Princess (3)

She met the prince on the third day on her feet. The first day had been one full of shock tinged with horror. She could not speak. She had trouble standing, let alone walking. For all his huge size, Mudge was gentle, and helped to guide her around the small cottage. That he and Trey were devoted to one another was something she learned quickly. They teased, they ribbed one another, they hugged, they argued. But at dinner that first night, as she sat on her new leg tops, what the men called her but-tocks, she watched as they held hands and said a blessing over their food. They had each taken one of her hands, pulling her into their circle.

She’d cried herself to sleep that night, exhausted by the physical transformation, and all the new sights and smells and sounds that assailed her senses. It was overwhelming.  Yet when she woke the next morning, moving seemed easier. She was lighter and more graceful on her feet, and she began to make sense of the larger world around her. The window in her room was open to the sea, and she heard the call of the water like distant music. Yet she turned her back to it, and moved into the day, promising herself to embrace it as fully as she could.

She had come, after all, to find her love.

Mudge and Trey helped her outside. The feel of the sun was the same, except not cooled by water lapping around her. Taking her hand, Trey guided her to the garden, and showed her how to weed between the neat rows of vegetables. It was there that a long shadow fell upon her. A hard swat against her but-tocks startled her into falling forward, face first into the dirt. Opening her mouth in a silent yelp of surprise only added to the mess, filling her mouth with soil.

Turning over, she saw him, his head ringed in a halo of light from the sun behind him. Shielding her eyes, she was dazzled by his up-close beauty. His eyes were dark and golden at once. His hair gleamed like the gold that she and her sisters found sometimes on the ocean floor. His doublet was rich deep blue, edged with white epaulets on the shoulders. His boots were tall and gleamed, as did his smile as he looked down at her laying at his feet.

“My, what a tasty morsel.”

She looked at the fistful of weeds in her hand, then up at him. Silently she proffered the greens. He tilted his head back and laughed.

Mudge came out of the house, tugging his forelock of hair and giving a short bow.

“Yer Majesty.” Although she didn’t know Mudge all that well, his tone carried a note of …disdain?

“You didn’t tell me you had such a pretty gel here, Mudge.  Hiding her away for yourself?”

Mudge shook his head, scowling a bit. Tricky ground here.

“She’s Trey’s family. His sisters husbands sister’s adopted daughter. She’s mute, and didn’t get along with her….” Mudge fumbled his way through the convoluted lie. “….stepfather.”

The Prince’s eyebrow raised as he tried to work his way around the lineage, then waved a hand in dismissal.

“She’s a prime piece, Mudge.”

“She’s not for sale, Majesty.” The note of censure was obvious, even to Ari. Yet the Prince rolled over the unspoken objection.

“Is this not my kingdom?” At Mudges terse nod, he continued. “Is this not my land? Why, even this little hovel is, by letter of the law, mine.”

Mudge bit the inside of his cheek hard enough to taste blood. Fucking royal ass. The property they stood upon had been deeded to him by the Prince’s mother years ago, and well he knew it.

“By the letter of the law, Sir, the house and property are fairly mine. And she is family, mine and Trey’s to watch over.”

“You can watch.” The Prince’s crude humor made a rush of color rise in Mudges face.

“Go inside, girl and wash your face,” ordered Mudge.

“I will help,” offered the Prince.

“You’ve not been invited, Majesty. I bid you good day.” Turning his back on the Prince might be constrained as an insult, but Mudge was not a man of the courts, but a man of the earth.  He leaned back against the door, listening for what would come next.

He heard the Prince mutter under his breath, as he moved away. He’d bought them some time, then.


When Trey returned from the village, they sat at the table, holding hands, as Ari watched each of them avidly, trying to figure out what was being said.

“He’ll take her and use her and I can’t let that happen,” Mudge said, looking angry.

“It’s really her choice, Mudge. Maybe we should ask her.”

Carefully they walked around the issue, until she was so confused she shook her head, pulled her hands free, and ran to her room. Silent tears fell from her eyes as she tried to make sense of what they were not telling her.


An hour later, Trey knocked on her door.

“Girl, I’m coming in.”

He heard nothing through the door, and thinking she had fallen asleep, he opened the door to the wee room. The window stood open wide, with the sound of the sea filling the room.

She had left as quietly as she had come.