Trials and Tribulations Part One

Your basic adventure story. Princess Grace is forced to run, after her family is killed by the enemy. She must now seek assistance from neighbouring countries , humans and mythical creatures alike, occupied by her newly found friend, and future love interest, Josh.

“Hemi!” Grace skidded along the corridor trying to keep her skirt from getting dusty. A tall man turned to face her and pulled her into a hug. He twirled her around as they both laughed.

“You seem lighter sister. The court balls have been displeasing since I’ve been gone?”

“They’ve been so boring. Mychal must have stepped on my toes ten times at the last ball. I don’t know why mother thinks he would make a good husband. He is spotty Hemi,” She tugged on his arm pulling him down a corridor.

“His family is very influential. You know this to be true Gracie. Mother is only thinking of the good of the kingdom. You need to marry well. And soon. You are already 16.”

“And you missed my birthday you bully,” she teased.

“Do you enjoy the gift I sent you?”

“I love it. But mother thinks it is inappropriate for me to ride a stallion. Even one as beautiful and tame as Midnight,”

“Such a pity. I was hoping you would like him. It was very difficult finding a gift to mark such an important birthday.”

“A better present would have been if you were there. It was just cruel of father to send you away like that so close to my party. It was for such a silly reason too. Low crop yield is not a good excuse for making you miss my sixteenth. I was given a beautiful diamond necklace as an apology. I was furious at father for many days, but I could never stay mad at him for long. But now you are back, so all the problems have disappeared.” She smiled and skipped a little bit. Hemi stopped walking, a thought weighing him down.

“Sister dear, I am sorry but I must go speak to father. It is quite urgent. But I will talk to at the dinner.” He bowed, and kissed her hand before walking off.

 

Grace waited only a few moments before following him down a hall. She treaded lightly making sure he failed to notice her presence. He walked into her fathers study and failed to close the door all the way.

“It is worse than I thought. They have reached central villages. They are growing stronger too. It is only a matter of time before they reached here, and I fear we will not be safe,”

“Are you sure it is Chimera. The villagers have always been known to be paranoid,” Grace jumped at the sound of something smashing onto the table. It was Hemi’s fist.

“It is them. They are heading this way and they will burn and kill until there is nothing left,” Grace gasped and then heard footsteps moving towards the door. She ran for it and didn’t look back.

 

That night at dinner she didn’t give the conversation she had heard another thought. Instead she sat by Hemi laughing at his impressions of naïve farmers, and joking about their petty problems. After dinner they went to a smaller room and had drinks with another family. Again Grace laughed at all of her brother jokes, and acted like the hostess her mother was grooming her to be. It seemed like a perfect evening. But as she was still laughing at Hemi’s last joke, she looked over his shoulder through a window that had a view of the whole city. In the horizon she could only see the colour red. The colour of fire and blood. Chimera had came.

 

With her heart pounding like a drum Grace tried to get her thoughts into some kind of order instead of the jumbled mess they had become in only a few short hours. Or had it been much longer and she just didn’t know it. Chimera had stormed the capital city, Sotikb, that much was certain. She could still remember the sound of the entrance gate being rammed. The smell of black powder was lodged in her throat. The sound of women screaming would never be forgotten. They had come in an attempt to kidnap her family and use them as tools, or that’s what the guards had thought, but now that she could think more clearly she suspected they had been planning on killing them and taking control. That’s all they wanted; control. For over ten years they had been trying to get to Sotikb but every attempt had been stopped. That was; until now. How they did it she didn’t know. Whoever had control of the city had control of the thousands of people who lived in Nacima. Grace had been bought up to believe it was almost impossible to defeat the city.  The city was built with its back facing the highest mountains in Nacima. It was old and strong. There were tunnels all throughout the city, some leading into the mountains; others to the smaller towns and homes far away. The grey walls of brick gathered dust in some places and the beloved city was often mistreated. Once it had been a thriving city but more and more people left to live in the countryside to escape the noise and violence. Now only traders, guards and the royal family lived in the city. That much she was sure of, she was the only one left. By now the traders would have been murdered in their beds and the Guards dead from defending the city.  While the lower levels of the city were being engulfed in flame and the upper levels were being stripped bare of any gold or jewels hidden within their walls, she had been ordered to run and hide within one of the many cities which had formed an alliance with the people of Nacima. But she didn’t know if any of them would help. She didn’t even know if they would care.

 

Grace stumbled through old forgotten passageways for more hours than she could care to remember. She must have travelled very far by now, brushing past all the huge cobwebs and moss that covered everything green and brown. She was trying to get as far away from the city as she could before the Chimeran leaders realised she had escaped and decided to come after her. The dark stench of decay and rubbish from the city over powered her lungs and just when she thought she could take no more of it, the tunnel came to a sudden stop. For a brief moment Grace wondered if the men who had built the tunnels had in fact stopped before finishing and that was why the passageways had been forgotten, until she noticed four pale thin lines of light appearing on the floor in a square shape. Grace could have slapped herself; of course there was a trap door out. She looked up and could faintly make out the outline of a trap door. She raised her arms above her head and felt rotten planks, with all her strength she lifted the trapdoor, and sunlight poured in as the trapdoor was lifted higher and higher. With a crash the trapdoor toppled up and over and Grace was able to reach up and pull herself up out of the hole and examine her surroundings. She was on a grassy plain with no civilisation anywhere in sight apart from a wooden farm house in the distance. It had bright blue shutters that matched the sky. It was a dull brown colour like it hadn’t been painted in a while but it looked respectable. As Grace studied the farm house from a distance she realised that it had been many hours since she had wondered what had happened to the rest of her family. It had been her mother who had shown her the tunnels and ordered her to leave and find a safe place. It had been her older brother who had rallied the troupes the moment Chimera had first appeared along the horizon and it had been her father who had been majestic getting ready to die for his people even when all seemed lost. Yet it was her who was still alive when she hadn’t done anything but flee like a coward. There was no honour in what she had done even if it had been her own family who had told her to run. She was still so young. She wasn’t even meant to be ruler. That had been Hemi’s roll in life. He was going to be King and she was to marry Mychal.

 

While Grace remembered her family, a tall young man with silver hair and startling pale blue eyes, had noticed her from the farm house. Intrigued he doubled around the farm house in the hope to surprise the strange girl standing in the field. Years of living on a farm had trained the boy to tread quietly and now he put those skills to use. He used all the raised pieces of land to hide behind, waiting until he could get a better look at her.

 

Out of the corner of Grace's eye she saw the scruffy farm hand approaching her taking tiny steps making sure he didn’t step on even the tiniest twig. She carefully examined him, trusting no one. But judging from the dirt brown ripped pants and matching ugly tunic, he was of no threat. The boy was still at least 20 metres away and had obviously gone to lengths as so to surprise her. He had even crawled on his stomach for a bit when the grass was shorter.  He continued to creep up on the girl trying to guess who she was and why she was out in the middle of a field. She was very beautiful and stood proud like a queen. Her dark hair shinning in the sun even though it had cobwebs tangled in it like a crown. When he was so close to her that he could have reached out and touched her, the girl spoke,

“You do know that I saw you approaching when you were still hiding behind the rock over there,” As she spoke she pointed at the rock that she had seen him from. While the boy blushed Grace considered what she should do now that she had escaped from Chimera and the fate they had decided for all the people of Nacima. She also considered the fate she had been given unwillingly. Summoning up her most regal voice she asked,” Where is the owner of this farm and who are you?”

“Who are you? And why do you try to command such power in your voice when you are only a girl,” replied the boy obviously doubting she had any right to command him. She was filthy. Grace raised her eyebrows. She wasn’t used to being spoken to in such a rude manner but nevertheless she decided to take a different approach.

Grace softened her voice as she answered his questions, “My name is Grace and I am the princess of Nacima.”

“What? Really? You don’t look like a princess.”

Grace looked down at her dress which had once been paler than pale blue, with tiny white stars threaded on to the dress so the dress seemed to twinkle. Now the dress was covered in dirt. Grace could no longer tell what colour it once had been. Her shoes that had been made of the same material were now caked in grime and as he looked at her, she kicked them off, deciding to leave them where they were. She had no use for flimsy shoes now. Grace knew that she didn’t look like a classic princess at the moment; she didn’t have a crown, her dress was covered in dirt and she was in the middle of nowhere.

“I know I do not look like a princess but I am, and I demand that you take me to whoever owns this farm.” She snapped. She was growing tired of the farm boys chatting as every second wasted was another second that Chimera could catch up to her, or destroy the outer villages and bring Nacima to ruin.

The boy stared at Grace for a few more seconds as though he was judging her then turned and called back over his shoulder to her.

“Pyter the farm master is eating breakfast. If you follow me, I will take you to him.”

The boy began to run across the fields dodging rabbit holes and uneven ground with a misleading ease. Grace made much slower progress than the farm boy in her attempt not to trip in any of the rabbit holes. She still had her pride, the boy wasn’t going to see her fall. The farmhouse was old and sturdy. It stood in the middle of the farm surrounded by all manner of normal and abnormal creatures. In the distance she could see a line of trees that symbolised the border of Nacima. She turned on the spot and far away in the distance she saw the silhouette of Sotibk. There were puffs of smoke rising from all over it and flashes of red indicated burning buildings. Grace felt a pang of loneliness as she realised how far from home she was.

Grace reached the farm house shortly after the boy. He had already entered and begun to talk to the farm master. Grace just stood outside not knowing what to do; her father and brother would have marched in there without a second thought. But her mother, always the diplomat, would have knocked on the door, knowing that this was not her home and she needed to treat these people with respect. She whispered a quick prayer to Heiu the God of guidance so that she could be more like her mother just this once. However before she could decide the sturdy oak door was pulled open. There stood a large woman, with twinkling eyes and working hands. She was obviously the farmer’s wife; she had boring brown clothes on and a bloody apron tied around her large middle. With a course hand she pulled Grace into the hallway of the old farm house. Off to her left a man roared with laughter, and the boy Grace has already meet appeared sheepishly at the door,

“He wants to see you.”

“Who?”  

 “Why, my husband of course, you are a slight thing aren’t you? Oh well we can just feed you up.” The farmer’s wife answered in a big voice that reached to Grace’s toes. She walked into the big house. There was a kitchen on one side, full of wooden panels and big sinks. On the opposite side there was a dining room, where a large man was busy eating breakfast, which looked like bacon and eggs. The sight of food made Grace’s stomach rumbled. She then realised she couldn’t remember the last time she ate. The wife gently pushed Grace into the dining room.

“Go in. He doesn’t bite,” she added before she closed the door, preventing that boy from sneaking in.

 

“So Josh tells me, you popped out of the ground like a rabbit claiming you were a princess. Is this true?” the farmer asked wiping his mouth with a napkin. 

“I suppose that’s what it must have looked like to… Josh… was that what you called him? And yes he was right. I am a princess. In fact I am her Royal Highness Grace Sonya Adamma, Princess of Nacima.”

“Hmmm that’s a pretty fancy long name you went sprouting off there, but it doesn’t mean much to me. You could just be making it up.” he replied. “Any chance you got some proof in the pretty dress of yours” he held out a hand waiting. 

Grace began to pat down her dress. She didn’t trust this man. Of course she had no proof. He should know who she was straight away. The look of royalty was all across her face.

“You should be bowing down to me peasant. I am your future queen. You will treat me with respect!” she answered haughtily. This man was treating her like a fool.

“Fine I will take your word for it. Besides I remember very well the day you were born. Everyone knew your brother would never make it to be king. But when you were born no one was happy then either. Nobody wanted a girl.”

“What is that meant to mean!” Grace fumed. She was starting to get very annoyed. This farmer was treating her like a child. She was not a child. She was sixteen. That was not the age of a child. He should be bowing, not insulting her by looking her in the eyes. Yet he continued to stare her down with his brown eyes. They were so dark they were almost black.

“Well, well, well, her royal highness is having a temper tantrum. To answer your question, no one liked the idea of a girl becoming our next ruler. I’m sorry to say but everyone thought your brother was going to die before he could be king. There was too much bad blood between nations to stop some kind of battle that would finish him off. Not that you would have known anything about that. They all pretend to like each other now-a-days.” He took another big bite of bacon, and chewed loudly as Grace tried to think of her next move.

“So why don’t you tell me what happened and why you are in the middle of no where.”

“Do you know what Chimera is?”  She asked slowly.

“Rebels. They don’t like your family. Have been plotting your death before you were even a twinkle in your mother’s eye.”
“Yes, well they attacked Sotikb. The whole city saw them coming on the horizon. My brother led an attack on them. It was his first battle. A simple rite of passage my father said. I watched from the castle as our soldiers fell like trees. They swarmed the city like locusts. I don’t know how they managed it. They must have stolen fairy magic or something like that. Father died in the common grounds protecting the woman, the sick, and the young. I don’t know what happened to my mother. She ordered me through the secret passage ways and the last thing I saw were the Chimera men breaking down my front door, and my mother praying that I would survive.” Grace stopped and took a deep breathe.

Then she burst into tears, “My whole life is gone. I have nothing left.” She stopped crying and fell into one of the chairs. Gently the farmer’s wife pulled her hair back and patted her back. Grace hadn’t even noticed her entering.

“It’s okay dear. You are safe here, and when you are feeling better we will make sure you get to the fairy kingdom. It’s the closest safe place around, and I’m sure that’s what your parents would have wanted to do.”

“Yes. That’s right. How did you know that?” Grace lifted her head up from the hard wooden table.

“Your parents were very straight forward people and good rulers. If my house was being destroyed I would have sent young Josh there too.”

Grace unsteadily stood up, “Thank you for all your help, but I must get to the fairies as soon as possible.” She began to walk towards the door but Pyter grabbed her and hoisted her over his shoulder. “You are not going anywhere until you have slept, eaten and got a new set of clothing.”

She was carried up stairs despite all her protests, and carefully placed on one of the softest beds in the house. She fell asleep the second her head hit the pillow,

“Oh the poor dear,” she whispered “Who knows how long she was running for? I hope it wasn’t too long,” she mused. “Josh leave her alone!” Josh had been peering from behind the door and when Pyter’s wife snapped at him he turned tail and ran down the stairs.

“That boy likes her and he doesn’t even know her.”

“Yeah, it’s too bad isn’t it? I don’t even think she knows and don’t call him boy.”

“Well that’s not our problem. Our only problem is making sure the fairies get her in one piece.”

“Yes I know dear,” she sighed looked once more on Grace and closed the door.

 

“So this is the farm. It is several acres long and wide.  We have all the normal stuff like cows, for your milk, and the other kinds of animals.”

“Other kinds of animals?”

“Cross breeds and stuff like that.”

“Why do you have cross breeds?”

“We just do. I don’t know why we do, and sometimes rich men ask us to. They just like to have interesting pets but most of the time they don’t last long. It’s good money and the farm needs all the money it can get.”

“But that’s horrible,” Grace shuddered.

“No it's not.” He insisted.

“I don’t know. It still sounds unnatural.” Grace stood up unsteadily and leaned on Josh’s shoulder to brace herself. She turned back to the farm house, and then stopped “Are you coming?” Josh gave a small smile and nodded.

“When are you leaving?” Josh quickened his pace to catch up with her.

“I don’t know. When I feel better I guess,” At first Grace had simply been exhausted and hungry but once she had been fed and slept 12 hours straight it soon become clear that her fatigue was due to something else. After much poking and prodding Macy had determined that Grace had inhaled a strange chemical during the attack on Sotikb. This strange chemical was now spreading to those towns and villages closest to the capital. It would be a long time before it reached this farm but they could still see the smog slowly reaching out over all of Nacima. It was also too late for Grace. The chemical had coated her lungs in a layer of muck, making it difficult to breathe deeply. Grace wanted badly to leave the farm and continue her travels but Macy held strong, demanding she stay until better and so they waited but little improvement had been made to her condition. She stilled breathed heavily and her strength had not returned. The only silver lining of Graces’ sickness was that she had quickly become fast friends with Josh who loved to hear stories of court life and Grace loved to tell them.

 

Grace suddenly stopped walking and bent double. She began to cough, heaving, finding it difficult to breathe. Josh rushed to her side in time to see her cough blood onto the hay.

“Get Macy,” she whispered before falling. Josh ran forward and grabbed her in his arms. He began to lift her. She was so slight, from poor health, he had no trouble. She was sicker than he thought. Sicker she had even let on. He carried her back to the farmhouse whispering over and over again to her,

“You’ll be okay Grace. You are going to be okay.” He had almost reached the farmhouse when Pyter spotted him from the kitchen window. He hurried out and took a pale Grace from Josh.

“What happened?” he said angrily.

“She relapsed. One second we were walking to the house, the next she was coughing blood then she fainted. She’s not getting better.” 

“I know boy. Run ahead and get Macy. She will know what to do.”

Josh sprinted to the farmhouse. Macy was busy in the kitchen chopping vegetables. When he came racing in, she looked up surprised.

“What’s wrong?”

He gasped short for breath. “Grace needs help. She was coughing blood before.”

Macy stared at Josh for a moment then she nodded.

“Get Pyter to put her in her room. I wantyouto get long rags, hot water and an empty bowl.” Josh didn’t move, he was a little stunned.

“Go!” she commanded. She hurried from the room closely followed by Josh. When Josh got the water up to the room Grace was sitting up, looking very sickly. With blankets covering her body Grace began to breathe in the hot steam. The bowl was set beside her for any black muck that she coughed up. Josh sat beside her patting her back while Macy busied herself at the desk in the corner of the room.

“Josh come here.” She beckoned him over. He had a pained look on his face as Macy handed him a note.

“I want you to take this to the boundary rock. Just leave it in the hollowed out portion. Then hurry back. Do not linger.”

Josh snatched the note and hurried out but not before promising to be back soon. 

 

Josh headed for the stables. He saddled the nearest horse and left. The journey went quickly. He lived near the forest boundary. He looked past the rock and could see the line of trees that separated the humans from the fairy forest. So many times he had wanted to travel there but warning and rumours had stopped him, and this time he didn’t care. He only cared about Grace getting better.  He got off the horse and looked around. When he didn’t see anyone he opened the note.

 

The girl is ill. I cannot tell how deeply but she is not recovering well. Please come quickly. I fear she has succumb to what Chimera unleashed upon Nacima.   

Don’t hurt the boy if he reads this. His curiosity will be the death of him, however he is the other piece to your puzzle.

 

Healer.

 

He placed the note in the hollow then lingered to touch the smooth grey rock before remembering Macy’s warning. He jumped back onto the horse and raced back to the farm.

 

Once Josh was out of sight, the grey rock rippled as if it was made of water. There was a child-like-giggle from the forest and the grass around the rock moved as if someone was wading through it. Then the note vanished from and there was the sound of someone sighing.

 

When Josh got back to the farmhouse, he raced upstairs but the door was shut. He gently knocked on the old wooden door, yet there was no reply. He knocked again and heard a disgusting cough. He knocked again, pounding harder so that someone would hear him and open the door. The door was wrenched open and Macy stared at him. For a moment she seemed to be having a problem connecting his face to her memory, and then she shook her head and frowned,

“Oh it’s you.” She sounded disappointed, “Did you deliver my message?” He nodded as he tried to see into the room. He saw a slumped over Grace still breathing in the hot steam.

“Can I?” he began.

“No.” Macy shook her head then closed the door.

 

Downstairs Josh sat with Pyter, Macy refused to let them into the room, but that didn’t stop Grace’s coughs seemingly travel down through the cracks in the floorboards and fill the room, causing Josh to pace back and forth.

“Calm down Josh. She will be fine. Macy knows what she is doing.”

“But we don’t know what this muck is. What if it is lethal?”

“Then she will send for the fairies. They always come and they really want Grace alive so they will be extra careful, just in case,”

“She already has. I put a note in the hollowed rock,”

“Well then you have nothing to worry about. I don’t like them fairies that much, but they do know their medicine and they are good healers.” Pyter said matter-of-factly.

“But what if they can’t help her?”

“Then we pray to Thoran that the rest of her lives are as good as this one,” Pyter placed his hand over his heart and then pulled it across his chest in the sign of Thoran. Another cough filled the room and they both glanced at the roof.

 

They stayed downstairs well into the night. It was close to midnight when Macy came down Josh began to stand but she ushered him back to his seat.

“They came. She is in good hands. We can all relax now.” Macy breathed a sigh of relief and sunk into the old armchair. Josh breathed a sigh of relief, and fell into one of the chairs. He stared up at the roof again. He could no longer hear any coughing from the room above; in fact he couldn’t hear anything.

“It’s so quiet.” He whispered. He didn’t know why, but the silence permeated the room and forced the volume of his voice to something much louder than a whisper.

“Silence is sometimes a good thing Josh.”  

The End

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