Road Rage

            Zinia trudged along the unkempt road toward her home, her battered brown boots kicking up dust as she shuffled, in no particular hurry, along the country side. She couldn't help but glance over her shoulder every once in a while, looking for subtle signs of adventure lurking just behind her. After a while, though, the shepherdess gave up on her hopes of adventure with a sigh, deciding with sadness that the comical woman who claimed to be her Fairy Godmother had been out of her head...a delusional lady who spent her days pretending to grant wishes. 

            Resigning her thoughts and gaze to the sky and contemplating the black, menacing thunder clouds tumbling over one another in a race to see which would reach the un-expecting country side first, Zinia took no notice of the large procession behind her. It wasn't until a bugle blast sounded in her ear that she tore her eyes from the sky and beheld the catastrophe on the road. She dodged out of the way of high stepping white stallions just in time, and surveyed the rest of the cacophonic parade from the road side. A large, cumbersome looking carriage, adorned gaudily in too much gold and too many jewels, rumbled along behind seven gigantic white horses. Buglers and drummers marched along beside the carriage, trying desperately to play their instruments without being run over by the carriages enormous wheels. Bringing up the rear were three flanks of soldiers, looking annoyed and unhappy, watching the carriage and the one they had sworn to protect only out of the corners of their eyes.

            Zinia stared, wide eyed, at the strange procession and wondered at why someone royal enough to own a carriage --so covered in jewels that it hurt ones eyes to look at it long-- would be out in the middle of the rolling country side, galloping past dilapidated farmers homes. Just as she opened her mouth to ask what in the world was going on, a rock flew out from under one of the carriage's absurdly large wheels, and hit the gaping Zinia squarely in the temple. Dizzied and in pain, she stumbled backward, eventually tripping over a stump and falling onto her back in the green prairie grass. The soldiers ordered the procession to stop, and one gallantly leapt from his horse and rushed to Zinia's side in a chivalrous attempt to help the lady to her feet. Zinia only shrugged the man away, with a scowl--she had no time for spoiled and self-righteous royalty.

            Cries of, "Why have we stopped?" echoed through the hills as a young blonde headed boy stuck his head out of the carriage window.

            "We seem to have injured this maiden, Your Highness," Replied the soldier, now standing near Zinia, but not close enough to be within distance of a slap from the feisty girl. Zinia stood with her arms crossed firmly across her chest, scowling at the procession.

            "Just some country girl?" The Prince asked with astonishment, "We stopped for some peasant woman who was too slow to move out of the way of my Royal and well announced arrival?" With a scowl that mirrored Zinia's, the Prince began to whine incoherently, until a hand ( belonging to someone who was hidden within the shadow of the carriage) reached out and grabbed his shoulder, yanking him violently back into his seat and away from the window.

            "That's the Prince is it?" Asked Zinia loudly, stomping through the grass and rubbing her bruised temple. Her stance and tone was confident as she addressed the members of his party, "This is the Prince that I work for? This is the Prince whose sheep I care for, that he never sheers nor sells nor has even ever seen?" Her voice was rising in volume with each rhetorical question, and soon she was on her tip-toes, peering into the window of the dark carriage cabin. She was caught off guard by what she saw--a young, cross looking boy, no older than herself, sitting on a velvet bench along-side an elderly woman who had him firmly by the ear. The lady (the boy's Fairy Godmother, Zinia deducted) released her charge as soon as Zinia's face appeared framed in the window, and the young Prince stared back at Zinia with a sour, spoiled look upon his face. The occupants of the carriage didn't speak a word, and so, Zinia took it upon herself to begin the introductions.

            "I am Zinia Briar, your shepherdess." She began, trying to sound civil, as she pondered what she would say next to the Prince, whom she had despised for as long as she could remember, despite the fact that she had not met him until that moment. "What is his Royal, snobbish Highness doing out on such a nice day? Won't this sun mar your I-haven't-seen-the-sun-in-years, pale skin?"

            The Prince's scowl hardened, and his face was contorted even more into a look of grotesque anger. "I am looking for a wife." He stated matter-of-factly through clenched teeth, and Zinia couldn't stifle a laugh and a snort that bubbled their way out of her mouth.

            "Out here? In peasant-ville?" She asked in astonishment, quirking a bright red eye brow.

            "All the noble woman are married, or promised to another. And I want a wife," He explained grumblingly, as if his circumstances were the worst one could possibly be in, "I want one now."

            "Good luck, then," Zinia replied with a smirk, her tone bemused, as she took a step back from the carriage and began walking once again down the road to her home, whistling and kicking up dust as if the encounter had never even happened. As the Royal party stared on in astonishment at the brash, and impolite shepherdess, a deep rumble of thunder shook the sky and a long, bright flash of lightning broke through the clouds as a torrential rain began to fall in curtains that obscured everyone's vision...including Zinia's, though she didn't let on that it was so.

            She heard the clip-clop of well-shoed horses behind her, and began to move once again to the side of the road, when she heard the Prince shouting from the carriage window. It took her a moment to understand his words, as the rain loudly slapped the ground around them, but she finally made out his grumbled words.

            The Prince didn't look happy at all with what he was offering, and Zinia decided that the woman inside the carriage must have taken his ear hostage once more before telling him to say the words that he spat from him mouth like spoiled food. "Get in the carriage, you can't walk home in this rain," He shouted above the storm, a forced pleasantness in his voice.

            Zinia paused, contemplating whether or not to take him up on his offer. With a shrug, she consented, pulling her long, red curtain of now-drenched hair from her eyes before yanking the carriage door open on her own (not waiting for the scrambling footmen) and hoisting herself in. She may have hated the Prince, but she didn't want to catch her death in the cold, hard rain. She plopped herself on the bench across from the boy and his Godmother, getting a bit of satisfaction at the look on the Prince's face as he watched her get the rich, velvet benches soaking wet.

Nothing to Lose

            Orian sat in the tall oak tree, mostly sheltered from the rain by the thick cover of leaves that acted as a slightly leaky roof. He had watched the carriage approach for miles, and he could feel his muscles tensing and relaxing in excitement as the much-needed adrenaline rushed through his veins at the thought of what would soon come to pass.

            Orian wasn't a very good thief, and he had been caught many times pilfering a loaf of bread or a glass of ale at the pub...but he had, thus far, been released because of his age.  The 15 year old boy was a thief by trade, but he had a few drops of wild magic coursing through his soul, which he still fought to harness and control.

            The carriage was rattling closer, and the desperate boy perched on his slippery tree limb almost changed his mind as he contemplated the consequences of what would happen if his plan failed, and he was caught, red handed, amidst the company of soldiers that guarded the Prince so closely. "What's to lose?" He asked himself, running a hand nervously through his short, black hair and wiping a few drops of rain-- or was it nervous sweat?--from his face.

            The Prince's Royal parade rumbled under Orian's branch, and the desperate boy took a deep breath, threw his conscience to the wind, and threw himself from the tree, swearing loudly as he plummeted toward the roof of the carriage.

The Ambush

            Zinia gasped and pressed herself against the wall behind her as the roof of the carriage caved in, ripping and tearing loudly and sending a rain of jewels and gold trimming raining down upon her head. She saw the figure land painfully on the polished wooden floor, and winced as it gave a grunt of pain. It remained on the now wet, and jewel covered floor in shock for only a moment before hopping nimbly to it's feet. Its -or his, as Zinia could now discern- eyes were open wide, and she could see clouds of fear and triumph drift across them sporadically.

            He took inventory of the company he was in before reaching out, grabbing both Zinia and the Prince violently by their arms as he muttered archaic words that made Zinia's stomach churn and her head spin with magic-inspired vertigo. The scene of the horrified Godmother and scrabbling Prince flickered before her eyes, and she blinked restlessly, trying to clear the fuzzy feeling from her mind as her surroundings flashed in and out of sight. With a flash of bright white light, which Zinia decide must have been wizard-magic, everything around her vanished from sight, to be replaced by a rushing white light and wind beating at her face.

            She attempted to scream, to shake the wizard-boy's hand from her arm, to thrash herself free from the binding white energy that was encompassing her...but to no avail. The wizard-boy and his white magic held her fast, and there was, to her dismay, no chance of her escape.