The Amber Arrow – Snippet 28
Chapter Twenty-Five: The Dark Angel Princess
Marguerite saw Windy one more time after the priest in the black coat and red collar had come through, looking for the queen’s crown.
The next morning the shadow thing came out just as Marguerite was going to bring in the bucket of milk that her sister Evangeline had milked from the cow earlier that morning.
There was Windy standing beside the barn door.
“I have to go,” it said. “To find the Dark Angel Princess and her brother, the Pale-Haired One. It’s all becoming clearer. I have to take the crown to them.”
“Well I wish you the best travel,” Marguerite said brightly. She was going to miss Windy the fulgin, even though she could hardly say she knew it very well. “What will you do after that task? Can you come back here and play?”
“No, Marguerite. After I have done that, I will die. It is the way I want to go. I will have done what I was born to do. And I can rest. It is really hard to be moving all the time like this. I would like a good long rest that lasted forever after I get this one thing done.
“I will never forget you,” said Marguerite. “The shadow that saved me from the pigs. Windy the magnificent! That’s you.”
The shadow had no face, but it seemed to vibrate a little bit, as if it were momentarily happy. Then it disappeared, this time for good.
When Marguerite went to get the eggs for the day she looked under every chicken and there was no crown.
That was too bad. She would have liked to have seen it. But it was better that she didn’t have it in her mind if the Romans and the red-collared priest came back.
Over the next days, Marguerite continued her tasks. She still daydreamed about being a handmaiden of princes Ravenelle, but she knew that the truth was she was going to be a field worker like everyone else on the plantation when she got to be ten. But that couldn’t keep her imagination from taking her places she would never see in real life. She just had to be careful to keep such things out of her surface thoughts.
Her master had recovered from his own treatment at the hands of the Romans. This hadn’t made him any easier. If anything, it had hardened him, taken away the kindness he’d sometimes shown.
He would notice if he caught her daydreaming. He might beat her for getting above herself. But now she was six and she was already good at hiding what she was thinking. Very good indeed.
The fulgin creature, calling itself Windy now, had almost run out of strength. The soldiers and the red-collared priest had been pursuing it across the land for days and days. During that time it had steadily worked its way north, always aware of where Ravenelle Archambeault was located. It could feel her like a compass felt north.
On its last night traveling, it had to risk a charge right up the main road into the village of Tjark.
The Romans were out in force to search for it. It knew that if it took a circular route to get to the princess it would take too long.
The fulgin was growing weak.
It might run out of strength and never make it with the crown. And since that was the creature’s reason for existence, it had to take the chance of a final direct run.
The red-collared man was smelling, sniffing. Getting closer and closer. And his army had gotten bigger and bigger as more soldiers arrived.
They had sent an army to catch it. Yet the fulgin had managed to sneak its way north as the Dark Angel Queen had wished. It felt a sense of pride, or at least fulfillment. It wouldn’t do to get caught here at the end. There must be a way through.
The Romans had moved to cut it off in front. Now it had to find a way under, over, or around them.
That was when it remembered the little slave girl Marguerite. It remembered what it had done to save her from the nasty snorting-snout animals.
My name, thought the fulgin. The answer is in my name.
Yes, there was a way through. She had named it Windy.
If it had been able to laugh, it might have done so as it whirled by. It whipped the tent flaps of the camping Roman soldiers. And if the red-collared priest had not had his windows closed in the plantation house he was sleeping in that night, he might have sniffed the amber crown as it passed him by.
The night was pleasant. It was a good thing to be outside, and not stuck in a house like the red-collared man.
The Dark Angel Queen would understand. She liked to ride the land, her kingdom. She liked to go to the mountain tops and look from the peaks and take it all in. The fulgin had this memory from her, one of several small tokens that it cherished.
Then the whirlwind set down just outside of Tjark.
The little princess was very close now. It could sense it. For the first time, it felt a pang of regret that it had to cease soon.
But it was content. It had met the little girl. It had made a friend.
It had a name.
And it was going to accomplish its great task.
If a thing like the fulgin could be happy at all, Windy was. And it was the happiness more than anything that had shielded it from the sniffing, sensitive nose of the red-collared man.
It was late in the night when the fulgin shadow thing crossed the border from Vall l’Obac to Shenandoah. Soon the Romans would be on its trail again. But there was time to deliver the amber crown.
There was supposed to be.
But try as it might when it got to the town, it could not sniff out the Dark Angel Princess. She was in one of the buildings, but there were so many people. It was confusing to follow her scent.
Finally it did sniff something. The princess? Maybe. With a sigh of relief it followed the trail.
But when it got there, there was only a little spring of water. It was a smelly spring, too. Some kind of fire-like odor bubbled up with the water. Maybe that was what it had detected.
The fulgin was full of disappointment. Would it ever find the Dark Angel Princess?
Beside the spring, something moved, some one. The fulgin saw that there were two people lying by the spring. They seemed to be tangled together.
Were they sleeping here?
Then one of the people by the spring, a girl with the palest blue eyes imaginable, had looked up from where she lay.
She saw it. She saw the fulgin!
How had she done that? No one could see it at night.
Even little Marguerite had not been able to see it except in sunlight when she could pick it out from the regular shadows. But somehow this one could see.
There was moonlight this night. Maybe that was why. Maybe some people could see better in the moonlight than in the day? It didn’t know. There was so much it didn’t know and never would.
“What is it that you are looking for, little thing?” asked the woman with the pale, pale eyes.
“The dark princess who needs a crown,” the fulgin answered in its whistle-voice. “I cannot find her anywhere.”
The woman with the pale, pale eyes gazed at the fulgin for a long time. It thought about running away, but it felt safe in the woman’s presence.
Finally, she spoke. “I know where to find the princess you are looking for, little thing,” she said. “I will go and get her. Then you can tell us about your journey.”
This filled the fulgin with contentment. It wanted to tell the Dark Angel Princess everything. All the things that it had seen. And it especially wanted to tell her about little Marguerite. The one who had named it. The one who had saved the Couronne de Huit Tours from the Romans.
I have had an exciting life, the fulgin thought.
And then it saw the Dark Angel Princess approaching. So beautiful.
It had done everything it had been told to do. It was very, very happy. It knew how to be happy now.
“There is so, so much to tell you,” the fulgin said to Ravenelle Archambeault. It felt positively filled with words, with impressions it wanted to share. “But first I have a crown to give you. Is from your mother, the Dark Angel Queen. She says to tell you that she loves you. She says to say she loves you no matter what.”
The fulgin unburdened its heart to the Dark Angel Princess, and died.