The Princess and her Ladies Pt 5

Lady Francis sat alone in her small, elegant chamber one bright afternoon.  The sun was tightly shut out by thick drapes over the solitary window, but an oil lamp threw cheerful light through its red shade.  It was next to this lamp that Lady Francis sat with book in hand.  In the middle of the far wall, a cunningly fashioned hook suspended a pot above the lit fireplace.

From time to time Lady Francis would glance at the fire to ensure all was well, then return to her book.  When a clock chimed on the mantel she carefully marked her place in the large volume and removed the pot.  After stirring the contents, she glanced at the clock and set it to rest on her table.  Opening a heavy chest in the corner she took out a case filled with empty flasks.  After putting on thick gloves she held two flasks close to the fire, warming them.  Glancing at the clock once more she returned to the table and filled the flasks with the clear, purple tinted liquid.  Quickly stoppering the flasks she wrapped them in several layers of towels, the longer the potion took to cool the more effective it would be, and put them in a new leather case.

Lady Francis changed into her traveling outfit and took the case with her as she left the room.  While she waited for a groom to saddle her mare she wrote out instructions on the bottom of a letter.  Her sister was a talented correspondent, and never let a letter go astray, but she had no file for instructions, and Francis had found that adding them to the end of a letter was the safest way to ensure the particulars were not lost.

She paused her horse after leaving the castle grounds.  To the west was her sister’s home, but a northwest road would take her through a certain deserted field.  After a beat to the north she rode.  Her sister was not expecting her yet.

Clouds were gathering fast in the sky.  By the time Lady Francis tied her horse’s reins to a small tree the sunlight only came in sudden flashes, peeking between the clouds.  She was bent over a bush gathering dust into a handkerchief when a voice stopped.

“Here again?  My my, what an industrious human you are.”  The speaker who appeared was old and plump, and peered at her from beneath a floppy hat as she leaned on a cane.  “They weren’t exaggerating this time.”

The next voice was clear and youthful, like a bubbling spring.  “I don’t exaggerate as often as you make out little one.  But she is a strange one.”  Lady Francis rose to her feet slowly, and made sure to secure the kerchief before giving them her attention.  “She doesn’t even seem to be afraid of us.”  The second speaker spoke with good reason, as her height and shimmering skin could strike nearly any speechless.

Lady Francis smoothed her skirt to hide her shaking hand.  It was taking all her self command and teenage contrariness not to be impressed by her magical visitors.  The Princess had taught both her ladies the power of composure, especially in the face of the strange.  She did not speak until she was sure her voice would not break.  “I thought fairies were not supposed to appear in their actual form to regular people.”

The fairy laughed delightedly.  “Oh, you have such strength of will little one.  Not many humans are able to speak to me so bluntly on first meeting.  You are right of course, but such rules are waved for situations like yours.”

The woman’s voice, placid, gentle and slightly reproving, as though someone had forgotten to take out the milk for tea, broke in.  “You have been gathering fairy dust without permission for many months now my lady.  Did you think it would go unnoticed?  And I dare say that you are enough aware of its effects to know that it is unsafe for human handling.”

“Such fairy dust as I gather has already been discarded by fairies.  And yes, I know its effects, but I keep the fairy dust I use a secret, and only use minute amounts at a time.”  Lady Francis spoke like a pleading schoolgirl, attempting to change a headmistress’ mind about keeping a pet.

The woman and fairy’s eyes twinkled.  “Perfect.”

Lady Francis looked at them, uneasy at their unanimity.

“You have been chosen little one.”  The fairy beamed at her.  “Your wit and purity have been noticed, and we would like to bestow upon you the honor of becoming a Fairy Friend.  I hope we can meet often and be great friends!”  The fairy picked Lady Francis up and flew several feet in the air, spinning her around in the most dizzying hug she had yet experienced.

“Not yet Amethyst.  She must first agree for the magic to take hold of her.”  Grandmother waited until Amethyst set Lady Francis down before explaining further.  “To be a Fairy Friend is not an easy thing, my lady.  Fairies are fanciful creatures who do not live in our same world, but they love beauty and joy in promoting it amongst humans.  Fairies choose friends for themselves out of humans to help people, to do the little magics in the world that fairies are unable to do themselves.  In exchange for this sort of help, fairies allow their friends to live within their world as well as ours.  Once you become a Fairy Friend your eyes will open, and you will see and hear things you never thought possible.  You will be sent on errands to places you never dreamed existed, and be a part of a world banned to normal humans like me and you.”

With all the eagerness of seventeen years, Lady Francis broke in at Grandmother’s pause.  “What is the magic?  What must I do to become a Fairy Friend?  Will I be allowed to know the meaning of plants and water, see what is beneath the earth and above the clouds?  What must I do Grandmother?”  Lady Francis broke off laughing.  “It is like a dream, a dream I never dared to dream before!  Grandmother, Fairy Amethyst, is it truly me you want?!”

“My lady, first you must know.  The path of a Fairy Friend is lonely indeed.  In order to live in multiple worlds you must first give up your ties to this one.  You must become nobody, faceless and nameless.  I am called Grandmother because I gave up my true name to walk this path, as you must.  You can never be seen by your family and friends again, lest they call you by name and so identify you.  Would you really give up everything you hold dear to satisfy your passion for knowledge?”

Lady Francis thought of the potions in her saddlebag, and the excitement and interest of concocting them.  She thought of the sister they were for, and the many other siblings at her home.  They wouldn’t miss her.  The princess was marrying her off, and regardless of choice she was going to leave everyone.  The knight knew her little, and with his affectionate nature would easily find another suitable noblewoman.

After a short pause, Lady Francis took a deep breath and smiled widely.  The love child had always been a rash decision maker, however patient she was otherwise.

“I will.”

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