The Question of a Quest
Once upon a time, in a land called Bookania, there lived the Locksley twins, a prince and a princess. These twins had a garden they considered theirs, and to it they would retreat whenever the prying eyes of the court and people became tiresome to them, as was quite often the case. One would retreat to the garden to sew and would turn out some of the most amazing tapestries. The other would go to the garden to do sword practice routines that would leave most others quickly gasping in the dust.
And so were they both doing at the start of my story. The sewer sat before a large tapestry frame, a lovely forest scene slowly forming under the quickly darting ivory needle. The fighter was performing one of the more difficult of the practice routines, and, so far, wasn’t missing one step.
“Be careful,” the sewer cautioned, as the fighter did a back flip that brought the sword a bit too close to the tapestry for the sewer’s comfort.
“You know I always am,” said the fighter, vaulting into another back flip. However, this broke the fighter’s concentration, and the sword was thrown too high and imbedded itself in the tree that was at the end of the back flip. “I meant to do that,” said the fighter, trying to cover the rare mistake.
“I’m sure,” said the sewer.
The other wasn’t paying attention. With an exaggerated sigh, the fighter flopped down at the sewer’s feet. Gazing up at the back of the tapestry, Robin thought of how their lives were not unlike that tangled, twisted surface.
“It’s not fair,” Robin complained. “Swordplay’s my life! Father can’t make me stop!” This not getting response from the sewer, Robin continued, “Not that you care, all you care about is that silly needle.”
“It’s not silly,” argued the sewer. This was, by the way, an old argument between them. “I enjoy watching the scenes I sew come to life under my needle.”
“It’s boring,” yawned Robin. “Now swordplay…”
“Makes you lose your head,” the sewer finished.
“Robert!” Robin hissed, rolling onto her stomach to glare at her brother. He just calmly watched his rapidly darting needle, seeming to take no notice of her reaction. With an exasperated sigh, Robin rolled over and began mutilating a blade of grass. “It’s all her fault,” she said after a period of thought, and speaking of their Fairy Godmother. “She should have gotten our gifts right in the first place.”
Not only were their gifts, as far as they could tell at least, mixed up, they were the first two they knew of to have a Fairy Godmother in years. The fairies were strange, mysterious beings, rumored to exist, yet over the years, sightings of them had become less and less frequent until they were all but forgotten. No one was even sure how many fairies there were. Some said two, others four. One particularly old story spoke of a princess who had seven Fairy Godmothers, but she had disappeared mysteriously years ago, so nothing good came of it.
“Don’t worry,” said Robert. “I’m sure the emissary will be back any day now.”
“You’ve said that practically every day for the last six months,” Robin pointed out with a roll of her eyes. She threw down the scraps of grass, and stood up. Gazing up at the tree her sword was stuck in, she commented, “Looks like I have a climb ahead of me.”
Robert glanced up at the sword for the briefest second. “Well, at least Father won’t have to worry about it falling on some courier or ambassador’s head,” he said.
“At least Father doesn’t make me wear skirts anymore,” Robin said with a bit of an edge in her voice. “Can you imagine trying to climb a tree in a dress?”
For the first time since the conversation began the needle actually paused. “Uh, no,” said Robert, “not really.” But then as the needle resumed its swift speed, “Well actually, I can. I did wear your skirts for about six months, if you’ll remember right.”
“Those were the days,” said Robin, “back when we weren’t considered completely crazy.”
“You did have to go and give us away,” said Robert.
“They were laughing at you!” Robin exclaimed. “Oh!” Her eyes flashed as she swung herself up into the tree, then she added, “Besides, I really doubt that our ploy would work anymore. We have grown up a bit since we were six.”
The two of them were almost identical, the difference being that Robin was a girl, and Robert was a guy. They both had the same brown hair, although Robin’s was quite a bit longer, the same brown eyes, and the same olive complexions. Even now, it was impossible to mistake the two of them for anything but brother and sister.
“I’ll say,” agreed Robert.
There was a sudden, distant, trumpet blast, that startled them off of the topic.
“Do you think that’s him?” Robin asked, swinging instinctively down from the tree.
“Can’t be sure,” said Robert. “Which him are you talking about? You have so many – .”
Robin cut him off with a glare, “The emissary,” she said, through almost clenched teeth. “Sir Hugh.”
“Oh!” said Robert, Robin recognized his teasing voice. “I thought you were talking about one of your suitors. Are you sure you don’t want it to be one of them?”
“No thank you,” said Robin. “But, if it is, I’ll just challenge him to a swordfight, and that will be the end of it.”
“Don’t get his sword stuck in the ceiling,” cautioned Robert.
“Eric deserved that!” Robin exclaimed, her eyes flashing again. Then after some thought she said, “I don’t see why they have to pick on me, though. There are other princesses.”
“You’re a challenge,” said Robert. “I think there’s a rumor going around that you’ll marry the first man to best you in a duel.”
“As if that will ever happen,” said Robin with a roll of her eyes. “But, you know, I have better things to do with my time than fighting off those annoying princes and those irritating young lords.”
“You are such a girl,” said Robert with a grin and a shake of his head.
“You are such a boy,” returned Robin with a roll of her eyes.
“Thank you,” said Robert.
Just then they heard the trumpets again, only this time they sounded closer. “How long do you think we have until they get here?” Robin asked.
The needle paused as Robert considered. “I’d say about thirty minutes,” he announced as the needle resumed its progress.
“Then I’d better get in,” Robin remarked. “Meg always has a time of it turning me from sword maiden to princess. I’ll give her as much time as possible.”
“I thought you – ,” Robert began, but Robin was already gone. He shook his head and began putting the tapestry frame away. He didn’t want it to get ruined in the off-chance of an early spring storm. As he left the garden, he gave the sword a glance and shook his head. He hoped Robin wouldn’t forget about it.
Thirty minutes later, Robin stood in their father’s throne room, leaning against one of the many enormous tapestries that covered practically every wall in the castle. She was now wearing a long dark blue satin dress, well embellished with sky blue lace. Her hair was done up in an elegant twist, much better than her own haphazard knots, and decorated with a silver and sapphire tiara that flaunted her status as a princess. She wore a silver bracelet on each wrist, and a silver and sapphire necklace around her neck. The heavy sapphire earrings were what really bugged her, but they couldn’t be helped. Her hands were clasped tightly in front of her to keep her from fidgeting.
Beside her stood an equally bedecked Robert – although he didn’t have to wear annoying earrings. However, unlike her, he was completely calm. Easy for him, Father wasn’t trying to marry him off to every suitor that came into the castle – not that suitors came for him…
King Alexander and Queen Charlotte sat upon their thrones, looking regal and royal, as all kings and queens ought.
The doors at the end of the room opened, and with a trumpet fanfare, in came a man. Robin recognized him to be Sir Hugh, the emissary they had sent out six months before.
“You have returned,” said King Alexander. “What news do you bring?”
For the next hour, Sir Hugh gave a detailed account of his travels and trials, according to proper protocol. Robin found herself fidgeting, rolling her eyes, and barely containing her exasperated sighs, as both her mother and father inquired after each and every minute detail.
Robin had completely stopped listening, and was contemplating the sword stuck in the ceiling, the one directly over Sir Hugh’s head – not that there were any other swords stuck in the ceiling…
Robert’s elbow nudged her discretely from her reverie.
“Yes sir,” Sir Hugh was saying, “all she asked for was food. Even had I not had plenty, I would not have turned her away. I urged her to eat her fill.”
“You ever were such the compassionate soul,” gushed Queen Charlotte.
Sir Hugh blushed and continued, “After the old woman finished eating, she told me that she was, in fact, a fairy!”
“You were successful?” cried King Alexander.
“Not completely so,” said Sir Hugh, “for she told me then that she wasn’t the Fairy Godmother of the Prince and Princess.”
“But it is a greater success than any of the other emissaries previous,” said Queen Charlotte approvingly.
“Yes,” said Sir Hugh, “for she then told me that the fairy we seek is named Fallona, and that, should they truly wish their gifts switched, they would have to seek her themselves on their own quest.”
“But they’re only children!” exclaimed Queen Charlotte. Robin rolled her eyes.
“That is what the fairy told me,” answered Sir Hugh.
“Are you sure it was a fairy?” Queen Charlotte asked suspiciously.
“I am,” answered Sir Hugh, “for when we finished speaking, she first turned into a beautiful young woman, with green eyes, auburn hair, and clad in a flowing green dress. Then she disappeared completely from my sight.”
“Did she say anything else!” blurted Robin, forgetting herself.
“Yes,” said Sir Hugh, “she said that the prince and princess would have to have the quest completed before their eighteenth birthday, for once they turn eighteen their gifts will no longer be able to be switched.”
“But that’s only four months away!” exclaimed King Alexander.
“I only repeat what the fairy told me,” said Sir Hugh.
“It will take us three, maybe four weeks, at least, to get a proper entourage together,” exclaimed Queen Charlotte, wringing her hands. Robin rolled her eyes. Trust their mother to get overworked on such a simple affair as a quest.
Looking directly at the twins, King Alexander said, “I will consider the matter. Children, see me in my office this evening at eight o’clock and I will tell you what I decide.”
“Yes sir,” said Robin and Robert together, then the two of them were dismissed.
Robin went straight for her room, to rid herself of the annoying skirt and jewelry. This done, she headed outside to the garden. Remembering the sword, she retrieved it with the intent of finishing the practice routine interrupted earlier.
However, no sooner had her feet hit the ground than the threatening spring storm let loose. Robin now had to entertain herself inside which was such a bother. At least she didn’t have etiquette lessons today. Oh, how she hated those!
Absentmindedly, she wandered over to the library to research the best ways to go about a quest. Slowly the hours eked by and eight o’clock finally came around. She and Robert met at the door of their father’s office and were shown in by one of his personal guards.
“There you two are,” said King Alexander, standing as they entered. Robin had her hands clasped tightly behind her back, what had their Father decided? Would he let them go?
Placing an arm around each of their shoulders, he led them to a window overlooking the palace gates. “I have considered the matter,” he continued, “but first, do the two of you want to go on the quest?”
“Oh yes!” Robin exclaimed, turning and grabbing his large hand in both of hers. “Oh, Please Father, please let us go!” Robert, on the other hand, just nodded, not being as enthusiastic as her about things like this.
“Very well then,” said King Alexander smiling at his over exuberant daughter and overly calm son. “Here is what I have decided. Take some money, and get yourselves some horses, and whatever else you might need for this quest, and you may leave as soon as you are ready, for I feel that the success of your venture is dependent on your going alone. However, don’t tell your mother, you know her nerves. I personally have no fear for your safety as Robin has been able to fight off every young man that has come to the castle.” The look on his face showed he wasn’t amused, causing Robin to fidget a bit. “Does that sound satisfactory to you?”
“Oh, yes!” cried Robin, throwing herself into her father’s chest and giving him a huge hug. King Alexander returned his daughter’s hug and she dashed out of the room.
“Thank you Father,” said Robert, much calmer.
Putting his hand on his son’s shoulder, King Alexander said, “Take care of her, Robert. Don’t let her hothead carry her away.”
“I will,” promised Robert. “I always have.”
King Alexander gave Robert’s shoulder a squeeze as he said, “I know you will, thank you.” He smiled warmly.
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