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Before dawn, Alamus woke up Kilewal, who in turn woke up Poplazi. Kilewal grunted something to the effect of making sure he didn’t get lost while hunting for breakfast, but because it was grunting and it was before he wanted to get up Poplazi didn’t understanding anything other than he was to follow Kilewal. The two of them wandered off into the woods. In the camp the nephews and Dashtek were left sleeping while the body of the old knight lay cold on the floor of the forest.
Sir James’ star faded with the others as the sky in the east grew lighter and lighter. Lady Arable had her bag packed and slung over her shoulder. She held Alamus’ left hand while in his right he held his wand. He was moments away from uttering the last spell he would ever cast. He mumbled a few words and out from his wand extended a fist-sized golden cloud that floated dutifully into the princess’ tent. Arable saw a bright glow from inside the white canvas that mingled with the first ray of sunlight.
They took their first steps together as the sun was rising. At a certain spot in the woods Alamus placed his wand in the hollow of an oak tree. The two continued eastward and were married at the nearest church they found.
It’s important to note that there are quite a few stories that end when two people get married. This isn’t one of them. Those stories that end with a marriage are simply terrible because they make it seem as though all the adventures in life happen before matrimony. Any normal person will tell you that just because the stories end when two people get married doesn’t mean the adventures do. In fact most adventures start when two people get married. Let’s take this story for instance. How many of you would be disappointed if this story stopped here?
Almost all of you, right?
But why not stop it here? If you’ve been reading this thinking it is a fairy tale then you’re probably thinking that this is where it should end. Yup, time to close the book because two people got married. If that’s what you believe then I hope you sleep well. Of course there is at least someone out there who understands that this is not a fairy tale and for the sake of that person I will continue.
As I told you at the beginning this story was found by Professor Isaiah Buxley in a library some time ago. That should be enough to convince you it is not a fairy tale, though I will admit the facts of the story might be a bit more colorful than they were when these things originally happened.
The biggest clue that this isn’t a fairy tale is the fact that it starts on a Tuesday. I will here remind you of the old saying, “Thirty days has September and any story that can specify that it starts on a Tuesday is not a fairy tale.” Or “roses are red, violets are blue, any story that starts on a Tuesday has to be true.”
What day of the week did Snow White’s story start? I thought so. You don’t know.
How about Rapunzel, Jack and the Giants, Sleeping Beauty, or that one about the cat? Can’t tell me can you? That’s because those are fairy tales. They might as well start with “A Long, Long Time Ago In A Galaxy Far, Far Away.” Any story beginning like that is an open invitation to laugh at whatever follows because you know its opening is so vague it’s likely to be nothing more than a comedy.
But now that you’ve realized this is NOT the end of the story we must clarify, because this is in fact the point where we have two stories occurring at the same time, and I’m afraid that I only feel like sharing one at the moment. The other story will have to wait until another time. If you ask me to specify when we’ll get to it I’ll respond with a “we’ll see” or a “someday” and until someone makes a calendar with “someday” as one of the days of the week I may just never get around to telling it.
I’m going to guess that the story you want me to tell you is about what happened to Princess Jan, Dashtek, and Arable’s nephews. Good. ‘Cause that’s the one I like too. Those nephews are just funny, and I can only imagine what their mother must have thought of the crazy things they did. Could you imagine having friends who think that playing…
Well, let’s get back to the story.
When Dashtek stood up he was surprised at how unusually well he slept. He remembered it being quite chilly when he went to sleep and expected to have woken up shivering at least once in the night. As he got up he looked around camp to get his bearings. He noticed the wizard missing, but didn’t think it unusual that a wizard should hold to his own schedule and begin a day’s journey when he pleased. Kilewal and Poplazi being absent wasn’t terribly unusual either, nor was Sir James laying on the ground past sunrise anything new. Nothing he could see seemed out of the ordinary and so he went about doing his ordinary chores.
All three nephews were soon to be awake. Two of them had risen before the third and between them had a rope tied with one end tied to a saddled horse, and the other had a knot just the right size to slip over the third brother’s feet. The idea was to slip one end of the rope around the sleeping brother’s feet and give the horse a good swat on the butt then sit back and watch the show. If the plan worked the sleeping brother would wake up being dragged by the horse. They thought it was destined turn into another great story likely ending with the usual “and that’s how I got this scar…”
Which is exactly how it would have ended if it weren’t interrupted by the sound of a ROAR coming from the tent.
No one could believe their ears. A roar? What animal in that part of the woods roared? Instead of using the rope and horse, the brothers shook their sleeping sibling awake. Just as his eyes opened another roar came from the tent, and immediately following the source of the sound, a young angry lioness.
The lioness looked around and spotting the nephews sprang at them tripping the trio with her massive paws. They each fell on something sharp, one a stick, one a rock, and another a root. She pinned down and shook the oldest by the shoulders and roared in his face. Startled by the noise, the horses broke their tethers and bolted away from the strange and fearsome looking animal. The sounds of their neighing, tethers breaking, and stomping hooves drew the lioness’ attention away from the nephews long enough for the oldest brother to squirm free and for all of them to escape. Dashtek finding himself near the base of a tree quickly made his way up it. The boys, who were quite familiar with dangerous games, concluded quickly that “who could be the closest to a roaring lioness” was not a game worth playing and bolted southward toward the farmhouses they remembered passing the day before.
With the boys gone the lioness ran to Sir James’ body and shook him. She had no idea he had passed away in the night. When he did not immediately wake she rolled him over with a powerful swipe of her left paw. Dashtek watching from his perch in the tree could see her claws slightly extended. The lioness was frustrated at Sir James’ lack of response, the boys running away, and seeing no one else she returned stomping her way back to the tent.
Something was odd.
Had the boys stayed they might have noticed it as well. It was a very little thing indeed to notice, but the boys at that moment were barely keeping their legs under them. They did notice and were grateful for all the running games they had played made their legs swift and their lungs strong. It should come as no surprise that running games which usually involve spears and/or arrows do have a way of quickening one’s step in case one ever wakes up in a campsite next to a lion. I would advise though, that since so few people have ever woken up in a campsite with a lioness to not play running games with spears and arrows. Your mothers will worry. No, the only way you might convince her to play running games with spears and arrows is if you happen to camp one night with a wizard, but still I’d ask a parent first.
Dashtek watched the scene from his perch in the tree. After sometime being up there he realized that his tree wasn’t much protection. He figured a lion could climb a tree just as easily if not better than he did, but the added height made him feel a bit safer. It also gave him a perspective the nephews did not have. A lioness looks much different when you’re under her paws and she is growling in your face than when you’re ten feet high in a tree. Dashtek repeated the scene in his mind and something about it (despite the obvious part about a lioness being in their campsite) puzzled him. How is it that a lioness would know how to stomp? Dashtek did another mental replay of the morning events in his head, and the stomp continued to be an enigma.
After a few moments he had a theory and tested it by calling out from his tree, “Princess Jan, is that you?”
It was, and with his words she emerged. The lioness’ head appeared out of the tent wearing a face of great sadness. She may not have had many friends, but as a princess she was seldom alone. The feeling of abandonment had overwhelmed her. Noticing where the voice came from she looked up at the tree and there saw Dashtek perched on a limb. It seemed as though the lion had been inside the tent crying and with that expression on her face Dashtek deduced what had happened. That is to say, he did not come to understand how she became a lion, but he did understand better what happened after she became a lion.
Her running and growling at the boys was because she thought they must have played a trick on her. It is very likely that her roars at the oldest were questions about how she had been sewn up in a lion suit, but when she went to wake Sir James and her claws extended she realized that she wasn’t simply sewn into a suit in her sleep, but that she had in fact become an actual four-legged lioness.
Dashtek came down from his tree and sat on a rock looking at the whiskered face that once belonged to Princess Jan. Before the transformation he had studied her face many times in his stolen glances. Of all the features that had changed, her eyes remained the least unchanged. For the first time though he saw in them the first small hint of gratitude for certainly she was grateful that she was not alone.
Some time passed as the two pondered their options. Dashtek did try to start a conversation at one point, but the lioness couldn’t respond with words. There are many good reasons to be speechless in life. This was one of them. How often do you find out that the person you care about has become an animal? Taking a few moments to figure out what to do next is not only the sensible thing to do, it’s also likely the only think anyone can think of doing under the circumstances.
As one quiet thoughtful moment gave way to the next the two odd companions heard a rustling in the leaves to their north, and after a time Kilewal and Poplazi came out of from behind some bushes with a rabbit they had trapped during their time away. The hunter threw the rabbit on the ground in front of the lioness. It landed with a thud.
Short as that conversation of growling and grunting was, it proved to be a stalemate. With it over Kilewal waved Poplazi to come and help him cover the knight.
If Princess Jan had her voice you could very likely guess what she would have said having been tossed a rabbit for breakfast. “This?! This is what you give me to eat? How dare you.” But instead of those words what emerged was nothing more than a whiny roar. Kilewal, the great hunter, knew despite the lioness’ sharp teeth and claws she was almost harmless as she was useless on their journey.
Dashtek left her alone with her breakfast and went to help the other two. It took some time in the woods finding enough rocks to cover the body of Sir James and while the three were searching the princess remained looking at her meal. When she roared at first it was a roar of disgust, but now as time passed, hunger began to gnaw at her stomach and curiosity at her mind. The good knight was half way buried when she extended her sharp claw down the front of the rabbit ripping open its skin and exposing the organs inside. The smell was the next obstacle to overcome, but blessed with some measure of a lion’s instincts, overcome it she did. By the time Sir James was laid to rest her breakfast was eaten. No sooner was it finished then trouble started.
From the south the four began to hear the sound of a crowd headed toward the campsite. Kilewal’s keen eyes spotted the three boys at the head, and for the first time the hunter spoke.
“That’s a hunting party. It is best if the lioness is leaving NOW!”
About The Illustrator
Liz Erickson has always enjoyed using her talents to create. Those who know her will not be surprised that she took on the project of drawing the illustrations for this work. Liz worked with ease to adapt her style and provide the author with the specifically desired drawings for this book adjusting quickly from her experience in fashion and painting.
It seems safe to predict that this will not be the last time Liz’s name appears as the illustrator of a printed work. She is just as much a magician with her talents as Alamus with his wand.