The Snow Princess: A Terror Mountain Tale - Part Two
His eyes met those of the Aisha princess.
Her eyes met the gaze of the Gelert prince.
For a moment that felt like it lasted for hours, they stood there, motionless. They each knew what the other was; the prince knew by her countenance that she was royalty of these lands, and the princess knew he was from another kingdom by his foreign garb. Yet they each sensed that they were one and the same. They held no hatred because of the lands they hailed from, nor the countless terrible acts that befell their people. There was only understanding, and in each other’s eyes they could see the pain felt over these endless battles.
The Gelert prince decided to act first; he slowly removed his sword and scabbard from his belt and dropped it to the ground, to prove he meant no harm to her person. He then gave a low bow and announced, “Good evening, your Grace; I am the Prince of Delfinor.”
The Aisha princess, a bit uncertain at first, could not find the strength to move or speak. But she gradually forced her body to make a small curtsey, and in soft voice replied, “I am the Princess of Merian; pleased to make your acquaintance, Sir Gelert.”
At this awkward meeting they both could not help but laugh, and both the prince and princess felt it had been so long since they had reason to truly smile. They felt a wondrous comfort in each other’s company, as two old friends meeting after many years apart. At ease, they began to talk to each other, of their countries and customs, of their upbringing and way of life. The prince spoke of his father forcing him to join the war and his desire for peace, while the princess spoke of her years of confinement and her desire to be free. All the while, they had unknowingly walked closer and closer to one another; they finally realized that they were standing side by side, hand in hand, staring up at Kreludor.
“Princess, I know we have had but a moment’s meeting,” the prince began, turning his head to the princess’s gaze, “But I feel within you is a kindred spirit. Why should we suffer for our fathers’ grudge against the other? Let us go together, you and I, far away from here, away from the bloodstained earth and fire strewn sky. Across the ocean lies a beautiful mountain range, covered in snow and majestic fir trees, a land untainted by hatred. Let us know peace and freedom for once, where our lives are not determined by our fathers’ malice.”
The Aisha princess balked at the prince’s request; how could she possibly do such a thing? Abandon her family and country, all for a prince she had known for but a night? Yet she hesitated in her refusal; after all, what was truly there for her in that castle should she return? A life of loneliness, of waiting for a war’s end that might never come to pass? The princess felt so lost, unsure for the first time in her young life of what was the right path to take. She stared into the prince’s eyes, looking for some hint of ill intent or untruth. Yet in his bright blue eyes she could find none, only sincerity and compassion. She was drawn to his kindness, and threw aside all excuses and reasons; she had found happiness with this Gelert prince, and she did not want to lose that feeling so quickly.
“Yes, your Highness; I shall go with you,” the princess replied, her green eyes staring up fervently into his.
Both smiling once more, they walked hand in hand, guided by the green light of the earth faeries dancing in the sky, bringing nothing with them but each other. They headed towards that mountain across the sea, that beacon of hope that lay in the East.
“My dearie, are you alright? I thought I heard a strange noise.” Grace turned the key, and slowly opened the door to the bedchamber, holding out a candlestick for light. She saw the empty bed, and the windows hitting the walls as the wind blew through. The curtains fluttered, a silent phantom as the moonlight shone on an otherwise abandoned room. The candlestick slipped from Grace’s hand as she stood in shock; the flame was extinguished from the fall, the candle rolling away into the darkness.
“Captain.” A Lupe scout kneeled before the red Techo. “Some strange lights were spotted over yonder; while we have no idea what occurred, we found this.” He held out the prince’s scabbard and sword to the Techo captain. “We have searched for the prince, but to no avail. We fear he has either been captured, or... or-”
“Or slain,” the captain responded dejectedly. His clenched fists began to shake in anger, that even the Lupe scout took notice and backed away slightly in fear. “Our prince must have been overtaken by our enemy. We must gather the troops quickly and return to our king. This will not go unpunished, but we will need all our forces at hand. Prepare yourselves; we march at dawn.”
By Dawn’s light the prince and princess had traveled a great distance; they did not grow weary, for their hearts were light and unburdened for the first time. As they reached the shore, they could see the great mountain far off in the distance. A nearby school of Peophin agreed to carry them across the sea; leaping into the air, and crashing down into the waves below, the prince and princess laughed joyfully as they rode upon the Peophins’ backs.
The princess ran her hands across the water, her fingers slicing through the choppy waves of deep blue. Below the waves she could make out the figures of Walein and Arkmite, and many other creatures she had never seen outside of her books. She was truly happy being out in the world, and best of all, she had someone to share it with. Glancing sideways towards the prince, her already pink fur took to a more reddish tinge.
The prince was taken by her kind and sweet nature. That image of her singing alone in the forest, with no one but the earth faeries to console her, was still fresh in his mind; he did not wish for her to be alone again, to not feel that sadness ever again.
As he noticed the princess staring back at him, he quickly averted his gaze in embarrassment and focused his eyes upon the horizon, the sun beginning its descent into the waters. The deep and vibrant sky of orange and red was beautiful to behold; the princess was enchanted by this marvelous sight, and leaned her head upon the prince’s shoulder as she took it all in. The two of them watched the sun’s light become swallowed up by the sea, and as the air grew colder in the dark, the prince unclasped his heavy red cloak and draped it around the princess for warmth.
The prince and princess soon fell asleep; the Peophin gathered closer together, lest the two of them should fall into the sea. The school of Peophin continued to swim in the darkness, guided by the constellations of the Wave and the Hunter to stay their course. They glided across the waves with grace and ease, their powerful tails propelling them through the dark sea. By Dawn’s rising the prince woke to the crisp morning air, and gently nudged the princess from her slumber as well. Flocks of white Weewoos circled overhead, searching for fish amidst their sad cries of, “wee... woo...” By midday, the snow-covered mountain towered over them, its rocky carapace dotted with trees.
As their journey across the sea came to a close, the Peophin set them upon the shores of that snowy land, and then they leapt off into unknown waters. The prince and princess waved good bye and watched them leave until they faded away from their sight; they then turned around to start their trek up the grand mountain. Though they struggled past the steep and snow covered slope for many days, eventually they reached the top.
“We are here, princess; look around you.”
The princess squinted her eyes until they grew accustomed to the bright light, and then she gasped in wonder. As she turned in each direction she could see all of Neopia from that magnificent mountain. The snow lay thick upon the ground, and the snow capped fir trees circled the mountain like giant guardians. The mountain lay in silence, aside from the noble pairs’ own breathing and the occasional gust of cold wind. The princess breathed in the clean crisp air deeply, so different from the stuffy and dank air within the castle walls of her home.
“It is beautiful, your Highness; thank you for taking me here. I shall remember this for the rest of my days.” The princess’s eyes sank down, her thoughts returning to her kingdom beyond the mountain.
The prince put his hand under her chin, and lifted her face to meet his gaze. “Do not speak in that way, princess; you will never return to that way of life ever again. I did not travel with you all this way just to bring you back to that tower prison. We deserve to be happy, together.” And with that, he drew her close into his arms and embraced her.
The Aisha princess allowed herself to be held as she dried the tears from her eyes. Heat rose to her cheeks; her fear lost against the strength of those arms, that held her as if to never let her go. Comforted, and smiling once more, she began to explore the mountain top and all of its wonders with the Gelert prince.
As the days went by, the prince and princess had made a small cave their dwelling place on the mountain top, and in all that time had never left the other’s side. They lived a life of tranquility and peace, amidst a land of endless snow. Aside from themselves and the winter petpets that lived there, the mountain was uninhabited, but they had each other, and that was all they needed to be happy.
In all the time they spent together in happiness, still too quickly did it pass.
To be continued...