The Diamond Gate By Holly Bargo
Every night for two years, seven sisters—princesses all—walked beneath silver trees hung with jeweled fruit, crossed a still black lake, and danced to liquid music with their faerie suitors. Every night for two years, their shoes collapsed and kept the city's cobblers busy.
His schemes for political and trade alliances thwarted by his daughters' nightly disappearances, the royal duke of Nuygenie invited royalty and aristocrats from far and wide to solve the mystery and win the hand of a princess. They came and they failed.
Then a common soldier, aged by war and years, thought to try his luck and improve his circumstances. A kindness to an old hag resulted in a magic cloak of invisibility and excellent advice that he put to good use to break the enchantment that held the princesses in thrall to their fey suitors.
Rejoicing, the duke elevated the soldier to serve as his general, so that the man might have rank befitting his royal bride. General Miles Carrow chose the eldest sister, Aurora, and wondered at the emptiness of their betrothal.
The passage beneath was blocked and sealed with iron. The sisters did not discuss all they had lost. No one ever asked them if they had even wanted to be rescued.
This is the story after the faerie tale.
“Did you hear that?” they whispered among themselves and agreed that, yes, each of them heard that, but not with their ears.
They all looked at the hippogriff, but only Aurora met its gaze. It despises us, she thought with surprise. A beast that despises us.
I find most humans contemptible as well as bad-tasting.
Her lips turned upward slightly at the corners. Touché, she thought, and caught the faintest glimmer of humor from the hippogriff.
“When will Lirón arrive?” she asked aloud, more as a courtesy to the others than for the hippogriff’s sake.
The animal cocked its head, opened and shut its beak with a click, and then sneezed. It shook its head, sending a feather into the breeze, which twirled it in unseen fingers for the princess to catch. She held it to her lips and surreptitiously sniffed. The scent wasn’t sour like poultry, but fresh, clean, and somehow wild.
Toss it into the wind should you have need of me, beloved of Lirón.
“Thank you,” she whispered.
The hippogriff bowed its head, turned tail, galloped a few steps, and leaped into the wind.
Hard boiled, scrambled, over easy, and sunny side up: eggs are the musings of Holly Bargo, the pseudonym for the author.
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