi, who looked too frightened to speak, and turned back. "Um, make that two."
"You want it strong, lass?" the barkeeper bellowed, leaning in, inspecting both of them with a solid gaze.
Mir was just about to answer, when Jizzi jumped in with only a small tremble in her voice "Yes, please!" The barkeeper grunted as a reply, and moved on to bring the drinks.
The two girls still weren't much of a fit to the place, sure, but the crowd seemd satisfied enough. Chatter grew back, and people returned to their activities. They still got constant glances, though.
Mir turn to the girl, rather surprised. "Strong, huh?"
Jizzi blushed bright red. "I've been known to handle drinks pretty well."
Mir smiled in response. She looked around the room for a bit. Mistake. When she glanced their way, two rugged men, already rather drunk, began approaching the counter. Jizzi took a step backwards, pushing her back against the counter. Mir took a deep breath, and turned towards the men, calmly. She waited until one of the men was about to speak and cut in an attempt to throw them off their plan.
"Why, you two haven't happened to have seen a girl visit here a few days ago? She looks quite a bit like me, though shorter hair."
One of the men got confused and mumbled something, but the other replied with a sound voice. "No, missie, but we're looking at a pair of much prettier girls right now."
Mir frowned sligtly. "You haven't even been here in few days, have you?"
"Well no, but oh I'm very glad I happened to be here tonight." He gave a nasty laugh afterwards.
"Well I'm really sorry, but I really have no use for you in that case." Mir ended with a polite smile, that said the issue was dealt with.
The man was already starting to object, but the barkeeper slammed the two meads to the table with a very significant gesture. He gave a strong stare to the two men, who mumbled something and retreated back to the tables.
"There you go, lasses." he said from somewhere beneath his huge beard and leaned towards them. "The folk here, they have a bad mouth, and I can't guarantee much of their manners either, but as far as this still is my tavern, yer perfectly safe."
Mir took something from her pouch, a tightly tied bunch of yellowish roots, and handed it to the barkeeper. "Well, I hope you may appreciate this as an expresson of gratitude for your kindness." The barkeeper's eyes opened in amazement, as he took the bunch. He opened his mouth for a reply, but didn't manage to answer before Mir continued. "Perhaps you could also tell me if you've seen a girl here a few days ago, one who looked a lot like me, but shorter, bit more auburn hair. She is my sister, you see, and I'm trying to find her."
Jizzi took a sip of her drink, while the barkeeper was still struggling for words. "Uh, aye, I sure have." He looked a bit regretful right after saying that.
Mirandella's eyes lit up in excitement. "But that's... really, really good news then!"
The barkeeper seemed reserved. "Tell me, lass, who exactly are you. You aren't the most usual type of visitor here fer sure."
They were interrupted by loud voice behind them. "Yes, please do tell! I'd much want to know the name of someone who claims to have no use for me. Because I could still my uses for her." It was a threat, no question about it. The rugged man was back had an even nastier look on his face, and two of his friends were now following in his wake.
The tavern chatter quieted down a bit, and eyes were turning to stare at them again.
Mir ignored the man, and turned back to the barkeeper. "Why, my name is Mirandella. And it really would make me so happy if you could help me."
The barkeeper turned to the man. "Ye'll return to your table and stop bothering the fine lasses here, if ye care to see any another fillings to that jug of yours." He took an imposing posture, and approached the man.
The man grunted, giving an ugly glance to the barkeeper.
"Oh, I'm bothering little miss Mirandella here am I? Huh?" For a moment then, the man and barkeeper were locked in a fierce stare. It was clear he wasn't leaving without a fight. Could be, Mir realized, that was what he'd been after all along. And it seemed like he'd have it, too. The nearby folk were already standing up, ready to act. They'd fight for her honour, Mir realized and suddenly felt quite warm. Maybe the tavern wasn't as bad as it seemed.
But then there came yet another interruption.
"Mirandella, huh?" The voice, strong and raspy, came from a dark corner somewhere.
Suddenly the tavern grew completely quiet of any chatter and song, only leaving the small rittle of the torches behind the counter. Mir, along with everyone else in the tavern turned to see the speaker. "Well, well." A tall man appeared, in deep dark, rugged clothes. The rough features of his face, and the large scar on his left cheek were emphasized by shadows from the candlelight of the table he was approaching. He had a very distinct worn hat, and shoulder length tar-black hair, looking like it hadn't been washed ever. Yet he managed to look both dignified, and even rather classy to Mir's eyes. "The shadow!" someone gasped but was quickly hushed to silence. The dark man's deep voice penetrated every corner of the now silent tavern. "Queen Mirandella, isn't it?" There was a very significant stress placed on her title, loathing ringing in his voice. He approached Mir slowly. Jizzi behind her was already visibly shaking. She placed her hand within her coat, against her back, grasping a small handle only she knew was there.
"Why, I can't believe it - you truly are every bit as pretty as they've said." There was an unsettling tone to his compliment. He nodded, and tipped his hat just the tiniest bit. Then there was a small offhand gesture, and three men around them exploded into action.
Without having time to even realize what was happening, Jizzi suddenly found herself pulled further, arms of some man tight around her, keeping in place. Both Mirandella and the barkeeper were looking at the sharp edge of a seafarer's blade. Mir yelped, and Jizzi behind here was already crying of fear. There was a clatter as the small dagger Jizzi had kept hidden fell to the floor.
"This one packed a punch, cap'n." The man holding Jizzi mumbled with an audible grin. It dawned on Mir slowly... Jizzi had been carrying a blade? Her Jizzi? She felt disoriented. The dark-haired man kept approaching, as if nothing had happened.
"Laddie I don't want this nonsense in..." The barkeeper began to protest, but was interruped by the strong voice of the man. He was still speaking directly to Mirandella.
"What brings you to this nasty place, queen."
Mir had tried to keep her cool and composure, trusting her people to leave her safe. But now she was growing afraid. Yet, she was the queen... Oh, this wasn't at all what she'd want her queenship to be about! But Jizzi was counting on her, she knew that much. Mir began breating in an overly steady rhythm to resist panic. She managed a calm voice, as she replied.
"Lower your sword, seafarer, and I'll tell you."
The man made a sound that could have been a giggle, and came close to Mir's face. Too close. "Don't see why I'd do any of that sort. Don't see why I care what a queen like you might want." He pushed his sword right up to Mir's throat. "Don't see why I wouldn't just keep this tip of my fine sword here right where it so conveniently placed, and drag that very pretty face of yours to these high gardens I've heard me good sailors sing so much shanties of." He leaned in, pushing his lips near Mir's ear. The smell of him was sea and sweat, but there wasn't the vile stink of run she'd expected. The whole room was holding it's breath to hear his words, now whispered loudly. "I hear that Nectar of Life you royal people keep to yourself tastes sweeter than any else there is."
Mir gave a small yelp, and couldn't help but to start shaking. This wasn't going at all how she'd thought. This was her kingdom, her domain, the people should love her! That's what she'd heard. She felt a tear start to fall. Some queen she was, coming here unprepared and not even managing to keep a brave face! She heard Jizzi sob behind her. She'd have to get out of this somehow, for her sake! She closed her eyes and kept the tears back, gathering her voice as much as she could to reply.
"Ne.. Nectar of Life? We... the fruit do grow in my gardens..." Pictor! Yes, the unicorn could help her. Only, would he hear here from here. Maybe if she shouted loud and fast...
"Yes it does." the man hissed. "And I wouldn't mind having a few of these years of mine taken away."
"Uh... By all means, seafarer. Don't see why you'd need me nor my pretty face for that."
Mir felt the man pull back, and she opened her eyes. There were whispers of confusion in the man's eyes. Mir started to build her confidence back, even if she was still kept at swordpoint. Making an effort to keep her voice simple and queenly, she continued.
"You just point your sails back onto these waters on next harvest day."
The confusion in the man's eyes turned into a smile. "Ah, you dare try to play me, little queen? Come next harvest, I might not have your royal self as a guarantee. See, us men of simple blood with little money, we'll have to resort to other means of getting what we want. What if I'll just take you on my ship, and keep hold of you until then, queen."
It was Jizzi who spoke then, with a trembling but loud voice. "You don't need to do that, stupid man! The nectar is quite free for takings!"
That drew his attention. His sword left Mir's throat unharmed, and was suddenly pointed at arm's length towards Jizzi.
"Just who do you call stupid, girl!"
Jizzi was still sobbing and her voice was a tremble, but there was a glint of fire in her eyes. "The court doesn't hold the Nectar of Life to themselves. At harvest, it's shared to whomever will have it. Even to cruel folk like yourself, if they show their face to take it!"
The man's eyes narrowed, and he stepped closer to Jizzi, who yelped and crouched backwards tighter into her captor's grip. "Is that so?" he said defiantly, but Mir could see his sword didn't keep as steady anymore.
Next the tavernkeeper cut in. "Aye, seafarer, got me own drink of the garden sweets year before last, to fix me back. Bet ye there's plenty folk here too, who've seen the shares true."
That made the man take a hesitant look at the faces around the tavern. There was subdued nodding all around.
"Our Queen Mirandella would never keep treats for herself." Jizzi pressed on, gaining momentum. "She's always shared the garden with people of all trades, as has her mother and her mother's mother before her, all the way up to Queen Irimidelia's reign."
The man looked at Mir, trying to keep a threatening face. "Is this true, little Queen?"
Mir nodded slowly in reply, letting the insult pass. She was just that, after all. Little. The man backed up a step, and his men released Jizzi and returned to his side, their blades still drawn and flickering in torchlight. Jizzi jumped closer to her, but Mir's hand kept her at a distance. Mir was still fighting tears, she coudln't have the girl at her side now. She was here for a reason and wasn't to be bullied to forget it.
"Seafarer," she raised her voice, "you asked why I've come here. I came to look for my sister." She braved a small step forwards. There was a quiet gasp from the crowd onlooking, but she tried not to hear it. "Have you seen her on your journeys?"
The man couldn't help but show a slight smile at the corner of his mouth. So she'd impressed him. Good. "I've heard of her, yes. Thought of going after her too, to take back as ransom. But she was said to have been at Feathermist, and even I did not dare risk those shores."
"The nectar. See, I have a reserve of it my own, at the castle. I would give it to you before harvest, captain,", she made sure to use the title this time, "after you'd taken me to Feathermist and back safely."
"What?!" Jizzi yelped out loud. Mir gestured her to stay back, again.
His face turned into a smile and he gave a rough sort of laughter. "Done. We sail tomorrow noon."
The man could have just seized her and take his prize that way. But he never did. Mir barely heard the barkeeper tell them of a spare room, and she never remembered walking there. Jizzi was mad, talking on and on about something with a nasty voice "Really, my Queen, I would never board a ship with a man like that tainting the air", but Mir didn't notice, and then she was on a bed, curling up in a corner under soft sheets and she let the tears come at last.
At that, Jizzi stopped her complaints and came to comfort her, but Mir pushed her away, yet again. "You had... a dagger... a blade!" she managed between her cries. "And I trusted you!" she shouted.
Jizzi stared confused, tears in her eyes as well. "I. Queen. It was just to protect you. My queen. Mir, please." she touched her head again. Mir looked up, and the two girls stared into each others teary eyes.
"Silly girl, you could have gotten killed because of it." Mir said, then closed her eyes and added with a grave tone "You could have killed with it."
They both started crying again, but she didn't push her away anymore, and they hugged each other tight. "Sorry, I'm..." Jizzi tried to say, but Mir shushed her and just held her. Tears kept on falling on their clothes and bedsheets for a long time.
Feathermist. Oh, sweet Milli...