The young lady almost ran. She seemed oblivious, and yet, a part of her knew they were always staring at her. Everywhere she went they gawked and gazed. But what did you expect from commoners when a Princess dashed into the room? She reached up to her curly braids as if to reassure her that the tiara was indeed still woven in. It was missing!
She searched in vain within the deep folds of her thick, tri-colored locks of crimson, gold, and cocoa. Why where the young men always staring at her? She looked down at her loose-fitting mesmer dress. It changed color and texture according to her mood. It was currently a silky smooth, forest green. This meant that she was calm. But she wasn’t calm! Where had she misplaced her tiara?
“Always losing things.” Mother would chide.
The Princess thrust half of her hand into the tangled mess in a very unladylike manner. She did love her multi-colored hair, very much loved it in fact. Most girls were very jealous of it. If they only knew how much time it took the servants to handle it. The Princess’ fingers gripped at something metallic. In triumph she yanked out the tiara and gave a shout, forgetting years of finishing school etiquette. Everyone was staring at her now, not just the young men. It felt like she was on stage. Somehow, she didn’t even care. Being a Princess was very much like acting in a play. Everyone had their lines. She was so tired of her lines. She just wanted to… to run away and think!
She held the flimsy thing and thought how easily it just might break.
And so, to her surprise, it did.
She gave out a short high-pitched “Wha?” as, little by little, the symbol of her family’s power crumbled into dust.
“Hey!” One of the commoners was saying to her in a rich deep voice, very urgently, very rudely. “You need to come with me, miss.”
She tried to ignore the intruder of her thoughts. She thought instead about the crumbled dust that had dirtied her fingertips. Dust that had once been the tiara.
“Hello miss! The ship’s been crashed a bit and I’m here to rescue you.”
But she lived in the Noir City and hardly needed rescuing! There was a bit of a hurry to things. Why had she been running so quickly? What was her errand? A hand reached out for hers. It didn’t seem to care about the dirt she held. The dust… the dust! Where had it come from? Then the sounds seeped in. Mechanical like the city, but up close. Was she at a factory? Had she made a wrong turn?
“Come now miss.” The voice said. “Take this cloak.” At once she realized the biting cold as the warmth of the man’s cloak embraced her. His face was very fuzzy. Her whole world was fuzzy in fact until it dissolved like a dream. Her eyelids came fully awake. It had been a dream! She had been running no! Flying! On her way to Noir City when a fireball—
She tried to stand. Pain exploded in her head like fireworks. The nice man caught her before she fell. Something fuzzy brushed against her cheek. “There now,” He said, much too close. She looked up at the fuzz of a dark brown beard which led to a very fine face. His eyes were simply amazing. He grinned, “Now what is a beautiful young lady doing in a dirigible way out in Snowcrest?
She reached for her head and found no tiara. Then it hit her. She had snuck away, just like the story of the princess in disguise. A story she often read about in books. She had hidden her tiara and stolen a small airship. She had left her father’s armada to investigate something, something from those old books, taken from far across the Endless Jungle. A word had spoken to her… it awoke strange visions in her head.
X I S
Then a fireball had come out of nowhere and–
“Well now,” The man said, “Let’s get you to somewhere warm.” His words, his voice sounded so… like a memory that had never been, and yet, it was oh, so familiar. They walked slowly away from the crashed dirigible. His body held hers carefully and firmly so that she did not fall.
“Where had you been off to?” He asked.
“Noir City? That’s several clicks away from Snowcrest.” He settled her nice and snug in his horseless carriage. The princess watched as he blew on the furnace which began to rumble the carriage to life. The smokey wreck of her dirigible was over the rise of a snowy hill. Black metal stuck out like a dozen spider legs. The red sales wisped listlessly in the icy winds. She drew the cloak in closer.
“You are very lucky to have only bumped your head.”
He reached over to strap her in. She was very glad to have his cloak, for, beneath it, she felt her mesmer dress shimmering into a deep crimson. She felt very well strapped in by the end of it. Very snug and safe. He stood back up and looked at her straps. “That should do it, now.”
“And, what should I call my knight in shining armor?” She asked.
“Me? A knight! Only your humble mechanic specializing in stone cold metal works. I go by Ninombir. That’s Nin for short. And who might you be?”
That name, She thought, where have I heard that name before? Being a disguised princess flew right outside her head as she simply stated her own name, “Yew—Yewna.”
“Well, my beautiful Yewna! Very pleased to meet you… for the very first time.” He moved around to the driver’s chair and rumbled the engine further to life, Princess Yewna did not think of this as their first time. This man was no stranger.
“Have I seen you before?” She asked as he kicked the clutch and gas for a gear change. The carriage lurched into a slow trot, slowly picking up speed.
“Funny you should ask.” He replied. “I’ve got this feeling like we’ve met.” He brushed the thought away and said, “Maybe in another life.” It had meant to be a joke. But the two quickly glanced in each other’s eyes. Even with a shared white, wintery grin, no one was laughing.