Rowena shuddered at the sound of the lock grinding as Vincent turned the key, opening the door with a groan and letting a gale force wind come sweeping inside. The Princess gasped as she breathed in fresh air for the first time in what felt like forever.
‘Are you coming?’ Vincent asked, tentatively holding out his hand towards the Princess. She looked at it for a second, the smooth palm facing upwards at her, the purply blue veins standing out on his wrist, very noticeable because of his white skin. Then she stretched out her arm and took it. A wave of shock coursed through Vincent’s body as their skin met. The intimacy of touching flesh with a real princess in this manner had a effect on him he hadn’t expected. Shaking his head to clear it of the haze that had begun to form in his mind, Vincent smiled. ‘Let’s go then.’ And they ran out into the rain.
A feeling of exhilaration flooded through Rowena’s body as she felt the rain splashing up her legs and the coldness of the air on her skin. Her pace slowed and she turned her face to the sky, enjoying the feeling of the raindrops landing on her face and running over her skin in cold rivers. Everything seemed so much more intense and beautiful, even in the rain. The grass appeared greener, the trees taller and the air fresher.
‘Come on,’ Vincent insisted, pulling at her arm, trying to get her to move towards the stone house that stood about fifty metres away. ‘I need to get you to mother. She’s not in a good mood today.’
Reluctantly, Rowena allowed herself to be dragged over to the house where her captor lived. It wasn’t anything like what she had been expecting. She would have thought the house of an evil fairy would have been a little more, well intimidating. Instead it was furnished very much like a small cottage, with a solid wooden table and an Aga in the corner of the kitchen. The living room where Vincent led Rowena into was very cozy looking, a roaring fire in the fireplace, comfy chairs placed around it and rows upon rows of books lining the walls. Rowena automatically took a seat in one of the biggest chairs, leaning back to admire the room. She had nothing like this at home. All the rooms in the palace were big and drafty; the furniture was built for elegance rather than comfort and didn’t feel much like a home.
‘Don’t sit there,’ Vincent exclaimed, pulling Rowena out of the chair as quickly as he could, being a little rough in the process. ‘That’s Mum’s chair. She would have had your head and mine if she’d found you sitting there.’ Suddenly, the house felt a little less safe and Rowena could feel the nerves coming back, making her shoulders tense and her senses on high alert.
‘Where should I sit then?’ She looked around the room, trying to work out where the best place to sit would be so she wouldn’t get killed.
‘I think the best thing to do would be to stay standing,’ Vincent recommended. ‘That way you can’t sit in the wrong place and get in trouble for it.’ Rowena nodded, taking in these unspoken rules in case she had to visit again, without Vincent. They stood in silence for a few minutes, Rowena still feeling slightly uncomfortable, before Vincent’s mother entered the room.
She was a very imposing woman, standing far taller than Rowena’s five foot seven, and even that was considered tall. She had the same sharp features as Vincent and the same dark eyes, but instead of appearing rat-like, she looked hauntingly beautiful. Her hazel brown hair almost appeared to surround her head like a halo, floating out behind her as she moved gracefully across the room and sat in the chair Rowena had been occupying.
‘Good afternoon your highness,’ Narcissa Malheur said with a large dose of venom in her voice. ‘I trust you’re having a pleasant stay with us.’ She laughed maliciously as Rowena struggled to find something to say back to her. ‘Well I’ve not called you over here for pleasantries. I might trust my son to restrain himself from helping you escape, but I can’t say I have full confidence in his abilities to catch you if you were able to escape.’
‘So what is so important that you took that risk?’
‘Your father. I have been expecting some sort of action from him to save you, but so far I have heard nothing. No letters begging for the release of his heir, no money offered, nothing.’
'How does that concern me?’ Rowena asked, unsure if she liked the way this conversation was going. Was this a trick to make her feel weaker and unloved? Or was Narcissa expecting a large sum of ransom money?
‘I know your father has sent you letters.’ She laughed again as a look of shock and surprise lit up the Princess’s face. ‘You thought I didn’t know that? I see everything that goes in and out of that tower.’
‘So why haven’t you read my letters yourself?’ Rowena challenged, trying to appear strong and confident, when inside she wanted to run away. ‘You’d get the same information out of them as you would from me.’ At this the fairy’s muscles tensed and her face clouded over.
‘Unfortunately, although your father may be poor at decision-making, he’s not stupid. There is a powerful spell on every letter meaning the only person who may open the envelope is you.’ This warmed Rowena’s heart. Even though this woman had the power to keep her locked away, trapped inside a stone prison, she couldn’t get inside something as simple as a letter. ‘So you are the only person who knows what the King has written. Now I would ask nicely,’ she said rising from her chair and advancing on Rowena, ‘but I don’t think that would be very effective. So I’ll just move straight on the my more… persuasive methods.’ Narcissa’s eyes flashed bright red and Rowena was on her knees in the middle of the floor, her face screwed up in pain. Vincent flinched as the Princess fell, but managed to control himself, stopping him from leaping forward to help her. ‘Now, tell me what your father has said in his letters.’
‘I’m sure it’s nothing that would interest you,’ Rowena said through gritted teeth. Narcissa cranked up the pressure and Rowena cried out sharply, screwing up her face to stop the sound coming out of her mouth.
‘Let me decide what is interesting. Now tell me what he has written.’
‘Nothing important.’ Rowena winced again. ‘Just news about what’s happening at home, how his new Queen is getting on, telling me who is throwing what parties and things like that.’
‘I don’t believe you,’ Narcissa knelt down so her face was leaning over Rowena’s shoulder, her breath brushing against the Princess’s cheek. ‘I’ll tell you why. Men aren’t interested in things like that. They don’t even register it in their tiny little brains.’
‘Yes, but he knows that it interests me.’ A tear trickled down her cheek as she held back her screams.
‘Well then,’ Narcissa said, straightening up. ‘I’m going to need more details.’