The Firebird Prince

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“Wait, wait, wait. You got kidnapped?”

Asa glared at her, clearly exasperated, and Farah shrugged. “It’s kinda farfetched.”

“Well, it’s true,” Asa said. “And apparently, our kidnapper is your mother.”

Farah blinked, then laughed outright. “My mother,” she repeated. “My mother, who can’t even kill a fly without being guilty?”

The sisters shared a look, while the stony-faced Commander--he was quite scary, to be honest--remained impassive. “Has your mother been acting suspiciously?” he asked, speaking for the first time. His voice suited him: cold, imperious and inscrutable. She could have painted it, in black and grey, like the King’s voice was a rich blend of colours.

Farah quickly directed her thoughts away. “No,” she said. “She’s been in her room a lot lately, though--which is unusual. At first, I thought she missed Father, but--” she shrugged. “I don’t know.”

The Commander’s eyes remained trained on her, intense and piercing. “Have you seen a strange man around? Blue eyes, dark skin?”

Farah frowned. “No.”

Asa squinted at her, clearly suspicious. “How do we know she isn’t in on it?”

Zara swatted at Asa’s hand, but the Commander raised an eyebrow at Farah. “Are you?”

Under that stare, Farah couldn’t have lied if she wanted to. “I swear, this as shocking to me as it is to you.” She glanced a the paints and brushes she had dropped. “Why else would I have done that? I’m not that good an actor.”

Asa looked unconvinced, but Zara hummed. “I believe you,” she said. “It all checks out.”

Farah gave her a grateful nod, her head still buzzing. “But what--what are you doing here? I don’t believe my mother did this. What proof do you have, anyway?” Her voice was becoming slightly hostile, but she couldn’t help it.

“The man who kidnapped us,” Zara said patiently; “he said he had a mistress, meaning there’s someone behind him and it’s a woman. And then he brought us here, to your house. It makes sense, Farah.”

Farah scowled. “But my mother--she isn’t a traitor.”

“It’s always the people we least expect,” the Commander murmured. Farah crossed her arms.

“I’m sorry, who are you?” she snapped. “And don’t act all high and mighty, because if you really were, you wouldn’t have let the Princesses get kidnapped.”

The Princesses gaped; the Commander only blinked, looking blank, then scowled and said nothing. Asa stared first at him, then at her, and laughed. “Wow,” she said. “I’ve never seen that happen.” And for the first time, there was something akin to respect in her voice.

Zara grinned and Farah shrugged, but she couldn’t resist the smirk.

“Can we please focus?” the Commander said through grit teeth. “We have to get out. The King will worry for you.”

“Yeah,” Asa said. “Farah, you can get us out, right?”

She, get them out? “Um, I don’t know.”

“Isn’t there a back door we can sneak out of?”

Farah shrugged. “I suppose. It’s not that far.” She nodded, gaining faith. “Yeah, we can do this.”

“First of all,” the Commander said, “we need weapons. Do you have a dagger?”

Farah blinked at him. “No, of course not--why would I have a dagger?”

The Commander sighed. “A kitchen knife?”

Sullenly, Farah nodded.

“In case of trouble,” he said, “we’ll need to defend ourselves. First, we get weapons, then we move.” He glanced towards Asa. “Can you walk?”

“I’ll manage.”

Farah nodded. “Alright then. I’ll be just a moment.”

Feeling ridiculously excited—this was such an adventure!—Farah made her way to the kitchen. Her house was, as usual, quiet, and few servants appeared in the halls. She grinned to herself, then made a face at her own idiocy.

In the kitchen, she examined a large knife that was fit for a butcher’s shop, and decided it would be good enough. The way back was quick, though Farah had to tale care not accidentally stab herself.

“There you go,” she said, presenting the knife to the commander. “Is this good enough, or should I get another?”

His eyes flickered at her mocking tone, but he took the knife and pushed to his feet. “Come on,” he said. “Quietly.”

Zara helped Asa to her feet, and they nodded to the commander, signalling the were ready. Ahad went first, checking to see if the path was clear, with Farah prompting them in the right direction.

“There’s the door,” she said when the stopped in front. “It leads into a small garden, and then into the woods. Just look our for the servant’s cabin a little far out. Otherwise, you should be safe.”

Asa and the commander nodded; Zara, to Farah’s surprise, hugged her. “Thank you,” she said earnestly. “I owe you.”

Farah grinned. “Anything for you.”

“Come on,” Asa said, her eyes searching the darkness. “Let’s get out of here as soon as we can.”

As the Princesses stepped out, the commander turned to Farah. “Keep an eye on your mother. I will be coming back for her.”

Farah balled her fists. “You should have proof first.”

“Oh,” the commander said, his eyes glinting, “I will.”

And then, he stole into the darkness.

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