Star of Wonder, page 25
* * * * *
“I will help you, Princess, and gladly.” The Lady Darkness drew the Princess close and kissed her. “And not only I, but all those who love me as well. Shadow!” she called out. “Come here! I need you.”
The Princess covered a gasp with her hand as a boy of twelve stepped out from behind a tree, where she was sure there had been no one a moment before. He was dressed all in black, and his face held a strong look of the Lady Darkness, though a hint of the Lord Sun lurked about his narrow eyes, which danced with mischief. “I am here, my mother,” he made reply, bowing low to the Lady Darkness.
“Less foolishness, more work,” the Lady commanded, swatting her son on the back of his dark-haired head. “Go to the Palace of the Winter King and find out what they say of the absence of the Princess, and if they are suspicious that she might be seeking help for her troubles, confuse their sight to keep them from finding her here. You know best how such a thing can be done.”
“I hear and obey, O my Queen!” The boy Shadow leapt into the air, clicked his heels together, and was gone.
The Lady Darkness sighed, shaking her head. “You must forgive my son,” she said to the Princess. “He is very young, and thinks that he is funny. Now I shall find my husband to hear again with him the tales of the Birds who saw these spells cast, for only by knowing what was done to you and to your beloved can we know how to undo it. But you shall go with my daughter—ah, there you are,” she added to the Peaceful One, who had just appeared at the doorway to the garden. “Take the Winter Princess to your friends, and help them to find out the help she needs and give it to her, so that she will be strong enough to bear what will come next.”
“Yes, Mama.” The Peaceful One kissed her mother on the cheek. “I will come to find you when we are finished.”
“Who are your friends?” the Princess asked the other girl curiously as they made their way deeper into the gardens. “And what help can they give me?”
“Healing and peace, like my name,” said the Sun’s daughter, laying her fingers briefly on the Princess’s forehead. “Healing and peace for both your body and your mind, for your mother’s spell was cruel not only in its effects but also in its working.”
“What do you mean?” The Princess frowned, trying to understand. “How can a spell be cruel?”
“To tear away memories from a mind, as was done to you…” The Peaceful One pursed her lips as she thought of which words to use. “It is as though she had torn away a piece of your flesh,” she said at last, “and left the wound open and bleeding. How could your body have the peace and rest it needs to heal itself if you had such a wound as that, untended, unhelped? But this wound is in your mind, it cannot be seen, and so you thought it was not real.” Slim, dark eyes looked deep into the Princess’s. “Yes?”
“Yes,” the Princess admitted, breathing deep to hold back her tears. “But one tends a wound of the body with bandages and salves. How can one tend a wound of the mind?”
“Ah!” The Sun’s daughter held up a finger, then lowered it to indicate a garden bed. “That is where my friends, and my knowledge, can help. For I speak the language of the Flowers, and some of them produce a magical nectar which can help to calm a wounded mind.” The Peaceful One smiled, and all around her Flowers of purple and gold and blue lifted their blossom-faces to smile as well. “I will tell them of your troubles, and lead you among them that they may learn of the spell upon you. From that they will learn which of them can help you best, and then they will give you the nectar which will bring you peace long enough to begin the healing of those wounds of your mind. Is that something you wish?”
The Princess licked her lips, trembling in fear, but at last she was able to whisper, “Yes.” Then the Sun’s daughter spoke a few words in a language the Princess did not know, but which the Flowers seemed to understand, and led the Princess into the bed of Flowers. They brushed their blossoms against her as though taking her scent, and the Princess breathed of their scent as well and felt her mind drift away from its troubles. At last, two of the Flowers leaned forward, and the Peaceful One held out her hands to them, receiving from each a few drops of clear liquid. She rose to her feet and offered her cupped hands to the Princess, and the Princess lowered her head and drank of the potion, finding it sweet and good.
“There,” said the Peaceful One with satisfaction, bending to kiss the top of the Princess’s head. “Now your wounds are tended, and now you can heal and grow strong. And when you are strong, you can go out questing once again, to find the Land of Flowers…”