Princess Charming

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Chapter 2: Muffin Returns

Horseback riding was glorious. Celine had never before felt something so exhilarating. The wind blew her short blonde hair behind her, and the movement of a live animal beneath her, although uncomfortable at first, became an experience she knew she would never forget.

Celine and Roe had only been riding at a light trot for about 30 minutes before they ran into trouble. One minute the skyline was a deep, beautiful azure, and the next a dragon was looming towards them from behind. And not just any dragon.

“Muffin! Crap, he’s following us!” Celine warned Roe.

“Can’t you, I don’t know, shoo him away or something?”

“Uh…” Celine muttered. Muffin had been known to bite anything within distance, particularly the heads of especially bold knights.

Roe shook her head. “Alright. Then things are about to get bumpy. I would suggest hanging on.”

Before Celine could protest holding onto someone she barely knew, Roe had kicked her horse into a hard gallop, and Celine was forced to choose between putting her arms around a stranger and being thrown off a horse and possibly eaten by a dragon. She chose the former.

Celine managed to glance behind her to check if the dragon was still gaining on them. Thankfully, Muffin was a pretty clumsy flyer, as he never really had much need for it as the guard of a tower. Even so, she would feel safer once they reached the approaching trees.

With a bound, the horse escaped into the cover of trees. Even with the safety of the forest, however, Roe didn’t slow down, and Celine was forced to bring an arm up to guard her face from the branches whipping at them from all sides. They rode at this hyper speed until they had reached the deepest part of the forest, and they finally slowed to at trot. Now that the scenery wasn’t rushing by at such a dizzying pace, Celine noticed how dark the forest was, and she shivered.

“You alright back there?” Roe asked softly.

“Yeah… Did we lose Muffin?” Celine murmured back. A twig snapped somewhere beside them and Celine tightened her grip around Roe’s waist.

“I think so. Even if he’s still above us though, the trees are too densely packed for him to get at us. We should probably stop to let Snowflake rest.”

Roe brought the horse to a gentle halt in a small copse. Although the expanse of ground was large and mossy, the surrounding trees kept them hidden from above with their canopy. They dismounted and Celine dropped to the ground, her head still spinning from the exhilarating ride. Roe pulled a pack off of Snowflake and proceeded to give her horse some water, then took a swig herself.

“Want some?” she asked, offering the drink to Celine. She nodded and took the flask.

Roe sat down across from Celine and they sat for a few moments in silence.

Finally, Roe said, “So, tell me. Why exactly were you trapped in a tower, supposedly willingly?”

Celine pursed her lips. How to begin? And how much should she tell this stranger?

“Well… my parents put me in that tower, actually.” Celine looked at Roe for some sort of reaction, but her face was expressionless, waiting for her to go on.

Celine cleared her throat and continued. “I was just thirteen when it happened. I think their hope was that a prince would come and rescue me, we’d fall in love and get married, yadda, yadda, yadda. At first I was all for it. I was so young and naïve… Then the princes started coming and… well, I did fall in love with some of them. Or at least I thought I did. But… I don’t know. After the first few failed attempts, I started to think, “What’s the point?” And I realized that I don’t have to find my own happiness in another person. I could live for myself. Of course, just thinking that way didn’t help me. Hell, I didn’t even see anything wrong with that picture until you came along.” She gave a nervous laugh.

“You made me realize that I still wasn’t living up to my own ideal. I was living for my parents. Like you said, a princess in denial.” She laughed again.

“So I’d like to thank you, really.” Here she crawled over to Roe and put her hand on her arm. “Thank you, not for rescuing me, but for helping me rescue myself.”

They sat like that for a few heartbeats, just looking at each other.

Eventually, Roe turned away. “No problem. It’s what I’m here for. Anyway, we should probably get some sleep, it’s getting late.” She stood up and went to get sleeping supplies from her pack.

Celine looked up. Under the darkness of the trees she hadn’t realized it was so late, but now she could just barely see the darkening sky through the canopy overhead.

Roe tossed her a pack and she fumbled to catch it. Roe unrolled her own pack and slipped inside. Celine unrolled hers a foot or two away from her, and snuggled up inside. The summer night was warm, and the forest really wasn’t that scary now that she was used to it. Especially since she found comfort in the fact that Roe would be there to protect her. It only took a few minutes before Celine fell fast asleep.

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