The Wandering Princess

Discussion in 'THREAD ARCHIVES' started by Disgruntled Goat, Oct 18, 2014.

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  1. nce upon a time, in a far away land... there lived a noble king, who was beloved by all his subjects. He had long, golden hair and powerful blue eyes, but what he was known for was his immeasurable kindness and love for all those that lived within his kingdom. In the height of his youthful fitness, he rescued a beautiful princess from the clutches of a cruel dragon and the pair were soon wed. The entire kingdom rejoiced on the blissful day, and such joy was only surpassed when the king and queen gave birth to a daughter, whom they named Cinderella. She was a happy baby that rarely cried, and everyone that met the family knew that their daughter found such contentment because she knew she was loved, even before she knew what love was.

    It was a perfect little wonderland. Yes, people had problems, but with the king and queen giving their people such fine examples of nobility, generosity of spirit and love, the people learned to develop these traits in their own lives so that even the poorest of villagers knew how to show compassion and love for their fellow man. It was known, however, that the king wished for a son that he might mould in his own image, and when Cinderella was barely a year old, the queen fell pregnant again. The kingdom was a-flutter with excitement over the soon-to-be prince that the queen would give birth to in the following spring, and the royal family's love grew stronger with each passing day.

    During this time, the king and queen sought the aid of a white witch, to serve as a general advisor, but also as a handmaiden to the queen as she prepared for her second childbirth. The white witch produced a variety of potions, incenses and charms to help relax the queen as she grew larger, along with ensuring that she had a warm bath and a comfortable bed in the last few months of winter. She grew very close to the royal family, and both the king and queen trusted her explicitly. Complications arose, however, as the queen became ready to birth during the deep of winter. She knew it was time, even though it was a good month earlier than any physician had predicted, but as she entered labour the court physicians and white witch took her into a private chamber where she might birth the king's son.

    It was a bitterly cold winter, far colder than any in living memory, and even with the best care available, the queen complained of terrible coldness, and her birthing chamber was as cold as any room in the castle. Fires were stoked and warm blankets were brought forwards, but the combination of cold and an early birth led to tragedy as the future prince was a still-born. The entire kingdom fell into mourning, but further tragedy was to follow as the queen was taken ill with a fever. The coldness had led to her catching a chill, and even with the king at her side for all the hours of the day, she could not find the strength to fight her illness. The strains of pregnancy and the emotional suffering of birthing a still-born had taken their toll so that, in the space of a week, the kingdom lost both its future king, and its current queen.

    The entire kingdom plunged into darkness, with no-one more miserable than the king. Even his daughter, now the only family he had left, failed to bring a smile to his face as the king locked himself away in his chambers and refused to see anyone but the trusted white witch. True to form, she found a kind of magic that was able to bring the king out of his depression, and back into the public eye. Whilst a visibly broken man, he addressed his people, told them of the great tragedy and declared his intention to press on, for both his wife and son. In time, the dark clouds melted away and happiness returned to the land. The king found his joy in life once more and Cinderella grew to be a fine young girl, excelling in her studies and blessed with her mother's radiant smile. Without a queen, the king looked to his white witch for assistance in helping him raise a daughter alone and, as the fates would have it, he fell for the witch over time, and the pair were wed when Cinderella was only three years old.

    It was a joyous moment for the kingdom, as many felt that the witch was exactly what the king needed, and they so loved their king that they wanted him to find true happiness once more. Indeed, happiness was plentiful as the witch, now known to the people as Queen Grimhilde, gave birth to a son the following year. He was named Frederick, and quickly became the pride and joy of the land. He grew up alongside his sister, but the spotlight was always on the young prince as he grew into a handsome young man, with thick, red hair and the fierce blue eyes of his father. The king doted equally on his children, loving his son as an heir, and his daughter as his beloved princess and the only connection he had to his first wife. The new queen did not take so well to Cinderella, and firmly established her son as the true heir to the kingdom. In time, the king's health began to fail, for he was a good deal older than his new wife, and he had been old when his daughter was born. He died peacefully, but as Prince Frederick, the heir apparent, was only ten, the kingdom fell into the hands of Queen Grimhilde, instead. She would oversee the land until Frederick turned eighteen, at which point he would be crowned as king instead.

    With absolute power, Queen Grimhilde began to change. She moved away from the public eye and banished many of the king's advisors, replacing them with two of her own choosing; a vizier from a far off desert land who boasted an impressive knowledge of legends and magic, and a female sorceress that Grimhilde had known from her childhood. The vizier was the public face, with the sorceress rarely showing herself and the queen only addressing her public on high days and holidays, when it was absolutely necessary. In time, the kingdom became a less joyful place; without a constant reminder of the important of good morals, its people became selfish and cruel, taking on the traits that seemed to consume a queen obsessed with her own image and reputation. Some villagers felt that the vizier and the sorceress were corrupting their queen, whilst others, especially those that had worked for the king, alleged that she had always been a wicked woman and now that the king was no longer around, she was merely asserting herself on the kingdom.

    The skies were always dark, the land always barren, and the winds always bitterly cold. The kingdom of love was now as lifeless as any rock, and just as lonely. Taxes were raised, the queen's soldiers became brutal and ferocious, and the populace was forced into abject poverty, with no hope of returning to the life that they had once known.

    Inside the castle, the picture was just as dark. Prince Frederick, loyal to his mother and spoiled rotten, grew up in her twisted mould, becoming as vain and self-obsessed as his mother. He was cruel to the male servants, physically abusing them and mocking them, despite only being a teenager, whilst he insisted that the family only employ attractive female servants, so that his wandering eyes and groping hands had some kind of entertainment. Without the king to protect her, Cinderella found herself forced into the demeaning life of a slave, being worked to death by the cruel queen and her two assistants. The court, once filled with healthy debate and intellectual discourse, was replaced entirely with sycophantic yes-men that agreed with everything the queen said, ensuring that any new law she wished to pass would be passed.

    Knowing, however, that Cinderella had not been forgotten (and that her death would not go by without suspicion), the queen kept the girl a slave behind closed doors, hiding her from public view and forcing her to live in filth. When princes and dukes from other kingdoms came visiting to ask for the princess' hand in marriage, they were shown a woman covered in dirt, weakened from lack of food and put into a dress that clearly no longer fit her. These men knew well enough that something was wrong, but the kingdom's military might made it difficult for them to speak up, so they simply apologised for their disturbance and moved on to the next kingdom.

    As Cinderella grew older, the queen realised that she had not been completely forgotten by the public, and their sense of outrage at being denied the chance to see their princess was causing them to revolt. To quell such notions, Queen Grimhilde began making preparations. By the age of eighteen, it was expected that a noble young woman would have met a suitor and may even be married, but for Cinderella to still be single and rebuked by so many eligible princes, the queen made a public declaration that the best thing for the young girl to do was to join a convent of nuns, where she might live her life devoted to God, instead of any mortal man. In such company, and on such holy grounds, she might be able to find a cure for the darkness that their kingdom had been plunged into, a lie that was sure to win over the hearts of all but the most doubtful of people. With this, the public unrest was sated, and they even held hope that the princess' faith might bring an end to their suffering, so, a week after the princess turned eighteen, she was to be sent to a convent in the mountains on the far side of the country. It was far, far away, picked intentionally by the queen to ensure that she would never return, whilst telling people that this was by far the holiest of nunneries, so that Cinderella might indeed become the holiest of nuns. The plan was perfect; Cinderella would be out of sight and out of mind, and for every year that she failed to cure the kingdom's ills, its people would resent her further for their continued suffering. All the while, Queen Grimhilde and her son would be free to do as they pleased, with the populace either unable or unwilling to fight against them.

    When the day arrived, the vizier brought forth a man from the town by the name of Robin to be her guide. He was given supplies, a few gold coins and two of the finest horses in the kingdom for the journey, and promised riches upon his return, so long as he returned alone. The stage was set, and the princess had no choice in the matter. She had been woken earlier by the queen's sorceress, and instructed to wash and dress, so that her unkempt appearance would not upset the people of her kingdom. She was given breakfast for the first time in many years, and her hair was cut shorter and brushed, ready for her to begin her life as a handmaiden of God. All she had to do now was leave quietly...


    The Vizier, #660000 There was a loud, impatient knocking at the door of Cinderella's chambers. The girl's maids had left well over an hour before, but she still remained inside, refusing to come out and accept her fate. Jafar could understand why she might not want to ride off into a life of poverty, but he had never been fond of waiting and this girl was making him wait an awful lot this morning. He knew she was still in her room, for the windows were bolted shut and he could hear her pacing the floor, but she neither responded to his knocking nor his words. He had several soldiers stood by as guards, but also as enforcers, and whilst his group looked more like it was organised to arrest a violent criminal, he didn't care. His queen had given him one simple order, which was to fetch Princess Cinderella. He was going to make good on that order, one way or another.

    He extended his staff and rapped the golden snake head against the door for at least the tenth time. "Come now, Cinderella, it is not befitting of a princess to make her people wait like this. They grow agitated and restless, when all they want is to catch a glimpse of the noble young woman that will ride off a mere princess and return as a saviour." He smiled to himself and gave a dry chuckle, "You do wish to help free our kingdom from this malaise, don't you?"

    There was still no response. Jafar sighed and turned back to the soldiers, "It would seem that our princess has grown selfish and spoiled, she does not care for the suffering of her people." He shrugged his shoulders and edged a little closer to the door, speaking in his cruellest tone, "I can only wonder what King Alfred would think. A man as great as he would surely have done everything in his power to cleanse this kingdom of such a blight, and whilst I never had the pleasure of meeting her, I am assured that the fair Queen Marie would have given her life to save the people."

    "What a shame it is to find that their daughter cannot even bring herself to leave her room for the sake of the people..." he added, before striking the door with his staff once again. Letting his frustration boil over, the vizier struck the door repeatedly, leaving a dent in the wood of it. "Princess!" he shouted, seething with anger. "If I strike this door again, I will bring it down, so I do hope that you are ready in there. I will not be kept waiting any longer for a miserably, bratty child! Is that understood? This is your last chance to start behaving like a princess by doing as you're told and coming with me. I shall not be held accountable for what happens next. It will be only what you have forced me to do. I did so want for our last meeting to be a pleasant one, but you seem determined to make me very angry!"

    With that, Jafar swung at the door again, and again, and again, cleaving through the wood by sheer force until he could see into the eighteen year old's room.

    He peered in through the gap and hissed, his face a deep red as his blood boiled beneath the surface. "Princess! Get out here... NOW!"
    #1 Disgruntled Goat, Oct 18, 2014
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 20, 2014
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  2. The Princess, #85d1ed It was all she could do not to shout at him. Jafar was ever persistent and loud, parading his title like it was something he deserved, something to be proud of. Grimhilde was a fool to allow a man like this into her courts, into her kingdom no less, but there was nothing to be done about it now as the suspicious Eastern man and his powers had infiltrated what was once a peaceful home. Jafar had a hand in everything that happened, had spies and willing informants scrambling at his feet, desperate for his approval and the rewards that came with it. For a moment, the princess was almost surprised that he had come to collect her himself.

    His anger was nothing new to her. Cinderella didn't fear him, nor did she hold a shred of respect for someone who's temper could easily burn cities to the ground. She had seen enough in her life to be content with death should the occasion arise. Let him get so angry that he harms me, she thought bitterly as she looked out her window to the crowds of people below, people that belonged to her by right of law and birth. Let him harm me so that all of them see, and know what kind of cruelty my step-mother claims innocence from.

    She had been allowed a small bag to pack as many things in as she wished. Within the pouch she had shoved a few tattered dresses for the road, some of her favorite spiced wine, and a copy of a book titled Utopia. It had been her father's last gift to her before his passing. With the book, combined with her mother's diamond pendant hidden inside her dress for safekeeping, she felt as if angels would watch over her journey towards this supposed "nunnery" her step-mother spoke of. Nothing can harm me so long as my mother and father keep watch.

    When Jafar began to break the wood, Cinderella leapt from her chair as the sound had shocked her out of her wits. Immediately she grabbed her bag and held it close to her, not giving him the satisfaction of submission. Cinderella flinched as the wood of her door began to crack and shatter, but stood tall and dignified as a princess should. When the oak finally surrendered to Jafar's strength of anger and determination, she watched as the fool of a Vizier came tumbling to the floor before her.

    "Jafar," she stated in a voice that suggested she hadn't known he was there at all. "What a pleasant surprise. If you wanted into my room, all you had to do was ask nicely."

    I will not go easily, and he is a fool to believe otherwise.
    #2 moffnat, Oct 18, 2014
    Last edited: Nov 7, 2014
  3. The Vizier, #660000 Jafar stood up quickly and brushed the dust from his robes. "This floor is simply filthy, you should have one of the servants come up here and scrub it clean," he said, before locking eyes with the girl. "Oh, wait. It seems that one of the servants is already up here, and she hasn't been doing a very good job at all. Fortunately, she's being dismissed oh, I think, yes," he muttered, idly rubbing his chin, "I believe she's being dismissed today. Permanently dismissed, you know, one might even say banished." The vizier smiled and pointed the head of his staff towards the girl, "And it's not a moment too soon. Dreadful servant, dreadful girl and a dreadful excuse for a human being, too."

    "Oh, and princess, I did try knocking, but you weren't very forthcoming, so we'll have to do things the hard way." He stepped back and clicked his fingers as two of the burlier guards bustled into the room behind him. "Hector, Maurice, please escort Princess Cinderella downstairs, to where her Mother is waiting, along with her escort." Jafar always saw to it that he referred to Queen Grimhilde as Cinderella's mother; not only did it confer more respect upon his mistress, but it served to irritate the young princess. After all, she barely knew her real mother, and she had died when Cinderella was only a year old... how could Grimhilde, who had raised this girl for the last seventeen years, be anything less than her mother? Grimhilde was as much of a mother as Cinderella had ever known, even if she couldn't bring herself to admit to it. That was why Jafar saw fit to remind her of this fact whenever possible.

    The two men stepped further into the room. Each one was a mountain of muscles and possessed all the intelligence of a mountain or mussel, capable only of following orders. They were, however, quite good at following orders, especially if the orders were simple and required physical strength, and they never questioned why they had to do something. "If the princess won't come along willingly then you have my permission to carry her down along with her luggage," added Jafar, propping himself up on his staff as he watched the two muscular oafs approach the princess. "Remember, boys, my power comes directly from Queen Grimhilde, so it's not just me telling you to do this, it's the queen saying it too. I'm sure you don't want to let her down!"

    A little encouragement and some not-so-subtle name dropping did the job, as both Hector and Maurice took the initiative and tried to grab Cinderella. They took and arm each and began to half-drag-half-march her out of the room and down the stairs. Jafar followed them, flanked by the rest of his elite guards.

    As they reached the last stairwell, the vizier tapped Maurice on the shoulder with his staff. "Stop a few steps before the bottom and let her go. She needs to walk the last few steps on her own, or people will ask questions." He smiled and tapped the back of Cinderella's head as he spoke each word, "And. We. Can't. Have. That." Jafar leaned forwards and whispered into the blonde girl's ear, "Can we?"

    He pulled back and straightened out his robes again, tapping Maurice with the tip of his staff. "Off you go, Maurice. We can't have Princess Cinderella being any later than she already is or her mother might start to worry."
    #3 Disgruntled Goat, Oct 18, 2014
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 20, 2014
  4. The Princess, #85d1ed Cinderella clenched her fists at every word that came out of Jafar's mouth, dangerous and deadly as he was she felt that his sentences were more unbearable to be around. She took the force with grace as she had so many times before, keeping her back straight and her posture proud despite the humiliating situation she had fallen in. In the depths of her heart, the princess knew she had suffered punishments much harsher and more painful than this. After all, it was hard to feel attached from a people who never stood up for you, who never once fought for her claim to her father's crown. Will these people know me? she thought desperately as the entrance to the throne room grew closer and closer. Am I only a legend to them?

    When the guards had released themselves from her, Cinderella brushed off her arms as if their touch held disease. She could feel Jafar's lips against her ear, his lecherous words and actions combined enough to make her shiver. Before he finished his following sentence the princess had rounded on him, all fire and indignant fury, confident that the mere threat of her royal blood would be enough to intimidate him. Now, she could speak to him freely. Now, she could say as she pleased without worry of how hard he would strike her.

    And in the heat of her anger, her lips curled and her voice deepend. "Your words are poison. You, sir, are poison, and I will draw you from the wound of my country in a single stroke."

    One of the guardsmen, Hector, began to laugh at her declarations. "Move along, stupid girl. Where you're going it'll be a miracle if you live long enough to strike anythin'."

    On her own, the princess turned from Jafar and out to the throne room filled with the innocent and the guilty alike. The Queen sat atop her throne like a vulture on a corpse. All around, people were cheering out the princess's name and crying words like "savior!", "holy princess" and "bringer of mercy". Had they all been so easily fooled? Cinderella kept her posture upright and forced a smile on chapped lips, waving at every person in every crowd and making her little limp prominent. They will see how wounded I am, she thought indignantly. Let them question everything they witness here today.
    #4 moffnat, Oct 18, 2014
    Last edited: Oct 19, 2014
  5. The Vizier, #660000 Jafar was, at his heart, a coward of the highest order. His arcane magic gave him abilities beyond most men, and his position in the court gave him power and authority to cover the rest, but despite being one of the most powerful men in the kingdom, he was still a coward. Weak-willed and submissive, was how someone that knew Jafar would describe him and he always bowed to the will of his queen and pretty much anyone that outranked him. He was only fortunate here that very few people did outrank him, and the two women that did were on his side, so he was usually in line with their thinking anyway. Prior to this, he had been forced to work for a bumbling fool of a sultan so dim that he couldn't even be lied to, so this was certainly a step up for the man.

    Despite this, he did indeed feel bile rising in the back of his throat, and sweat upon his brow as the princess rebuked him with more venom than he could ever hope to muster. For all her talk of the vizier's words being poison, she was doing a fine job of showing just how venomous her own words could be when she so desired. Jafar was deeply relieved when Hector stepped in and redirected the girl to her current duty. Strangely enough, Cinderella obliged and put on a show of greeting the crowds that even her step-mother would have applauded, and Jafar knew that she was watching. Grimhilde was a cruel, selfish woman, and from her throne she gave no warmth or love to anyone, not even to her own son, so Jafar knew that he had to keep proceedings running in a timely, satisfactory fashion or he would incur her wrath.

    And he knew from previous experience that her wrath was far more unpleasant than any words that the princess could use against him.

    Looking across, he saw that the girl was limping and quickly deduced her plan to disrupt the ceremony. The vizier set to work immediately, and whispered instructions to Hector as he ran out behind the girl. Holding his staff to his mouth and letting its magic amplify his voice, he placed his arm around Cinderella's shoulder and stopped her in her tracks. "People of Everbright, look upon your glorious princess! Let her beauty and radiance shine down upon you before she sets off to bring back a cure for the misery that pervades our once-magnificent kingdom!"

    People, much like sheep, could easily be swayed and for all his faults, Jafar had a kind of raw charisma that he could work over crowds. He wasn't the public face of the royal family for nothing, and he was putting all of his charm to use here as the crowd erupted into cheers. Jafar feigned surprise, "What's that?" he asked, stepping up onto his toes, despite being a good foot taller than most people in the room. "Those at the back cannot see the princess? My, my, this won't do at all!" He turned back and shouted to the guards, "Quickly now, the princess must be raised up!"

    The guards had already picked up the open-top sedan chair according to Jafar's instructions and now ran out to where he and the princess were stood. They lowered it down and Jafar forced the girl onto its seat, knowing that she wouldn't protest too much in public, and then stepping back to let his guards lift her up. "Wonderful," he cooed, before moving ahead of the chair as if leading a procession. "Now everyone can see the royal beauty of our beloved princess. Be sure to remember her face, for I fear she may be gone for quite some time as she seeks a cure for our ills, though I have no doubt that this intelligent, gracious, upstanding young woman will succeed, especially with the faithful nuns of St. Jerome to guide her."

    By now, the crowd was whipped up into a frenzy, taking Jafar's words to heart and wholly supporting the princess' "quest". No-one questioned why she was going, or what these nuns could really do, or even why it had to be the princess, and if anyone had noticed her limp then they certainly weren't speaking about it now. The guards paused, letting the crowd take in the view of their princess and allowing Queen Grimhilde to stand from her throne. "Ladies and gentlemen," said Jafar, holding his staff as a microphone once more. "I ask that you show your respect now, as our gracious queen wishes to say a few words on this most momentous of occasions."

    Jafar sauntered around the sedan chair, and up onto the throne pedestal beside the queen. With a flick of his wrist, the vizier spun his staff around and fired off a few bolts of magic around the room. The crowd gasped in delight as coloured bolts ricocheted around the room, under the guise of gathering their attention as all but one of the bolts returned to the throne. Their glow bathed the queen in a warm yellow light as all eyes turned to her, wondering what she might have to say.

    The one bolt that did not return, however, was a deep red, and only three people in the room knew what had really happened. Jafar and Grimhilde saw its path, and Cinderella, its target, felt its effect, as the bolt struck her chest and rendered the girl temporarily mute, so that she couldn't disturb this moment...
    #5 Disgruntled Goat, Oct 19, 2014
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 20, 2014
  6. The Princess, #85d1ed No! she wanted to shout, but as the scarlet bolt of magic forced its way through her veins Cinderella's voice was rendered utterly useless. She was trapped in the elevated chair meant to lift her above all others, signify her importance, yet she gripped the arms with calloused hands to show her only act of defiance.

    And, intently, she listened to the queen speak.

    "People of Everbright," came a voice as dark as shadows. "Today is a most joyous occasion, for your princess, the daughter of our late and precious king, travels to St. Jerome's Nunnery to the east in search of a cure for what ails us!" The people raised their voices, crying out to the princess as their savior. Will they not open their ears? "She will travel far to become a prophetess of God, for He has chosen her over all the others, and will lift her up higher than even I could ever dream. Feast your eyes upon your savior, my people. Feast your eyes upon a face that you may never see again."

    Oblivious to the messaging in her words, pauper and noble alike applauded and cried out to the helpless princess atop her false throne. They shouted praise for the prophetess, yet she felt no better than a criminal being led to the gallows for a crime she was innocent of. Cinderella felt the magic slip from her as the queen received the silence she had been begging for, so intent to keep the princess quiet that she had ordered Jafar to interfere.

    But not for long.

    Cinderella would not let herself be shut away in a nunnery while her father's people, the people whom he and her mother loved so dearly, suffer at the hands of evil for the rest of their lives. She would not leave them doomed in their poverty and their crimes and their starvation, nor would she allow the grips of darkness to consume what was once a place of peace and love and joy. She remembered how things once were, and they would be that way again so long as Cinderella still drew breath.

    "I will save you!" she shouted indignantly, desperately, though those who witnessed would never know her justifications. "I will save you all! I promise, someway, somehow, I will save you from the clutches of darkness! I..." She met the eyes of Queen Grimhilde, and suddenly desperation melted into a steel resolve.

    "I will save you from your damnation, I swear it!"
    #6 moffnat, Oct 19, 2014
    Last edited: Oct 19, 2014
  7. The Vizier, #660000 The gathered crowds, already at a fever pitch thanks to Jafar and Grimhilde, erupted into raucous cheering, the noise so loud and deafening that anything else Cinderella said was impossible to hear. Sensing his chance, Jafar gave Maurice a nudge and the sedan chair began making its way out of the far side of the throne room and towards the castle stables. Once out of the the throne room, the people would be unable to see or hear them any more, as the stables were strictly off-limit and the route to them was wholly internal. The people would not see their princess again until she rode out of town, never to return.

    He hurried the guards out of view and gave a sweeping bow to the crowd, knowing that the queen would keep them entertained until Cinderella was ready to make her grand departure. Without the crowds, Jafar had no need to keep up his act, so he was free to say and do what he really wanted now. "Princess," he snarled, "You did such a good job of pretending to limp before, but I think it must be tiring to have to keep up such an act all the time. Allow me to help you!"

    Jafar brought his staff up and swung the solid gold snake head straight at Cinderella's left thigh, ensuring that the sharp features of the cobra's face were driven into the tender, already-bruised flesh. The vizier gave a sick laugh, delighted by his own malevolence as he strolled on ahead of the sedan chair. "I shall so miss the time that we have spent together, my dear, I feel a certain... closeness to both you and your mother. In so many ways, I almost feel as if we are family, as though you might even be the daughter that I never had. Of course, a daughter of mine would know her place, but alas, I can't imagine that your father ever had a clue what to do when it came to raising a daughter. By all accounts he was a thick-headed dolt that waltzed through life on the back of his good looks, letting others do the thinking for him. Perhaps a smarter man would have known just what Grimhilde was up to, eh?"

    "Still, it's too late for that now, and you're never going to be able to do anything about it, so why don't you just act like a good little bitch and do as you're told for once?" He growled and struck Cinderella's left leg again, just above the ankle this time, coming perilously close to shattering the bone, as there was very little flesh there to protect it. Jafar's face lit up at the sight of the girl's pain and he could barely contain his laughter a second time.

    "You know I'm not going to beat her, don't you?" said a gruff-sounding man stood watching the scene play out. "It wasn't a part of the deal, Jafar."

    "Who are you?" asked Jafar, turning to where the man was standing in the shadows. He tapped the bottom of his staff against the floor, causing the ruby eyes of the snake head to glow red, illuminating the man's features. "Ah, yes! Mr. Hood, I believe? The, uh, the um... The brigand, yes? The thief? The um, the, uh, The criminal... Shouldn't... Shouldn't you be hanging right about now?" Jafar furrowed his brow and then smirked, turning his back to the other man, "Ah, no! I remember now. I spared your life in return for having this kingdom's most prolific thief working in my employ. Yes, that's right. Come now, slave, I have work for you..."

    The Rogue, #005200 The man pushed off of the wall and stepped forwards, allowing everyone present to get a good look at him. He had long brown hair and a small moustache, standing at around six foot which meant he was still several inches shorter than the vizier, though Mr. Hood looked a lot more physically capable. He had broad shoulders, and his hands bore the callouses of a man that knew a difficult life, whilst his weathered face made him look a good deal older than his twenty-six years of age. He wore a thick brown coat, suitable for traveling and had a fine yew longbow slung across his chest that looked like something far superior to the average thief's weapon. No doubt it was a family heirloom of some description, but whatever its age, the bow was in an immaculate condition, as good now as it was when it was first created.

    "As I recall, there was no evidence brought against me," he said, striding confidently beside Jafar, with his mere presence enough to panic the vizier. "In fact, the claims made in your court were all purely circumstantial, and I'm not sure that any fair judge in the land would have hanged me for it."

    "Then isn't lucky for me that there isn't a fair judge in the land?" retorted Jafar. "You know as well as I do that the judges are all my men, and they all do as I say. So if I tell them to hang you, then that's what they'll do. There's no need to waste time on evidence any more, my dear, ignorant Mr. Hood."

    The corner of the rogue's lip flared up in a snarl, but he kept his composure. "Look, I'm here. Just get the girl on a horse without hurting her, and I'll lead her to St. Jerome's. Then we both vanish forever and everyone gets to live happily ever after. Understand?"

    "Perfectly," said Jafar as his thin lips contorted into a cruel smile. "You say you won't beat the girl now, but I'm sure that a few days out on the road will change your mind. I know it will take you at least a full month to reach the nunnery, and, frankly, should you kill her along the way, well, I can't imagine that she will be missed. In fact, it might even make me like you a good deal more!"

    By now, the group had wandered into the stables where the sedan chair was set down and Cinderella was man-handled onto a white horse. Her hands were roughly bound to the saddle and her feet brutally forced into the stirrups, ensuring that she could not jump free of the horse at any point. It didn't really matter how much she struggled at this point, the four guards were simply too strong for her. The rogue had been given a horse too, although his was more of a chestnut colour, and he was free to saddle up as he wished.

    "You have your orders, Mr. Hood," said Jafar, motioning Hector to open the stable doors as he spoke. "Take this girl to a land far, far away, and ensure that she never. Comes. Back. Got it?"

    "Yeah, I get it just fine," he replied grimly, looking at the bruised and battered girl in front of him. She was only just eighteen, yet she had lived a life of suffering that most would never experience if they mad it to a hundred, and now she was to be banished. Maybe it truly was best for all parties; Jafar wanted rid of this girl for some reason, and this girl could start a new life in the nunnery. It might not be ideal, but it certainly couldn't be any worse than her wretched life here at the castle.

    Jafar handed him the reigns to Cinderella's horse and then walked out into the drizzle where the crowds were waiting. "Princess, this is Mr. Hood. He will be your escort to the nunnery, but I must warn you, he's a dreadful man, a thief, and a robber, and a murderer to boot. I'd advise staying on his good side if you want to make it to St. Jerome's in one piece." Jafar turned back to the man and shrugged, "Remember what I said. There could be some good money in it if you'll reconsider!"

    The vizier then addressed the crowd once more, drumming up further support for their salvation mission as the pair slowly moved through them and towards the main road out of the city. The words fell on deaf ears as far as the rogue was concerned, he knew it was all lies, but he wanted to leave this place behind and going along with Jafar's orders seemed like the easiest way out. It wasn't long until they reached the gates to the city, where their procession was brought to a stop.

    "So here we are," proclaimed the vizier, motioning to the pair and the forest beyond the city. "These two brave souls shall travel far and endure hardships so that our beloved Princess Cinderella might find a way to cure our noble kingdom of its malaise. It will not be an easy journey, but I am confident that they will prevail, so I ask all of you to keep them in your prayers and to give them a send-off befitting of their mission!" He turned back and waved his staff to the castle, where Grimhilde stood on the balcony, with her sorceress friend beside her. "There is your queen, too wrought with emotion to be this close for her daughter's leaving. Her heart is heavy, and her eyes wet with tears, yet she still comes to wave them off. Let a mother's bravery be your inspiration and know that whilst we will all deeply miss our dear Cinderella, we also know that this is for the good of all Everbright!"

    He nodded towards the pair, giving the signal to depart. The man turned his horse to face the forest and then brought Cinderella's horse around too, before leading them straight into the darkness that lay beyond Everbright, taking the young princess outside the city walls for the first time in her life, knowing that they may both never return...
    #7 Disgruntled Goat, Oct 19, 2014
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 20, 2014
    • Love Love x 1
  8. The Princess, #85d1ed From the beginning of the crowded procession to the moment it ended, Cinderella looked a princess through it all. Judged by the straightness of her back and the willpower in her expression, she would not falter into tears or despair when the eyes of her father's people looked on in such admiration, nor would she give Grimhilde the satisfaction of knowing she had broken her. After so many years of torture and humiliation tacked with the pain of beatings and mental heartbreak, Cinderella felt there was nothing she couldn't conquer. Even a queen could fall to her mercy someday. And the princess, despite the anger and indignation that festered in her gentle heart, was able to smile on occasion at faces she recognized or praises that stirred her normally pleasant self. My promises will still stand, she thought, though no one would hear her over the sounds of such bittersweet chaos. I won't leave you behind.

    The end of the joyful procession marked the beginning of Cinderella's new journey from death to life, from shadows to the brightness of the sun, or so she had been told. She was too smart to swallow any of the lies that Jafar or Grimhilde spoon-fed her. If the princess was truly off to some nunnery in search of a Godly cure for the plague that ailed Everbright, surely she would be led by some of the strongest knights and a small host versus the questionable integrity of a single thief. This was exile in it's purest form. This was what it meant to be sentenced to death.

    As the castle grew smaller and smaller behind them and the trees in the forests grew thicker, Cinderella was uncertain whether or not she should be overjoyed or concerned. It would not be unlike her stepmother to send an assassin with her deep into the forest in attempts to murder what was left of Queen Marie. This Robin Hood looked no better than a common mercenary, a brigand and a petty thief who might enjoy the slaughter of young women for a coin's sake. With all her experience as a maid within castle walls, Cinderella had become an impeccable judge of character and while Robin Hood claimed he would not beat her into submission, the princess found that a hardly justifiable claim. I'm certain he would be paid extra to rape or beat me, so long as he had the evidence to prove it.

    There would be more than enough time to judge what he would and wouldn't do. From what Cinderella could tell, they were headed the right direction to reach St. Jerome's nunnery and plenty of other, less promising places inbetween. She looked hopelessly down to her bound hands and shackled feet, wishing her stepmother hadn't been so cruelly clever.

    "What is your name, sir?" she asked with a voice as soft and broken as one might expect. "Forgive me, but I do not wish to remain in the dark where the name of my protector is concerned."

    Or the name of my killer, for that matter.
  9. The Rogue, #005200
    "Robin," he replied curtly. "But if you're going to insist on formalities, princess, then you can call me 'Mr. Hood', I suppose. I've been called far worse things, in any case." Robin sighed, he had already managed to find a way to insult the girl and to simultaneously draw attention to their vastly different social standings. Perhaps the girl had taken his comments to heart, as she seemed to withdraw into herself, and the rogue found himself without anything to say, so he returned his attention to the forest and his mission.

    Robin was riding slightly ahead of Cinderella, although he kept turning back to make sure that she was following behind him. He wasn't all that keen on making small talk and a man from the wrong side of town had very little in common with a princess, so he didn't really know what else to say. It didn't help matters that he was on constant lookout for some kind of assassin sent by Jafar to ensure that the princess didn't reach her destination. It kept his head on a permanent swivel and any snapping of twigs was like a siren to him. They had only been riding for five minutes and he was already fighting the urge to ready his bow, but he knew that such an action would likely distress the princess. She wasn't going to be able to defend herself, and not only because she was bound, but he was more concerned that the damsel might get in his way. How could he defend himself, or the girl, if she was to panic and ride in the line of his shot?

    He could tell that the girl wouldn't intentionally get in his way, and after what he saw at the castle, he had plenty of sympathy for her, but Robin wasn't all that good with people. He was used to working alone, and he was used to a lifestyle very different to one typically found in the palace. Even when it was clear that Cinderella hadn't had the usual life of luxury that a princess knew, Robin couldn't help thinking that she wouldn't understand his particular lifestyle. This girl had never slept rough, nor had she ever had to fight for her life. Yes, she had suffered, and yes, she had been beaten, but had she ever made anyone else suffer? Had she ever caused the death of another? Had she ever deserved to suffer?

    He had. He had let down people that were counting on him, and they had suffered because of his actions. Even now, one person still suffered because of him, and that was why he had to deliver the princess unto the nuns of St. Jerome's. It was all that he could do.

    Looking back to check that the girl was still following, he could see that she was far from comfortable. Whilst he didn't care for small talk, or even for company, it was clear that this girl was in need of some kind of support and right now, he was the only person that could offer any. He wanted to say something nice, but what was there to say? He couldn't just compliment the girl, especially when she looked like hell up close, and he couldn't make small talk with someone from such a different world.

    Instead, he settled for something more practical.

    "Have you even ridden a horse before?" he asked, slowing his own horse down a little and moving alongside the girl, whilst still holding both sets of reigns. "You don't look entirely comfortable on there, princess, and I'm not just talking about the bindings," he added, indicating towards her hands. "If you've not ridden before then this journey's probably going to take a lot longer than just a month..."
    #9 Disgruntled Goat, Oct 20, 2014
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 20, 2014
  10. The Princess, #85d1ed "Robin," she repeated, just to clarify with both him and herself. "It is a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Hood. I will keep your name in memory."

    As they trudged through the forest, deeper and deeper into the thickness of tree and brush alike, Cinderella found herself thankful for the beautiful day. Despite the events and broken promises the morning had suffered, the temperature had been warm and there was hardly a cloud hanging in sapphire skies. Droplets of sun fell through peeks in the forest canopy, through leaves of emerald and pine clinging to branches with the fresh introduction of spring. Cinderella would have yearned to bathe in such delights were her bonds cut and her circumstances different, but alas it was not to be. She looked longingly to the picturesque nature all around her, finally seeing bits and pieces of the world that she had only read about in books, and while the nunnery would be a long enough journey without constant stops Cinderella had such a desire to see the world before her everlasting confinement began.

    To answer his question, the princess couldn't help a smile. "I've been riding a horse since I could walk," she told him plainly. "My father taught me. I love riding, and horses. It's one of my favorite things to do, or was before the privilege was taken from me." Cinderella chuckled. "I wonder if my stepmother knows how much joy it has brought me to ride again."

    The princess remembered fondly when the king had first put her atop a small pony. "Don't be afraid, little one," he would tell her in a voice that left her warm. "The horse will lead you. Don't be shy." Naturally, her first few times in the saddle had led in utter disaster when the pony refused to move at her command and the princess had slipped off entirely, falling to the dirt all smiles and laughter. She and the king had found it encouraging. Grimhilde had looked away in disgust.

    "I have no problems in the saddle," she said again, "but will it really take a month to reach the nunnery? I thought perhaps if we crossed through Prospyr and over the Red River we could take a shortcut, but I'm not certain if that would be an equal amount of time or if it might save us a day's travel..."
  11. The Rogue, #005200 It had been quite a while since Robin had last seen the sun. A part of Everbright's curse was a constant darkness and permanent drizzle. It was rarely a storm, but it never lifted, and it meant that it was almost impossible to grow any crops within the city limits. It also meant that animals couldn't properly graze, as the grass just didn't grow, and constant darkness made it difficult to get any work done, owing to the difficulties of working by candle light. People had been leaving Everbright constantly, and it seemed more and more likely that the once-sparkling city of love was going to wither and die like a plant left out in the winter's cold. Having spent the last two months in the dungeons, Robin had not been outside for quite some time, but now, riding through the forest and feeling the sun on his skin, he felt better than he had done in a very long time.

    The permanent darkness made Everbright feel quite oppressive, whilst its boarded-up houses and shops added to the air of decay that loomed over it. When the remaining people had come out to see their princess, as she set off to find a cure, there was no sense of hyperbole. These people were desperate, and they were in need of some hope as much as they needed the cure. This journey might just get some of them thinking positively for the first time in over a decade, but Robin knew first-hand how much of a problem hope could be; in many cases it was crueler and more painful than despair. A person could only cling to hope for so long without reward, before they turned bitter and miserable. Some of Everbright's people felt that way, and it was only a matter of time before the rest followed suit. If the princess was away for too long without any sign of a cure, then the people may well come to resent her, as they had resented every other "saviour" that had come before.

    Nevertheless, the sun was warm and pleasant, and as it filtered through the leaves, it filled Robin with a sense of tremendous peace. When the princess spoke, however, to suggest a route, he find himself unable to stifle a laugh. "That's a nice idea of yours princess, but no-one takes that route any more," he said, slowing his horse down to walk alongside the girl again. "You're about twenty years behind the times, but the Red River was poisoned by an evil witch and since then, it's been poisonous to all forms of life. The earth around it is barren, there are no plants or fish, and if you were to drink from it you wouldn't make it through the night. Even being splashed by it is said to burn like the fires of hell. It's not just living things, either, that water can melt steel, so the twin bridges that once allowed people to cross it were destroyed and there isn't anyone foolish enough to try building another."

    "Still," said Robin, seeing the dejected look on the girl's face, "We could head to Prospyr if you'd like. I guess you must have been there before, but it's a nice place. Lots of tall, white buildings that gleam in the sunlight, and plenty of gardens, too. Plus a whole load of fountains, for some reason, I guess someone there thinks they look nice. It's not a cheap place, and it's going to take us off course for a few days, but I guess when we've got at least month of travel ahead of us, then a day or two won't make much difference." He looked to the girl's knee, where it had been struck with Jafar's staff and saw that she was still holding it a little awkwardly. "Maybe we should go to Prospyr. It might be good for you to rest up for a day or two, and we can get some proper food. I don't imagine you've spent much time out on the road, but when you're sleeping under the stars, you don't tend to eat so well. Hunting's not that easy, and most of the forest creatures don't have a lot of meat on them. I hope you like nuts and berries, princess, because that's what you'll be eating for the next few weeks."

    "Even if you like them, it's going to take a few days for your body to get used to that sort of diet, so just sing out if you're struggling." He brought both horses to a stop and then edged closer, his leg brushing against the girl's. Locking eyes with her, Robin leaned forwards and began to unfasten the bindings around her hands. "I'm used to this sort of lifestyle, so I don't even think about much of it. I'm not expecting you to be able to keep up with me, so don't force yourself, or you'll just end up with exhaustion or some kind of an illness." As he finished untying her hands from the horse, Robin looked down at her bruised forearms, "It isn't a sign of weakness to stop for a rest every now and then."

    Robin then gave what he hoped was a warm smile, before passing the girl the reigns to her own horse. "Here, take these," he said. "There are paths and signposts in this forest, and it's a good idea to stick to them. There are less trees overhead, making it safer and brighter than just running off into the trees. We'll keep heading along this path until we start seeing signs for Prospyr, then we'll follow the route south. We won't make it there in a day, though, so we'll need to find somewhere to camp for tonight, but we should get to Prospyr by midday tomorrow, so long as everything goes according to plan."
  12. The Princess, #85d1ed He certainly likes to talk. Cinderella chuckled softly to herself as she listened to all he had to say, words of wisdom and encouragement laced with those of warning. She had the wits about her to listen to them all and log them to memory. While there were many dangers of traveling with a rogue such as Robin Hood, a man who must surely be notorious if Jafar himself hired him, he seemed little more than a simple man who found himself in wrong places and terribly wrong times. Or at least, that was what she wanted to believe. Cinderella could read people's actions and see into their spirits as if people were books, yet despite such rare talent she often denied what was discovered in certain people. As naive as it was, the princess was convinced that there was good to be found in every living soul, every living thing, and while she had a difficult time believing Robin Hood a dangerous criminal she could appreciate his kindness all the same.

    At his comment about the Red River, Cinderella frowned. "Oh? That's a terrible misfortune. I hope no one perished along those banks." She remembered traveling there as a child, crossing the Red River and commenting on how it hadn't looked red at all. She supposed that now, things were as different there as they were in Everbright--just as dark, just as worrisome and just as deadly.

    "I think that Prospyr would be a good stop as well. A friend of mine from childhood lives there. I haven't spoken with her in years of course, ever since Grimhilde took over my kingdom, but I think if we were reunited she might remember my face. Perhaps I could ask her for some extra food and a few nights hospitality before we continue on our way to St. Jerome's. I should like to see the chapel in their castle as well, it's absolutely beautiful if my memory serves, and I would like to spend some time in prayer. If that's alright with you, of course. I would hate to slow you down. I'm sure the payment you are to receive for this act of service is much awaited for."

    Softly, she thanked him as he untied her bonds. Cinderella wasn't oblivious to how rough his hands were, how calloused, and also noticed the marks of previous bondage around his wrists that told stories of long sentences in captivity. She had no intention of offending him however, and while the concern was written plainly on her face she knew better than to directly ask for the story behind his scars. I'm sure the two of us could spend days trading horror stories over where we have been marked.
  13. The Rogue, #005200 Robin couldn't help but feel somewhat stung by this girl's words. She didn't know him, but she saw fit to judge him and was judging him entirely upon his current mission. She knew that he was escorting her to the nunnery, and that he was doing so under Jafar's orders, but she didn't know what the payment was. She didn't know how much it meant to Robin, and even thought she was a princess, who had lived a very different life to his own, he was sure that she would appreciate just how important the payment was to a man with nothing. Robin considered telling her, so that she understand he wasn't just a mercenary that had taken this job for fifty pieces of silver, but at the same time, she clearly didn't trust him, so he wasn't going to extend the same courtesy to her. Robin felt a pang of disappointment, for it was clear that this girl had not led a happy life, and he thought that perhaps she might be a little more willing to understand him, but she clearly saw fit to judge him, just like every other person in Everbright. She may not have been treated like a princess, but she was just as content to look down on him as any of the other members of the royal court did. He was a thief, and a vagabond; to them, he was as lowly as the worms that lived in the dirt. Maybe even lower.

    Robin knew nothing about what Cinderella had been through, and it was clear that she had suffered too, but at least he'd made a peace offering. He had untied her hands. He didn't have to, it wouldn't change much of anything, and it would make it clear that she was under his control, but he had untied her as an act of goodwill, to make it clear that he wasn't going to treat her like Jafar did. He reminded himself that it probably wasn't anything personal and that this girl had just been raised in a different world to him. She had no idea what he had been through, and she hadn't asked. Perhaps she didn't want to know, but the revelation that she had a friend in Prospyr wasn't really the news that Robin wanted. If it was a friend from her childhood, then it was almost certainly another prince or princess, or at least the child of a wealthy family, all of which meant that there would be more people around to judge him. Whatever Cinderella had been subjected to at the castle, she had been cleaned up this morning and given fresh clothing, whilst Robin had the same clothes and bow he had carried all of his adult life. They would look at him, and, much like Cinderella had done, they would look down on him, too.

    At the same time, he had just given this girl her freedom and she hadn't tried to run off. Yes, there was still plenty of time for her to do that, but it meant that for now she either felt comfortable enough with him, or she was too weak to survive on her own. She may think differently after a few days resting in Prospyr, and it was possible that she was leading Robin into a trap where her "friends" would capture him... or worse. Perhaps he would have to trust this girl. She did seem to trust him, at least enough not to run away immediately.

    "We can spend a few days in Prospyr, sure," he replied, before moving his horse away from hers. "If you can regain some of your health and strength, we'll be able to ride for longer each day afterwards, so we could probably make up some of the time you spend resting anyway."

    Robin then brought his horse around to the front and scanned the bushes and trees around him for any would-be attackers. It was all clear, something that only put his mind at ease temporarily. There was still one question on his mind, and it was far from comfortable so he elected not to ask it right now, and instead they rode on in silence.
  14. The Princess, #85d1ed Cinderella could sense his discomfort in the words he spoke, in the downcast expression on his face. She had wounded him. In her attempt to be genuine and kind he had misunderstood her sweet nature and taken her words the wrong way. In any case, he had his misunderstanding and she had the sudden wave of shame that was left when mistakes were made. It wouldn't matter if she clarified, either; Robin had already taken what he thought he'd heard to heart, no words from a princess would change his mind. She found herself frowning despite the feel of sunlight on her face, playing with the gold of her long curls, and she cast her eyes out to the trees to try and forget his disappointment.

    "Thank you for cutting my bonds," she told him softly, offering a smile that perhaps he couldn't see. She had been used to small acts of kindness before that kept her faith in a better Everbright. There was an old man, a servant that would bring her books and maps and in turn for his kindness, she would teach him all she knew. But that had been a long time ago. Cinderella would never forget what had happened to him.

    "Prospyr is a nice place. You might like it there, if you've never been." Cinderella cleared her throat and looked back towards Robin Hood, noticing that he was distracted. "There are large buildings with impeccable architecture, the people are kind and genuine..." She sighed, reveling in the positive memories of her one and only visit to Prospyr so many years ago. So many things could have changed and she briefly wondered if today's Prospyr was the same she held in such fond memory. She hoped it wouldn't end up like the Red River.

    "And there's this little tavern," she continued with a small chuckle, "right at the edge of town. Filled with brigands and bandits, but they're the nicest people I've ever met. They said they'd met a princess before, a blonde girl with hair longer than me, so they offered me free food and sang for me. Isn't that bizarre?"

    Cinderella looked down to her hands and fumbled with them a moment, thinking about all that Prospyr was, all the Everbright was, and suddenly she felt a powerful sense of dread.
  15. The Rogue, #005200 Robin hadn't reacted when the princess thanked him for freeing her. She seemed to say it in a quiet tone, as if she thought that she could tell that he was offended, and she thought it was because she hadn't thanked him. It was said softly and meekly, as if it really was an apology, but Robin wasn't so bothered by it. He hadn't really expected much thanks from her, but he was still smarting over her comments about his payment. She had no idea what he would be paid, or how much it meant to him and to his life. He wasn't about to blurt it out and tell her, either, so she could continue to be ignorant and judgmental if she wanted to be.

    Then, breaking the silence, the girl began telling Robin about Prospyr. The rogue had been there several times, although he hadn't visited the city in almost two years, having spent much of that time locked up in the castle dungeons instead. He had told her this, but it was becoming increasingly clear that even if Jafar hadn't treated this girl too well, she was still a rich little princess, and so she had no need to pay attention to what the common thief was saying. After all, he was just a mercenary that was doing this job for a few silver coins, what could someone so mercurial really have to say? Robin felt himself tensing up as he ground his teeth, angering himself with his own thoughts as he puts words into Cinderella's mouth without giving her a chance to speak. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath, letting it calm him down.

    Rather than snap at the girl, and point out that he had only just finished telling her about the white city, Robin simply shrugged his shoulders, "Yeah, I hear that Prospyr's a nice place to stay if you've got a bit of money." He nudged his horse forwards, moving past the girl and taking the lead once more. "I've been through Prospyr a few times, and had the odd job to take care of in the city, but I've only ever stared there once before, and that was almost ten years ago now." He sighed and thought back to the four other people that had been with him then, three of them had since been executed, and the fourth... well. He was told that she was alive, but he had no proof of it.

    He quickly shook such thoughts from his mind, "Anyway, I've never come across this singing tavern of yours. It's not really my idea of a good time, but if you remember where it was then we can try to find it again."

    Robin went suddenly quiet, and pulled his horse up, stopping it immediately. He waved for Cinderella to do the same and held his finger to his lip. He thought he had heard the sound of footsteps and the cracking of a twig, meaning that they had some company. The forest was fairly still, and as they moved deeper into it, the birds sung less, so an unusual noise was all the more obvious here. He slowly reached for his bow and then pulled an arrow from his quiver, readying it in case he needed to take a shot. They had been traveling for about two hours, he surmised, so maybe Jafar felt that they were far enough from Everbright to be murdered without anyone thinking it too suspicious. After all, people were always discouraged from entering the forests because of how many bandits operated inside of them. The princess would just be yet another person that found herself in the wrong place at the wrong time.

    Another twig snapped, from the same direction as the first. There was definitely someone, or something up ahead, and it was moving towards them. If it was Jafar's men then they had been lying in ambush all this time, but if it was ordinary forest bandits then they were probably in just as much trouble anyway. He looked back, the princess had no weapon, and she wasn't in any fit state to fight right now, so it was all up to him.

    "Who goes there?" he shouted, feeling a rush of blood and knowing that he would have to try to scare off this unseen enemy instead. "What do you want? We are armed, so I would think carefully about your next step, because I don't miss very often..."
  16. The Princess, #85d1ed Cinderella kept her integrity close and her wits even closer. She gripped the reins of the horse and did exactly as Robin instructed, staying behind him at a point that allowed him to protect her and also keep an eye on her to the best of his ability. Cinderella had no doubt that he was exceptionally skilled with the bow he drew--the way his shoulders were shaped and the steadiness in his arms told her that he had been with the art of archery for many, many years, and it eased her mind to know that her protection wasn't one of Grimhilde's lies. At least, not that she was aware of. As much as the thought made her shudder with the pains of betrayal, a feeling she wasn't exactly foreign to, Cinderella steeled herself for Robin to turn the arrow onto her and end what he had started.

    At least I know his aim will be true.

    However, when she began to entertain all the gruesome possibilities of what could possibly come of the next few seconds, none of them prepared her for the truth. Instead of an ominous presence emerging from the source of speculation, the cracking branches just ahead of where Robin had parked his horse, a creature as vile and disgusting as any could imagine leapt out from the brush just beside the princess, causing her to scream and fall to the ground. The being, green of skin with eyes as yellow as a plague was clearly one of Maleficent's henchmen, as far as Cinderella could remember. Three more emerged from the bushes and attacked Robin, but her field of vision was blocked by a blow to the head and a sharp pain in her shoulder.

    Thankfully for anyone, especially a princess with no means to defend herself, Maleficent's goons had always been clumsy and stupid. It took a single kick in the right spot from Cinderella to her attacker to thwart the goblin from her presence momentarily, leaving him in a shocked stupor. She took the opportunity and scrambled to her feet and regained her bearings, breaking off a branch from a nearby tree to use as a weapon if necessary.

    Cinderella was certain that she looked pathetic with nothing but a blunt stick of wood and a criminal to protect her. There were so many things that were wrong about this scenario that it didn't take long for her to put the piece together, calibrating exactly what was wrong with everything she was seeing. There were only four goons. There had to be more, these creatures had always traveled in packs of twenty at the very least, but where were the others? Were they hiding, or had Maleficent only meant to spook the duo on their journey to wherever lie ahead? Was this tied with the reasoning for sending a single man, a thug as her only protection as well? For a more believable and easy assassination? Or, once again, was there more that met the eye when it came to Robin Hood? Cinderella swung the stick and whacked the nearest goblin in the head, pondering her questions all while keeping her survival at the utmost importance. If I can keep this thing off of me for long enough, Robin will slaughter the three goons attacking him and come to save me.

    At least, she hoped that was what came to pass.
  17. The Rogue, #005200
    Robin wasn't entirely prepared for his mysterious assailants to be quite so small and as a result, he had been aiming his bow at head height for the average human... these green monsters were a good two feet shorter than that, and they were able to emerge from the surrounding bushes before he could react. The three creatures were as grotesque as anything that Robin had ever encountered before, but they weren't wearing much in the way of armour, which meant that they should die just as easily as any other creature he had come across before. He did, however, remember hearing tales of such vile monsters in his childhood, but he had assumed that these creatures only existed in fiction and not in reality.

    He heard a yelp and a thud, and turned to see that Cinderella had either fallen or been thrown from her horse, and there was now a fourth creature to contend with. She would have to fend for herself just now, as Robin had enough on his hands already, and he wouldn't be able to save her if he died first. His horse was clearly unnerved by their green attackers and it kept trying to bolt, making it a struggle for Robin to keep it under control. Knowing the urgency of the situation, he took his feet from each stirrup and swung his leg over, dropping to the floor. He gave the horse a firm slap on its rear, causing it to whinny and charge forwards, splitting up the goblins as they jumped out of its way. Two goblins jumped to the left, but one made the mistake of jumping to the right, and directly in front of Robin. With the tiniest twitch of his finger, Robin let go of the taut string and buried an arrow deep into the monster's skull from point blank range. It bled green, something that the rogue found altogether disturbing, but he still had two more to contend with.

    Both of them were carrying small knives and were stood about ten feet away. Robin deftly pulled another arrow from his quiver, prompting the pair of goblins to lunge forwards, allowing him the easy task of side-stepping their clumsy attacks and then loosing another shaft into the back of the smaller goblin's neck. They both crashed to the ground, but that one didn't get up. Robin slung his bow back over his shoulder and grabbed one of the fallen goblin's knives, which was more like a dagger in the hands of the six-foot-one human, but he held it ready all the same and prepared for a fight.

    With two goblins left, Robin had chance to look to where Cinderella was, and saw her clutching a tree branch, swatting it towards a burly-looking goblin with slightly darker skin. He could tell that the girl was hurt, but she seemed to be moving well enough that it couldn't have been too bad, and it was probably as a result of her falling from her horse. Speaking of which, where was her horse? Robin sighed, in the midst of all the chaos, both of their horses had bolted into the forest and left the pair of them behind. If they were lucky, the horses would be found by other humans and taken back into domestic life, but if they were unlucky then they would wind up food for a much larger and much more aggressive animal.

    The other goblin was back on his feet now, and he seemed rather dazed by the experience. Rather than fight Robin, however, it turned and charged towards Cinderella, making the most of the girl being distracted and launching a sneak attack. Robin didn't have time to reach for his bow now, so all he could do was hurl the goblin knife and hope for the best. Resisting the urge to close his eyes, Robin watched his effort as the knife sailed throw the air and struck the hurtling goblin's thigh, knocking it off course and sending it crashing to the ground ahead of the princess. In all the commotion, the darker goblin turned and sneered at the rogue, before shouting something unintelligible and running off into the forest.

    Robin ran forwards, towards Cinderella, to see how badly she was hurt when he heard groaning from a few feet away. It was the one remaining goblin, and, with a smile on his face, Robin strode towards it, picked up its own knife that had been dropped, and then plunged the blade straight down into the goblin's green heart. As he watched the last traces of life flicker and fade away from the goblin's face, Robin found himself smiling, there was a sense of satisfaction that only came from hand-to-hand fighting, something that his bow mastery didn't really allow for. Once the goblin stopped twitching, Robin stood up and turned back to the princess, a natural smile on his face for the first time since he had met the girl, and the smile said only one thing... He had enjoyed that.

    "Are you hurt?" he asked, shaking the smile and approaching the girl, should she need someone to support her. He glanced around, they were alone for now, but unfortunately, that meant that they didn't have their horses for company any more, either. He sighed, this journey just got a whole lot longer, and they hadn't even managed one full day of traveling yet...
  18. The Princess, #85d1ed Cinderella was absolutely stunned into a series of short breaths and panicked grasps for a sense of reality. She had seen abuse and fallen victim to beatings, to verbal harm and mental manipulation, but she had never seen bloodshed for a second in her young life. Perhaps the blow to her conscience was made easier considering that the death before her eyes belonged to those of goblins and monsters rather than real people, but nonetheless Cinderella was not stopped from reaching for Robin and holding on to his arms in search of grounding. She came to a sudden and grim realization that though this assault had only been commanded by Maleficent and less-than-human beasts, there would no doubt come a time when killing God-created people would play into their journey.

    "B-Blood," she stuttered a moment before realizing who she was talking to. Cinderella had no desire to appear weak before the mercy of Robin Hood, a man who was no doubt accustomed to battle and things such as these if his smile was anything to go by, but her initial reaction couldn't be helped. She placed her hand atop the tender area of her head where she had been struck and almost instantly recoiled from the pain, when she looked at her fingers, they had come away covered in blood.

    "My--my head. And my shoulder." The princess tried to move her left arm and inhaled sharply from the sensation that seemed to rip through her muscles. As far as she could tell, the fall from the horse had cracked a bone or at the very least caused deep bruises to spawn, not to mention the gash in her head. Luckily for her, it wasn't anything too terrible as she didn't feel light-headed or dizzy. Just pained, so very pained.

    Cinderella sniffled and tried to steady the trembling in her hands. "And what--what, what about you? Are you hurt, Sir Robin? I hope those ugly things didn't...uhm, didn't hurt you." He didn't seem wounded that she could see, but men like him were no doubt experts at hiding their afflictions. She let go of him and looked up to the tree beside her, using it to assist with the process of standing as she had fallen over at some point that she couldn't remember during the fight. When she was safely on her feet, Cinderella looked to find the horses in search of getting a small bite to eat or something to drink to settle her stomach, but there was nothing. The horses were gone along with all of the things she had packed for the journey.

    "The horses...we have to find them," she stuttered, a bit wobbly from the shock of it all. "They couldn't have gotten far, right? If we call them perhaps they'll come back..."
  19. The Rogue, #005200 An unintentional smirk flickered across Robin's lips.

    "And what--what, what about you? Are you hurt, Sir Robin? I hope those ugly things didn't...uhm, didn't hurt you."

    "Sir Robin," he repeated, before shaking his head. "I've been called a lot of things, but never that before. Not sincerely, at any rate. That fall must have shaken you up more than I realised." He dusted down his jacket, not that he had been rolling around in the dirty at any point, but his horse had kicked up a cloud of the stuff and it clung to the hide, so he had to pat it down. "I'm fine; those green things were hardly trained fighters and I've been in far worse situations," he said, before picking up one of the dropped Goblin knives and scrutinising it. "I'm not sure what they were, but they were far from organised. It might have been some kind of a scouting party, or maybe someone just sent them to give us a bit of a scare. The fat one seemed to be running back to something... or someone..."

    Robin held the knife up and shrugged, before approaching the corpse of the goblin he had shot in the back. It was by far the cleanest of the corpses, and, sure enough, there was a holster on its belt for the knife. He positioned himself so that his back was blocking the princess from seeing what he was doing, before he unfastened the goblin's belt. Robin tucked the knife back into the holster and, with the difference in size, he elected to tie the goblin's belt around his right thigh, keeping the knife at a convenient height, should he need to use it again.

    He stood up and turned back to face the girl, hearing her ask if they could call to their horses. "Do you know the name of either of our horses?" he asked, folding his arms. "Because I sure don't. They're not really our horses, and in this forest we would just draw more attention to ourselves by calling to them. We might get lucky and find them in a clearing, or near to a river, but I think we're just going to have to head for Prospyr on foot." He shook his head, almost apologetically, and then unfolded his arms, "Perhaps your friend could lend us a pair of horses? I assume she's pretty wealthy if she's the friend of a princess...?"

    The rogue left the question hanging and then stepped towards Cinderella, seeing the way that she was shaking. "Here," he said, trying to sound a little gentler, by speaking in a slightly hushed tone. "Let me take a look at your forehead."

    Stood close enough now that he could smell the faint floral scent of this girl's perfume, Robin felt a slight pang of reluctance to touch the girl's delicate skin with his hands. Despite having wiped them on his coat, he knew that they were far from clean enough to touch a princess, but a head injury was a head injury, and that meant it was serious enough that he wasn't carrying on until he'd taken a look at the girl. Brushing her straw-coloured hair aside, he could see that the cut wasn't all that big or all that deep, and it looked rather clean. Perhaps this girl was just more delicate, and maybe she bled more easily, he couldn't be sure. "Your head looks fine to me," he said, stepping back from her, "You'll probably have the worst headache of your life, and it's going to be sore to the touch, but it's nothing to worry about. If we come across a river, then I'd suggest washing the dried blood away, but it looks quite clean. As for your shoulder..." Robin sighed. "If it was broken, you'd know about it and you would probably have passed out by now. It's either a fracture or a bruise, but we need to get a real doctor to look at it. I, uh," he paused, before running one hand back through his long dark hair and looking away from the girl. "I'm really just a guy that's been in a few too many bar fights. I learned what little medicine I know the hard way."

    He looked down at the goblins and shook his head. "Sorry princess, but needs must," he said, before kneeling down and removing the leather jerkins from the three dead goblins. None of them were too bloody, and he tried to wipe them as best as he could on the grass. He then took his newly-acquired knife, which was already proving its worth, and cut the material into strips, before tying them all together into one long piece. "You've got to support your arm, or you'll end up making your shoulder worse, and this is all we've got for a sling..." he said, holding up the leather chain. He lifted it over the girl's head and let it rest around her neck, before tying the other end together under her wrist. "It's rough, and maybe we can wash it off in the river, too, but it's the best I can do for you right now." Her face looked much as it had done since he met her; pained, miserable and frightened, so all Robin could do was apologise. "I'm sorry."

    The pair were then disturbed by the sound of another twig cracking, and Robin gripped his knife firmly as he turned in the direction of the noise...

    The Gypsy, #FF7519 "Oh, hello dearies, don't mind me, don't mind me!"

    A wizened old woman, of less than five feet in stature, emerged from the forest opposite them, with a basket strapped to her back and a gnarled stick in her hand. She had a dark skin tone, with equally dark eyes, and a variety of facial piercings, whilst she was dressed in brightly coloured silks and cottons, with lots of bracelets on her wrist. She seemed utterly oblivious to the chaos that had gone on moments earlier and simply smiled at Robin as she walked nearer. "I'm just looking for mushrooms," she explained, waving towards the basket on her back, "I won't get in your way. They're good for you, mushrooms, but you have to make sure that you eat. the. right. ones!" she emphasised each word with a finger wag aimed towards Robin as he simply shrugged and shook his head.

    She then looked past him and saw the girl. "Oh, my dear! You're bleeding! Oh, what has happened here? Is this man to blame?"

    Robin turned to glare at the woman. "Actually, I'm the reason why she's only got a small cut on her forehead and not something much worse!" He still had hold of the knife, but made sure to keep it by his side, so as not to threaten the old woman with it. "There aren't any mushrooms here, so why don't you just go on your way, and allow us to go on ours?"

    "No, no," she said, batting her stick towards Robin. "Let me look at this girl! She could die without the proper medical attention, and I certainly don't believe that you're a doctor!"

    The little gypsy woman pushed Robin aside and moved closer to the girl, having to stretch up to peer at her forehead, before grabbing at a handful of the girl's hair and tugging her down instead. Robin winced, wondering if she might have hurt Cinderella's shoulder, but the old lady thought nothing of it and examined the head wound. "It's just a scratch. You'll live!" she proclaimed cheerfully. "You do look awfully familiar, child, have we met somewhere before perhaps?" the woman asked, wrinkling up her already-wrinkled face in deep thought.

    "Why don't the pair of you come back to my hut? It isn't far, and I can clean up the young lady's head and give you both a hearty bowl of mushroom soup!" The gypsy prodded at Cinderella's stomach, and turned towards Robin, "This girl's all skin and bones, you've barely been feeding her at all! What kind of a man are you if you can't feed your woman?"

    Robin shook his head and stepped forwards, forcing himself between Cinderella and the old gypsy. The rogue turned to Cinderella and leaned in close, whispering into her ear, "I don't trust this one. I think it could be another of you-know-who's tricks."

    He then turned back around and shook his head. "Look, I'm sure your mushroom soup is wonderful, but we've got a long journey ahead of us, and we've just lost our horses. We don't have time to waste on soup!"

    "No, dear boy, that's the perfect time to waste on soup! You've had a bad day, and you're getting nowhere fast, so why don't you come back to my humble little hut and let me give you a good meal? You'll travel a lot faster on a full stomach, I promise you!" The gypsy smiled, showing off even more wrinkles than before. "Come now, won't you give a little old lady some company? I won't keep you, but I could spare you a bed for the night if you wanted to stay..."

    With a loud sigh, Robin shrugged his shoulders and looked to the princess for an answer.
    • Love Love x 1
  20. The Princess, #85d1ed Perhaps it was the events that had only occurred moments ago that had shocked her into the decision, or the years of experience that had made her appreciate little acts of kindness and weed out those which were made to be traps. Cinderella was a pretty little fool who had the vulnerabilities of kindness and purity unlike any that her kingdom had ever seen, but she also had intelligence and a good amount of wits about her to know when she was being played and tricked. It was easy to mislead a lovely girl such as her into thinking good things about bad people, as Cinderella was someone who always strove to find the goodness in everyone she met, but there was also a great deal that she had learned from such mistakes as well. She had trusted Grimhilde once, even liked her. The princess had learned long ago not to make mistakes like that again.

    However, she was not unkind. She knew how to refuse an offer and remain polite and gentle simultaneously. Cinderella smiled as brightly as she could given the circumstances and took the old woman's crinkled hands in hers, squeezing lightly.

    "You are most kind, sweet lady, but I fear that we do not have the time to stop for mushroom soup and warm beds. I am on a mission of utmost importance and must reach my destination as soon as possible, but your willingness to help us warms my heart. That alone is worth more than any soup or mattress can give me."

    Despite her words, Cinderella sensed a trap. For someone who had been so close to their location, this woman remained suspiciously oblivious to the attack that her and Robin had just suffered. Surely she would have heard something even if her hearing had declined over the years, or seen the horses, or the goblins at least? Cinderella kept that in mind as she let the woman's hands go.

    What is she doing out here alone?

    "I wish you luck on finding mushrooms, though." The princess hugged herself in an attempt to keep calm and warm. "Those nasty creatures we encountered could have polluted them somehow or poisoned them, they're nasty little things. Make sure to wash them before you eat or cook them." Cinderella gave a little wave to the woman in friendly goodbye, turning towards the road ahead of them and sighing with deep sense of dread filling her heart. She didn't avoid giving Robin a little glance of thanks with sadness at its core before moving on, content to put as many steps between herself and Everbright and the scene of their attack as possible.
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