It was very unfortunate for Princess Mathilda that Prince Rudolpho had been selected to rescue and marry her. It was possibly more unfortunate that the Faerie Godmothers Association, Inc™ decided to ask Kay to rescue the pair of them.
So really, it was only fitting that the whole debacle started out with a bout of violent sneezes to compound an already rampaging hangover.
As the sneezes rocked Prince Kayver of Glenandale's well-muscled body, he tried to prevent his delicate and throbbing head from jerking back and forth. His father's servingman, largely unclothed and lying next to him in the large, down bed turned over. In the process, the other man managed to pull nearly all the bed coverings on to his side of the bed, leaving Kay in a more miserable state of being than he had been a moment before. Irritably snatching some blankets back, the prince artfully used them to cover his mouth and nose in the interest of staving off future sneeze attacks.
Then he realized what had presumably caused the attack, and he tried to sink further down into his pillow. Any microscopic inclination he might have had to slip out of bed and find clothes completely vanished. He knew what horrors were awaiting him. And there – just there, a shadow against the burgundy curtains that surrounded his bed, giving him privacy – he could see it.
There was a faerie, waiting to pounce.
Prince Kayver, as it happened, was not a fan of faeries. And not the euphemistic kind of faerie – the real, live, sparkling, twittering variety. The ones that tended to interrupt him at the most inconvenient times with a Call To Action™ or Request To Quest™. They tended to be employed by the Faerie Godmother's Association, Inc™, who kept watch over kingdoms near and far and babysat princes and princesses to make sure each and every one was properly matched. It was just that they tended to be a bit dense, at times - and patience was not something that Kay possessed huge amounts of. His allergy to the sparkling pink-and-silver dust the creatures left in their wake didn't really help his perception of the little twits either.
He was supposed to have been taken off the princes-in-waiting list ages ago too. Kay had sent them polite, less polite, and threatening requests over the past few years, but the Association seemed to have completely disregarded each and every one of them. He should probably word his threats a little more strongly this time. And ask something that ate the little creatures to deliver it for him. Maybe a troll would do the trick. Or a gremlin – maybe he could borrow one of Agatha's gremlins. His friend wouldn't mind; she was just about as fond of the Association as he was.
If only that dragon still owed him a favor. Maybe it had been a bit rash to ask the large reptile to eat the interior decorator Kay had ended up sleeping with, but the addition of that terrible, sun-permissive window had honestly been the last straw. Maybe the dragon would take an IOU of some sort? He could steal his brother's crown of gold, leave it as some sort of bartering chi –
"A-hem," came the pointed throat-clearing. It sounded like a small bell tinkling. It made his head hurt more. And worst of all, it was very obvious that the faerie currently lying in wait knew that he was in his bed. She knew that he was awake. But all Kay could do was glare at her through the curtains that shielded his delicate eyes from the evils of morning sunlight and wish her away.
Since Faerie Godmothers worked, in part, to grant wishes, Kay was pretty sure this one was going to be a no go. But he tried anyway. With all his might, he wished that the winged annoyance would flutter away and bother another prince. Any other prince. He sneezed again.
"A-hem," Twinkletoes cleared her throat again, and louder this time. Kayver knew that it was only a few minutes before his head actually exploded from the noise and pain. It was altogether too loud, and the promise of multi-colored light flooding his vision should he open his curtains didn't make him any more inclined to open the curtains. Oh, did Kay wish that dragon still owed him a favor.
"What?" he rasped irritably through the curtain, soft as could be managed without being unheard. Ugh. There was a herd of centaurs rampaging through his throat – and worst of all, humiliating bits and pieces from the previous night's escapades were also returning to haunt him.
"Prince Kay? Prince Kayver?" the Faerie squeaked hopefully. Kay winced and pressed against his temples with both hands. Fortunately, he was usually very healthy and hangovers were the only thing that could put him in this sort of situation. He did not enjoy the feeling that he wasn't up to leaping out of bed and slaying something, especially if that something was as annoying as a Faerie Godmother.
Of course, actually slaying the little pests was considered exceptionally anathema. Without them, most people reasoned that the kingdoms would fall to bits and pieces, engaged in unending wars over succession and who would marry whom. Apparently, this was how it had been in the old days – in Kay's grandfather's time. The prince wasn't entirely sure if he believed any of it. Whyever would anyone fight over a princess? There were more than enough to go around, or so he assumed; and if there weren't, he wanted to know who exactly it was that had decided he was to be endlessly harassed with princess after princess.
And then he wanted to introduce them intimately to something very, very pointy.
"I'm not going to rescue your damn princess," Kay growled, usually velvety voice rough and ragged. "Leave me alone. I have a hang – a headache. I have a headache." No need to give peppy little puffball more power over him.
There was a pregnant pause. Sullenly, Kay hoped that his more-than-obvious animosity had made the little winged break out in stinging, blotchy hives. And a headache.
"Please, Prince? " it begged, squeakingly.
Kay set his jaw. Twenty-two times. Twenty-two times he had been called to rescue a princess, become her Prince Charming, and marry her. And twenty-two times, things hadn't quite worked out as planned. The first time, he had been thirteen and the 'princess' had actually been the offspring of one of the tabby queens in the stables. She had been held 'captive' by a pair of overly ambitious hunting dogs – insofar as you could define captivity as 'sitting up a tree and spitting cat-insults'. Of course, the Godmother assigned to that case had glossed it over as a training exercise. Kay had even believed it.
When he'd been called less than a year later to rescue a princess from a dragon, though, it was harder to explain it away when the princess coolly informed him that she was currently on a honeymoon with the dragon and they didn't need any little human boys getting in the works. The dragon had then bribed Kay to get the Association off their backs – which the irritated fourteen-year-old was more than happy to do – and he had sent them holiday cards every year since.
And even though that misadventure had ended for the better, there was really no excusing the time when he'd been sixteen and called to rescue a dowager princess from two kingdoms over, who was older than his own grandmother. She had fallen and been unable to get up. The fourth princess, chained naked to a rock and left to be eaten by sea monsters? A felon convicted of three murders and suspected in a fourth.
After that track record, Kay couldn't see how it was in any way his fault that he was completely sceptical of anything the Association did.
They are absolute shit at reading the fine print, he thought, ignoring the audible tapping of long, pink fingernails as the faerie awaited his response.Part of the problem was that, aside from Glenandale, the kingdoms in the area had been well-gifted with princesses with a penchant for attracting distress. Glenandale itself had quite the plethora of sons – Kayver was the second oldest of nine – which had worked out quite well for awhile.
Around the seventeenth princess rescue, though, Kay had realized that princesses weren't really his thing.
Princes, on the other hand….
The man's blue eyes looked almost wistful for a moment, although there was nobody to see besides a few well-situated moths in the upper reaches of the curtains. No, nobody ever imprisoned princes in dragon-guarded towers, and the Faerie Godmothers Association, Inc ™ did not seem to comprehend the fact that Kay was just Not Interested when it came to the princesses they assigned him to rescue. Or princesses at all. And they had completely ignored his (admittedly sarcastic) request to be called the next time a prince got himself kidnapped.
"Pixie dust," Kay growled, swinging himself out of bed on the basis that getting the faeire the hell out of his chambers would ultimately be worth the pain involved in his actions, "read my lips: not interested. So find some other sucker to bother."
It was exceptionally gratifying to see the faerie turn white as a sheet as she took in Kay's entirely unclothed form. The faerie, as he had expected, was small and rather pink, with obnoxious, shimmery wings that he felt the urge to take a torch to. She had large, doll-like blue eyes, blond hair, and perfect, rosy lips that looked as though they had been painted on. Kay had another running theory that planted the origin of the Faerie Godmothers' almost identical physical appearances directly in a category reserved for manipulating princes to do exactly what they wanted.
"But Prince, it's an emergency," the thing twittered nervously, flitting slightly to the left and right as she talked. She had clearly mustered up every ounce – or perhaps, given her size, every quarter-ounce – of courage she had to continue this conversation.
"Bullshit," Kay growled, squinting his blue eyes in an attempt to minimize contact with sunlight.
"But Prince Rudolpho of Snartzberg and Clarissa have been captured by the evil Snow Witch!" The faerie insisted, now all but bobbing up and down in her fervor to convince Kay that the Association was in utter and drastic need of his help and his help alone.
Kay could not have been less convinced it was an emergency situation. Agatha the Snow Witch was a perennial friend of his, and certainly not someone who he would describe as evil – although he was admittedly intrigued at the idea of rescuing a prince. Maybe they take requests after all.
"The Snow Witch has even," the Faerie lowered her voice to a shocked whisper, "sent back Clarissa's wings!"
Now that gave Kay a start. Although neither he nor Aggie were particularly fond of Faerie Godmothers ™, and although both of them had a fair number of fantasies that involved depriving the little beasts of their wings, neither one of them had actually been provoked to the extent that they'd carried out those fantasies.
"About time," the peeved prince responded, his tone a cross between righteous vindication and nausea. To his knowledge, Aggie had never kidnapped a prince; on the other hand, it wasn't impossible that his friend was doing him a favor – if he didn't know better, he would have guessed that Aggie kidnapped royalty as regularly as she did in order to invite him to visit her. The old Witch grew lonely up in the mountains on her own, although she'd never admit it.
And to be fair, Kay didn't know better.
"We need you to rescue them!" the Faerie announced, completely oblivious to the train of thought she was interrupting, and using her Call to Action™ voice.
Kay would have rolled his eyes if he hadn't been so busy thinking about what Aggie was up to. She had been one of the first ones to know that his tastes lay in princes and not princesses, and at the time she had made a promise to help him acquire a well-rounded prince when the time came. She was such a sweetheart and he really couldn't let this opportunity go to waste, now could he?
That didn't mean he wasn't going to get something out of this from the Association, though.
"If I do this," Kay said slowly, giving the Faerie the most fearsome look he could come up with, considering the situation, "the Association is not to bother me. Ever. Again. Do you understand?" She nodded so emphatically that he hoped her head might pop right off. "No matter what kind of emergency you little dustballs come up with. Never. Again." Her head nodded again; when it didn't fly off and break the heinously colored window, Kay decided that it was just never going to happen, so he might as well get a move on.
"Fine." He paused. "I just need to pack my saddlebags and bid farewell to my lord father," another pause, then an oh-so-innocent smile. "I don't suppose you've seen my trousers?"
Suddenly reminded of Kay's indecency, the faerie flushed bright red and made a garbled squeaking noise. It wasn't dissimilar to the sound a rat might have made whilst being stepped on. And it was one of the more beautiful sounds the prince had heard recently.
As the faerie fled the room, Kay didn't bother to contain his snickers. After all, he had to take his opportunities where he could; the upcoming quest would be long and fraught with faeries.
Thanks loads to Small Wings Flying for helping me (hopefully!) sort out some of the issues I was having with narration/opening/ending, and thanks to Dear Imagination for pointing out the problem to begin with! I'm sort of contemplating fleshing this chapter out a bit more and possibly combining it with chapter 2 – any thoughts on that would be appreciated.