Priscilla had never known fear. She was royalty for goodness’ sake, and royalty met threats with arrogance and resolve.
Yet she could face the fairy Amethyst with neither arrogance nor resolve. Only simple, plain, unadorned fear.
And envy, for Francis who stood calmly by. Lately it took effort to recall that the person standing so close was once the Lady Francis, for there were no longer any distinguishing marks about her. Priscilla had been bewildered to find that, unless reminded, only she knew that such a Lady Francis had ever been in existence. Her presence had been erased even from dear Eitelkeit’s thoughts.
Eitelkeit, fragile, clinging Eitelkeit, had been broken. The fairy Amethyst had confronted Priscilla when she had been alone with her ladies in their meadow. The sun had suddenly burst from behind a cloud, dazzling the group hidden in the shadows of the forest that extended into the secret meadow. As their eyes adjusted to the light, they noticed the fairy, who stood quietly as though she had always belonged to that particular spot on the grassy meadow floor.
Amethyst had not seemed angry. Nor frustrated, irritated. She was not afflicted with any unpleasant emotions. She even told them plainly what she did feel, so they would not misunderstand. “I am merely curious. It is quite interesting, and rather unexpected. I always thought that humans thrived upon the good opinions of others, which I find rather silly, and lived to further their own happiness. But you have knowingly ruined your own life, just to be contrary! You, aware of the punishment demanded by fairy law, have stolen from your own, blameless brother! And even now, though you fear me and your just punishment, I can see that you would not change your past actions for all the gold in the world.” The fairy reached out her hand to Priscilla. “You make me so curious, little princess.”
“But the law must be kept, and your reward is clear. You shall be imprisoned in the world between the worlds, where you may only watch as others live. You have heard of magic mirrors? They are the portals to this between space, where left is right and up is down. You know the rarity of such trinkets? Yet it shall only be through these that you shall be able to speak to those who still live. Otherwise you shall be utterly shut off, and utterly powerless. A fitting punishment, for one so obsessed with action, to be forced to live watching others, with no voice of her own.” Amethyst pulled an ornate mirror from the air, and held it out to Priscilla.
When Priscilla paled, Eitelkeit found her voice, weak and stuttering though it was. “Let me take her place.”
Francis showed a glimmer of interest at this. “No fairy, that would not be fair. Eitelkeit deserves no such punishment.”
Eitelkeit suddenly seemed to see Francis, and grasping her arm, begged her to help.
“I am helping you, I am not allowing you to make such a foolhardy choice. Is your service to the princess worth throwing away your life?”
Eitelkeit stepped away from Francis. “How could you say such a thing? Did we both not swear time and again that the princess was our life? I will not go back on such an oath, and I am ashamed to see that you have.”
With the reminder of her oath, Francis looked as though she had been slapped. She reached her hand to her cheek, as though there had been a physical blow in the small girl’s words. She could give up herself entirely, she could erase her own existence from the lives of family and friends, but it seemed the hardest part of losing herself came with forgetting her honor.
Eitelkeit stepped towards the fairy, with only slight trembling, buoyed as she was with the knowledge that she was doing the right and noble thing. “Fairy, let me take my princess’ place. It would be my honor, to serve her sentence in her stead.” Eitelkeit moved towards Priscilla, taking her hand. “Do not fret, your highness, this is my desire. I am a watcher as it is in this world, and in the between space, I imagine there are even more magical sights that I can see, then you could ever show me. Allow me to give you this one great piece of devotion, as thanks for the years you have granted me in your presence and care.”
Amethyst, though highly entertained, composed herself and asked the princess if she was willing for the exchange of her lady for herself. For a moment, just a moment, the Princess looked regal and forbidding, and as though one such as her would never deign to allow another to bear the price of her wrongdoing. But the moment passed. And there stood only Priscilla, who, ashamed, guilty, and oh so afraid, could only nod her head in acquiescence.