fire sign Preludes: Princess Deuce – Bard and Fate

Despite her royal lineage, she was known to the kitchen staff and servants as Deuce.

If she was lucky then, with a mock bow, she might even be afforded the title of Little Miss Deuce or, should there be knowing nobles within earshot, Princess Deuce.

It was as if somehow she had been set aside from the upbringing seemingly reserved for her siblings, as if there was some secret she had yet to be told.

In the Koklyush language, the two characters used to form her nickname, ‘deu‘ and ‘ci‘ meant, individually, ‘sly‘ and ‘knight‘. When the same knowing nobles, kitchen staff and servants became aware of this fact, they would nod seriously and whisper to one another.

It had been like this for as long as she could remember.

Whenever she questioned her mother or father on the matter they would turn and look sadly out of the stained glass windows of the palace, regarding their lands with stately melancholy and refraining from providing answers.

Her tutor, the frail and evasive Counsellor Drosselmeyer, was equally adamant that the subject be avoided.

He would peer out at her from behind his wire framed spectacles, stroke his wispy grey beard and then go on to complain that her theoretical knowledge of the forms of classical magical really wasn’t up to the level expected of pupils her age.

It was thus that Princess Deuce had turned away from the study of magic and Koklyush fables and applied herself in the solitary pursuit of becoming, once and for all, a tomboy.

She was the youngest of three sisters and, as such, there was little left for her in the way of etiquette and beautification. Instead she devoted herself to studying archery and horse riding; not the silly, ceremonial kind on winged horses and virgin unicorns practised by her sisters, but bareback upon the war horses stolen from the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers charged with guarding the palace.

She had made of herself both a rogue and a rebel, a girl unfit for royalty. She was the perfect self-fulfilling prophecy of reluctant parents and scullery maids.

It was thus that she found herself by the river that ran through the king’s forests, her feet idling beneath gently running water and her stolen steed at pasture, when the king and his entourage arrived from the west.

Little Miss Deuce made no effort to rise or show benediction to her royal father, a fact that was overlooked by none but the king himself and the curious figure with whom he rode.

“Hwæt, Princess Celesta!” cried the king in a voice of false cheer and bravado.

“Hwæt…father.” Little Miss Deuce answered with disdain, her eyes fixing on the common man who rode alongside her noble parent.

He was a short man compared to the peoples of the palace, his hair dishevelled and burnt pale by the sun of a distant land. His face was marked with stubble and his blue eyes were fierce and decisive. A bard, Princess Deuce decided. No other of so completely untrustworthy a manner would have been entertained in her father’s court.

“Tomorrow shall be your fourteenth birthday…” the king began.

“I hadn’t forgotten, father.” Deuce interrupted.

The old man smiled in a confused manner and laughed nervously.

“Yes, well, being as such, we, that is to say, your mother and I, thought you might benefit from the tutelage of a new instructor. I suppose old Drosselmeyer and his fuddy-duddy ways must seem quite old fashioned to you now you’re about to turn fourteen years of age.”

She narrowed her eyes and rose from her place on the bank of the stream, brushing back a strand of dark hair.

“What is it you want of me, father?” She asked firmly.

The king, now thoroughly flustered, began to pull at his grand, ermine trimmed robes and look decidedly unsettled.

“I’m sure you can’t have failed to notice my companion, Celesta, dear,” he said, his voice suddenly low and urgent.

“This man,” he paused and glanced just once at the other rider before inclining his head back towards Princess Deuce. “This man is to be your new benefactor and you his ward.”

A flush of anger welled up in the young girl and her expression darkened.

“Is this it then, father?” She asked loudly. “Is that the fate I’ve been set aside for; to be cast out of the palace like some magician’s peasant niece and sent away to live with a stranger? Is this the fate of which they whisper in the palace halls, is this what you have always intended for me?”

The old king looked imploringly towards her, reaching down from his horse and caressing her young face.

“My dear Celesta, my dear, dear Celesta, if only you knew,” he murmured softly. “How troubled was your birth, dear one, how bleak was the curse laid upon you by the Carabosse, how this man alone was able to raise you from an eternal slumber by dowsing you in the waters of another world.”

The old man looked away, sudden tears springing forth in his dark eyes.

“There is a price for all life, dearest one.” He said, his voice suddenly firm. “This is the price for yours.”

Little Miss Deuce turned angrily from her father to the man upon the dark horse at his side.

“And who is this great hero who did so much for you all and damned me to this outcast’s life?” She spat. “Who is the man to which I owe so much?”

The bard upon the dark steed smiled in a lopsided manner and bowed half-heartedly.

“Hello, princess,” he said in an accent she hadn’t been expecting. “You can call me Magenta.”

She blinked once and, in that instant, it suddenly occurred to her that every animal of the forest had fallen into solemn silence.

The bard looked at her appraisingly with his fierce, blue eyes.

“I’m here to teach you the true nature of magic.” He said with disinterest. “I’m here to take you to Earth.”

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