The Snow Princess: A Terror Mountain Tale - Part One
Long ago, there existed two neighboring countries: the Land of Merian and the Land of Delfinor. Though both were prosperous and wealthy in their own right, still their respective kings desired the other’s country for their own. Throughout their reigns, they had driven their countries to battle after battle, though neither gained advantage over the other for too long. Whether these travesties were started over personal disputes between the kings or some unknown matter, none can say. What can be said is this: the lives of many Neopets were lost; the peoples of both countries were filled with the turmoil and fear of the next siege, the next battle, always looming over their heads. But this story is not about the cause, or even events of this great travesty, but rather, the end of it all.
At the center of Merian lay its capital and castle, wherein lived an Aisha princess, daughter to the king. Her eyes were as green as the forests of that land, which she would gaze upon from within the castle walls, blue and gold banners waving in the breeze. Her pink fur ruffled slightly in the wind, which carried the sweet fragrance of the beautiful meadow flowers just outside the castle. How she would dream of walking through those forests and fields, her feet cooled by the soft shaded grass. She could rest by the slow running pools and eddies, and play with the Miamice and Gallions in the woods. She might even find an Earth Faerie singing in the treetops, as Earth Faeries were wont to do. She let out a soft sigh, getting a sharp response from her maidservant, an old Poogle by the name of Grace.
“You know you can’t leave the castle, my dearie; what would happen if Delfinor troops should attack nearby? You don’t want to be at their mercy, I trust.” Despite her caring nature, Grace gave her charge a look of firm disapproval, in hopes it would quell any further arguments. It did not.
“Oh, Gracey,” the princess sighed once more, “I haven’t been able to go outside since Father started this foolishness with the King of Delfinor. Each of them is trying to take control of the entire land, without regard to its effect on their people. I cannot live like this anymore, trapped within these great stone walls.” She leaned her head upon the stone windowsill, her brow furrowed in frustration. She felt so alone in this world, guarded under lock and key, with no one but Grace to accompany her. Even her father had not the time to see her, for he was almost always gone, fighting in far off battles to increase his country’s borders.
The old Poogle softened her gaze, and gently rested her arm around the princess’s shoulders. “There, there, my dearie; perhaps this will all be over soon, and you may run freely as you wish.” However, the words nearly caught in her throat, and even the princess could tell that Grace was not without her doubts.
“Thank you, Gracey,” the princess said, trying to muster a smile for her caretaker. “I suppose I shall retire for the day; looking outside my window only seems to burden my heart these days of late.”
The old nurse nodded quietly, and helped the young Aisha dress into her nightgown, and as she tucked her underneath the soft bed quilts she whispered, “Good night, my dearie; perhaps the morrow’s dawn will find you in better spirits.”
Grace closed the curtains and blew out the candles before quietly leaving the princess’s bed chamber. The princess felt her heart jolt as the loud click of the key turned within the door’s lock. How she hated that sound of cold metal, sealing her within her tomb-like chamber. Left to her own thoughts, her half-closed eyes began to well up with tears. The princess whispered to herself, “If only...,” before slowly closing her eyes to a dreamless sleep. Little did she know of what the dawn would truly bring her, with its undaunted rays of promise.
As Night’s darkened veils covered the sky, strange lights began to glow from those very woods the princess had been gazing upon that morning. Under the cover of darkness and the forest canopies marched troops of armored soldiers, some carrying banners of red and gold, others carrying torches to light the way. Their feet sank into the soft earth from the weight of that heavy clanking armor, yet they never stepped out of unison. After some time, they halted abruptly.
“We have arrived, Sire; shall we make camp here?” the Techo captain asked towards the shadow to his left. The torches flickered with the wind, and the grim silhouette of a Gelert prince could barely be seen.
“Very well,” the Gelert prince responded in disinterested tone. His soldiers began to pitch their red and gold tents, and others pounded staves into the ground to hold their torches. Soon a bonfire was lit, and they all gathered round it for warmth. The gleaming fire danced upon the wooden boughs, a dance both graceful and destructive. The young prince stared upon those flames, shadows leaping across his green fur; his mind was immersed in the events soon to occur.
“Your majesty,” the Techo captain repeated firmly. The Gelert prince, his eyes fixed on the bonfire flames, was startled out of his trance. He turned to the red skinned Techo, his captain of the guard and advisor. “It is time to discuss our plans. As Prince of Delfinor, your father holds great expectations of you in the approaching battle. With the Merian King fighting so far from his kingdom, and the strongest warriors among his personal royal cavalry, storming the castle should pose no real difficulty, no matter how many soldiers remain guarding the castle. Soon, all of this land will belong to Delfinor, and rightfully so.”
The prince nodded dutifully, and followed the captain into the war tent, the largest and centermost tent. Lanterns were hung inside, and a rather large wooden table lay in the center, covered with maps and diagrams of the Merian castle and surrounding lands. He remained silent for most of the discussion, only nodding in agreement when needed. He sat hunched in a hewn wood chair, brooding as the swinging lanterns cast patterns of shadow and light upon his face.
After they had gone over the battle formations and various scenarios that could occur, the talk soon turned to that of pillage, and the division of treasure and prisoners. The soldiers began to laugh and crash their mugs together, in celebration of their most assured victory. The prince scowled in revulsion at the exuberance shining in their eyes: what joy could be found in red-stained gold and Neopets held in shackles? Rising quickly from his seat, he said in cheerless voice, “I must get some fresh air; I will return in but a moment.” He hastily left the war tent without waiting to hear the protests of his soldiers, who began to exclaim that he should not wander alone.
The Gelert prince walked onwards without care or sense of purpose, only to get away from the bloodthirsty group he had been given charge over. The fallen leaves crunched beneath his feet, and the smell of damp earth filled his lungs. A light fog had begun to cover the earth, casting ethereal shapes and figures of smoke into the night. In a small clearing in the forest he stopped to catch his breath, just realizing how far he had strayed from his camp. He stared up into the sky, the beams of Kreludor’s light gently falling upon him. As he leant against a towering old tree, he gave a small sigh.
He could not live this way, trapped within the oppressive grasp of his father.
His father had done terrible things, both to the people of Merian as well as his own. Standing armies created food shortages and overworked the farming villages; disease had run rampant; and the constant battles made his people unhappy and afraid. And of course Merian would retaliate in kind to every wrong done to them, and the wheel of destruction would turn once more.
And now his father wished for him to walk this same path, a path paved with the bones of his countrymen. How he wished he did not have to fight in this war. Granted, he was no coward on the battlefield, but neither was he a tyrant who wished to hurt others who had done him no wrong. And as far as he could tell, there was no reason at all, despite Greed and Ambition, and even Revenge for past wrongs, for this great war to continue at all.
Just then, he was startled out of his thoughts again. He could have sworn he heard a voice singing in the distance; a melancholic, yet beautiful voice. He raised his eyes, peering through the beams of pale moonlight, and gasped in wonder.
The princess slept fitfully, tossing and turning beneath the heavy quilts. Eventually she woke up, unable to feel the gentle comforts Sleep would bring her. She crept out of bed and walked over to her window; pulling aside the embroidered curtains, she looked upon the night sky and the surrounding forests. Glowing Lightmites flitted through the air, as if imitating the stars above with their shimmering light.
Her restless spirit finally could not be restrained; the princess wished to be free, and cared not for the dangers that lurked beyond the walls. Putting a white cloak around her for warmth, she carefully climbed over her windowsill. Grabbing at the ivy that grew there, she slowly descended the tower of her room. Her heart began to beat faster, and the Aisha princess felt exhilarated beyond belief at the thought of running outside, of dancing in the fields; of seeing all the sights she imagined from Grace’s stories.
As she reached the main gate, she froze in her tracks: a Draik guard was standing his post; surely she had no way of escaping his notice? She quickly hid behind a star tree and carefully peered around it to observe the guard. He was leaning against the stone walls, his head bowed; as a loud abrasive snore began to strike her ears, the princess soon realized that he was in fact asleep. She quietly moved past him, being sure not to disturb him. “So much for the safety of the castle,” she thought to herself.
Free to do as she wished, the Aisha princess knew exactly where she would go first; she had heard from Grace’s stories (when the old Poogle could be persuaded to tell one) that there was a clearing within the forest, where legend told that earth faeries would dance beneath the light of Kreludor. Such a sight would last her for years to come, she thought; a memory to keep her heart alive for when she returned to her confined existence.
Her bare feet brushed against the cool grass, feeling just as she imagined it would be. The moonlight shone through the leaves of the treetops, giving an almost eerie green light to the earth below. Her heart was overjoyed by it all: “This is how it should always have been,” she thought, feeling slightly saddened by all those years she spent bound within the castle. But she quickly dismissed this from her mind, for she would not ruin this night with thoughts of sadness; there would be plenty of time for that in the future.
She finally found her way into the clearing; in the center lay a circle of stones, bathed in moonlight as she had always been told by Grace. But the earth faeries were nowhere to be seen, though the princess searched for that faint green glow she had been told of. “Perhaps it was but one of Gracey’s tales to pass the time?” she considered disappointingly. But she remembered that in the tale, the earth faeries could be enticed to dance by song. It was at least worth a try, as she had made all this effort to get here. The princess closed her eyes, and with hands clasped, began to sing a soothing melody, the song within her soul. A sad and yet entrancing melody, that spoke of the loneliness within her. The soft chords echoed hauntingly through the trees, and fog began to circle around the princess’s bare feet.
Orbs of green light shot out from the earth, encircling each other in the clearing, as a multitude of tiny Earth Faeries began their dance in the night. Their tiny leaf wings fluttered in the breeze, and vines and beautiful flowers began to grow at the spot from which they had appeared. Even the trees swayed in rhythm to their twirling. The Aisha princess opened her eyes and looked on in wonder, amazed at this marvelous occurrence.
As their light faded off into the night sky, however, she realized that she had not witnessed these events alone.
To be continued...