"The Inconvenient Princess"
It was Yancie who brought word to
Aldornia and Zenobia that Baron Fulk
had captured Princess Mazelina,
carried her away, and locked her
in the Tower of Lofty Aspirations.
"That's an awful thing to do,"
Aldornia said with a frown.
"What else was he going to do
with an inconvenient princess?"
Zenobia said, shrugging.
"Didn't that tower use to belong
to Wimarc the Wizard?" Aldornia said.
"It did until he died," Zenobia said.
"I wonder what ever happened to
his things? Last I heard, the family
was still arguing over that."
"We should probably get going
right away, then," said Yancie.
"There's no telling what could
go wrong if we dawdle."
With that, she started packing.
She might be an unsupportive sidekick,
but she made a terrific trail guide.
The three of them reached
the Tower of Lofty Aspirations
just in time to see a rope of
obviously enchanted hair
climb down from the window,
anchor itself to the ground, and
form a ladder on the way back up.
"Damn," Zenobia said. "I was
never that good even working with
blackweed, and that's a lot easier
to charm than human hair."
"Maybe we could ask her
for advice," Aldornia said as
they watched Princess Mazelina
climb down from the tower.
She was only halfway down
when Baron Fulk's men burst out
of the forest firing arrows at her.
"Attack!" Zenobia cried, turning
on the thugs with a handful of
marginally adequate curses and
another of excellent caltrops.
Yancie ran away into the woods with
several of Fulk's men in hot pursuit.
Well, it's not like they paid her to fight.
With Yancie gone, Zenobia sharpened
her offensive while Aldornia concentrated
on protecting Princess Mazelina.
No sooner did her pink slippers
touch the ground than she sent
the golden rope slithering through
the underbrush like a fifty-foot snake.
A distant shriek announced that
the rope had found Baron Fulk.
Presently it returned, dragging
the hapless man under briars
and over stones as it used
the trees to pull itself along.
"Well done," Princess Mazelina
told the rope as it cuddled up to her.
"How did you learn to do all that?"
Zenobia said, staring at her.
"It's one thing to enchant
a rope to tie a simple knot,
but you taught yours to fetch?"
"Oh, well, the tower was full of
Wimarc's books," the princess said,
fluffing her short golden curls.
"I didn't have anything else to do
but read, and the spells were
a lot easier than etiquette."
"I would definitely like to hear
your advice on spellcasting,"
Aldornia said. "You're amazing."
Just then, Yancie strolled back into
the clearing, leisurely picking
burrs off of her breeches.
"What happened to Fulk's men?"
Zenobia said, looking down the trail.
"They got lost a few miles back,"
Yancie said with a shrug. "Really,
he should have hired mercenaries in
better shape for a forest mission."
"Drat," Zenobia said. "That means
less reward, unless we want
to go round them all up."
"I'm not doing it," Yancie said.
"Don't be greedy," Aldornia said.
"We have two-six-twelve of them
right here, mostly unconscious."
"You can have Baron Fulk too,"
Princess Mazelina. "I certainly
don't want anything to do with him."
"That should make for respectable loot,"
Zenobia agreed. "Let's get to it."
"Oh, I'm not coming with you,"
Princess Mazelina said as she
began gathering walnuts.
"But we came all this way
to rescue you!" Aldornia said.
"That's not my problem,"
said Princess Mazelina.
"I don't want to go home.
This tower has stood empty
long enough to revert to
the crown, so I'm going
to claim it for my own."
"Can she do that?"
"I think she knows
the royal prerogatives
better than we do,"
Zenobia pointed out.
"Fine, have it your way,"
Aldornia said. "Let's go."
The three adventurers
gathered up their prisoners
and returned to town so they
could collect the reward.
As for Mazelina, she dyed
her pink dress black, charmed
a raven to transport a message to
her family, and returned to her tower.
The inconvenient princess had decided
to become an inconvenient witch.