Not long after accepting the position of Scribe to the Court of Rickrina, sitting at his desk in the private quarters made available to him just off the Library, Damithacaus was summoned to a meeting with Her Grace. Offering him a seat opposite her in the large receiving room, she asked, “What do you know of the Old Oak Forest?” “My huntsman, Sir Gregory, arriving from Victoria’s Landing, and taking his position here, has thrice journeyed there in search of game.” “He’s met with utter failure on each occasion.” He tells me that, although there are ample signs of an abundance of animals, he either finds himself getting lost or there is no game to be found.”
At that, Damithicaus burst out laughing. When Her Grace gave him a stern look, he held up his hand and said, “Forgive me Your Grace, but, of course the faeries that make their homes there are much known for, and take great pride in their ability to fool all those who enter their world uninvited, causing them to loose their way and warning off the game.” “I apologize again, Your Grace; I should have counseled you on the ways of those who live in your realm, particularly the faeries who live here; subjects of Princess Narina, sister of Lorinda, the much loved queen of all the faeries in Bellelealand.” “Sir Gregory is most admired in all the realm for his abilities afield.” “In fact, if memory serves, Sir Gregory squired under Sir James, Duke of Victoria’s Landing, and who is known himself as a master of the bow.” “You are very lucky indeed to have him in your service.” “Their faerie mischief must have been most frustrating indeed.”
She thought for a moment; then said forcefully, “There must be something we can do, and soon. After all, my huntsman must be able to provide food for the court.” Damithicaus said, “We no doubt must meet with Narina and I will introduce both you and SirGregory to her most humbly.” “As it happens, not long after I arrived here in Rickrina, I assisted the Princess in some matters that were most troubling to her.” “I have no doubt she will be happy to grant you access to all that is there.” He waited for her Grace to stand, then rose himself and turned away, then back and asked, “Per chance, did Her Highness, give you papers of introduction or anything that may assist us in this endeavor?”
Her Grace thought for a moment, then said, “There is a tiny necklace she did give to me, no bigger than the nail on your finger that she said once belonged to Lorinda.” “It is so tiny that it could only have been made by the hand of a faerie.” “There is a very, very small inscription that can only be seen through a prism lens that reads, ‘With brave wings she flies’.” “Certainly Narina will recognize it.” “Damithicaus nodded and said, before leaving, “Notify Sir Gregory and make ready to ride in an hour.” “I’ll be waiting at the front gates of the castle.”
As Her Grace and Sir Gregory neared the gates they spotted a black cloaked figure carrying only a rather tall staff, astride a smallish but muscular looking horse. It was in stark contrast to the imposing knight’s steed of Sir Gregory. As they approached, Sir Gregory noticed that, curiously, the horse wore no bridal or reins. After a brief exchange of greetings, Sir Gregory commented upon it. Damithicaus merely replied that, “He knows my wishes.” Sir Gregory and Her Grace exchanged looks of bewilderment, but said nothing and through the gates the trio strode.
They rode in silence for some time, Damithicaus and Her Grace abreast, with Sir Gregory close behind, his head moving side to side, as if on a swivel, on alert for anything that would threaten his Mistress. Finally, Her Grace asked Damithicaus, “How ever will we find Narina in that great expanse of forest?” “Fret not Your Grace; soon after our intrusion into her domain, she will find us,” he said. “I have had occasion to visit her from time to time and you can be assured she will be told the moment we set foot there.” “Faeries, after all, are only seen if they wish to be seen, and, trust in this Your Grace, they are everywhere in the Old Oak Forest.”
Not long after, the road seemed to disappear into a vast wall of trees. “This is where we must leave the horses Your Grace,” Sir Gregory announced. They all dismounted and proceeded along a somewhat narrow path into the forest. The foliage was so dense that it restricted the sunlight to the extent that it became very like twilight. Damithicaus stopped and addressed Sir Gregory, saying, “Whatever happens here in the forest must remain with you alone.” “Your discretion in this matter is not to be questioned.” Sir Gregory turned to Her Grace, placed his hand on his chest and replied, “On my honor, Your Grace,” lowering his head. To which she simply nodded and Damithicaus turned toward the depth of the forest and slowly moved his hand along his staff toward the tip mumbling something that sounded like some foreign tongue. A flame suddenly burst from the tip, brightening their path like sunlight. Sir Gregory obviously startled, said nothing and the trio began following the path deep into the forest.
As they walked along the path, it seemed as though they were not alone. Although seeing no one, they all felt the presence of others. Damithacaus turned to Her Grace, smiled and said, “We’re noticed.” After rounding a curve in the path, they came upon a clearing where it became brighter and there were flat stones looking as if they’d been placed around the edge. Damithicaus sat on one and bade Sir Gregory and Her Grace to do the same. Mumbling again at the staff, the flame was extinguished and he said, simply, “We wait.”
They sat silently as Damithicaus closed his eyes and Her Grace was not sure he hadn’t fallen asleep. Sir Gregory looked around nervously, seeming to hear those he couldn’t see, and what they would later swear was snickering. After some time it became eerily silent, finally hearing a voice softly say, “Hello Damithacaus.” He opened his eyes and smiled, answering no one they could see, “Well, it’s about time.” “I thought you’d forgotten all about me.” Then, right before their eyes, she appeared, along with what must have been twenty or thirty other faeries, standing in the center of the clearing. They knew not how long they’d been there before deciding to show themselves.
Narina, they saw, was beautiful and though she stood only as tall as Her Graces forearm, she was magnificent, actually taking her breath away as she had never really “seen” a faerie before. She was wearing a tiny sky blue outfit with just the smallest of crowns atop her long blond curls. She spread her wings and flew over the other faeries to Damithicaus, first nuzzling his cheek then kissing it gently, and said, “How could I ever forget such a powerful and wonderful Wizard as you.” Her grace saw what she thought was Damithicaus blush for a second and couldn’t help but wish he would tell her all about their relationship and how he “assisted” her, but knowing he most probably would never speak of it. She then flew to a point just in front of his face, placing her hands on her hips and pretending to be very annoyed, asked him, “Now why have you come here and who are these people you have brought to meet me?”, pointing across the clearing at Her Grace and Sir Gregory.”
At this, Damithicaus stood and said, “It is my humble duty and pleasure to present Her Grace, the Duchess of Rickrina and her Knight and huntsman, Sir Gregory.” At the mention of his name, there came a giggling from the faeries standing in the clearing, which no doubt had been tormenting Sir Gregory whenever he entered the forest. Narina cleared her voice and there was silence until she broke it with, “Well, since you’ve brought them to me, Damithicaus, I will receive them at your request.” She turned to Her Grace, who stood and asked, “Why have you come to me?” The Duchess reached into her pocket and removed the tiny necklace and held it out to Narina and said, “Your sister Lorinda, Queen of the Faeries, gave this to Her Royal Highness, Queen Ernylee, who then gave it to me; as a means of introduction, I believe.” “Perhaps you recognize it as having once been worn by your dear sister?”
Narina flew over and looked closely at the necklace and smiled broadly at Her Grace and said, “Yes, this was given to my dear sister by our late father on her 16th birthday, it was a most beloved symbol of his love. If she entrusted it to Her Majesty as a way for her to send her greetings to me, she has done so in a most respectful and wonderful way.” Her Grace then took the necklace and gently placed it around Narina’s neck and took a step back. Narina’s hand raised to the necklace and as she touched it, she lowered herself to the ground in front of Her Grace, curtsied gracefully and said, “Pray, tell me how I may be of service to Your Grace?”
Her Grace replied, “Please accept my most sincere thanks for receiving me in this manner and my humble request that my huntsman, Sir Gregory be given your blessing and assistance in my service, allowing him to take what game is necessary to accommodate my needs.” Princess Narina rose again on her wings and addressed the gathering of faeries standing beneath her, saying, “Be it known, from this day forward, that Her Grace, Sir Gregory and anyone who Her Grace wishes shall be afforded any and all assistance they might require within my realm.” She turned back to Her Grace, who then, herself, returned the curtsy and was taken by surprise as she flew over and kissed her Grace on the cheek and in an instant disappeared along with all the other faeries, leaving the three of them alone in the clearing.
Her Grace turned and looked at Damithicaus who stood beaming and said, “I think that went rather well, don’t you?” “Yes,” she said, smiling back, she seems to hold you in very high esteem. You must have been of very great “assistance” to her indeed.” Before he next spoke, she thought she saw the slightest sparkle in his eye and a wry smile come over his face; he then said, “She will have a place in my heart always as well.” They turned and began to walk back toward the opening in the trees leading to the path when there was a rather bright flash of light over the stone upon which Sir Gregory sitting, and a beautiful broach accompanied by a note appeared written in the smallest of hand. It read, “Any who shall wear this broach and enter this forest shall enjoy the unlimited assistance and protection of Her Highness, the Princess Narina.” Her Grace picked up the broach and note, keeping the note and carefully pinning the broach to Sir Gregory’s chest, saying, “I suspect your further efforts here in the courts service will prove to be far different than those of the past.” He nodded to her and as Damithacaus stroked his staff again, the flame reappeared showing them the way back through the forest. They rode in silence all the way back to the castle, each thinking how their visit there had changed them each in their own way.
In the following weeks, Sir Gregory was met with great success when hunting in the Old Oak Forest, never returning to the castle empty handed and began to be regarded by all in Rickrina as a very great Knight and huntsman indeed and was never seen without the broach given them by Narina in the Old Oak Forest.