Previously in “Blood, Sweat, and Tears”, Princess Terren and Prince Osmar found themselves unexpectedly and most unhappily betrothed. Prince Jaron has vowed to put a stop to this by means of a magic quest, but can the guy be trusted?
Jaron brought his horse to a stop with a command of, “Stop!” The animal obeyed, breathing heavily, for it had galloped long and hard. Much longer than was necessary to go from the kingdom of Mayers to the neighboring kingdom of Liaralay.
“Jaron, where are we?” Terren demanded of the prince.
“An inn,” Jaron replied, lifting the princess from her mount.
“Wherefore are we at an inn?”
“Because the sun has been down for nearly an hour and we still have far to travel. I thought we should stop for the night.”
“What meanest thou, we still have far to travel?! Where are we going?!”
“Somewhere,” Jaron answered vaguely. “Wait – we cannot enter the inn dressed in royal garb. Hold a moment.”
Jaron quickly scanned the area and his eyes landed upon a drunk by the roadside, inexplicably surrounded by several rough cotton sacks. Before either Terren or the drunk knew what was happening, Jaron had run the poor devil through with his sword and was stealing his clothes.
“Jar—! What—! You—!” Terren stammered as the freshly grunged-down prince stowed his princely garments away in one of the cotton sacks. She was still stammering while he dragged the lifeless drunk into some nearby bushes, and while he hacked at, twisted, and tied the sacks into something resembling a peasant girl’s dress. But she had about finished her stammering by the time he was braiding her hair in the latest commoner ‘do.
“There,” said Jaron, satisfied with his work. “We can now enter the inn at our leisure.”
Terren followed him inside in stony silence, glancing briefly at the bushes that concealed Jaron’s hapless victim. She could only wonder: If Jaron could do such a deed without so much as batting an eye, what else was he capable of?
“Kindly leave all the talking to me,” Jaron murmured as the royals incognito stepped up to the innkeeper. To the aforementioned innkeeper, Jaron said (in a rather bad peasant accent), “Evening, innkeep. Me and me gal here need a room for the night. Can you accommodate us?”
“If you’ve got the money, sure,” grunted the innkeeper.
“If you’ve got the room – and dinner – then I’ve got the money. Here’s a coin for a down payment. You’ll get the rest tomorrow. If we enjoy our stay.”
The innkeeper grunted something else that neither Jaron nor Terren could make out, then led both guests to what would be their room for the night. It was a small room, the only objects worth mentioning in it being a single bed and a hard-backed chair.
Jaron and Terren were presently served dinner by the innkeeper’s buxom wife. Both looked with distaste at this commoner’s fare, but Jaron, being a young man, ultimately took the stance that even suspicious-looking gruel beat going hungry, and so fell to.
“Jaron,” Terren began sometime during the middle of the meal, “if it please you, will you not kindly tell me WHERE THE HECK WE’RE GOING?”
Jaron looked up from his repast. “If you had to guess,” he said calmly, “where would you suppose we were going?”
Terren shrugged. “Uh… to see an Enchantress?”
“Bingo.” Jaron went back to his “soup” or whatever it was meant to be.
“Was it not the plan for you to go alone?”
“It may have been your plan. Never mine. Well, that’s about all of this dinner I can take… Oh, would you look at that,” said Jaron, the smile and gleam returning. “Only one bed. How cozy.”
Terren struggled against sneering in disgust. Princesses ought not to sneer. “One of us might sleep on the chair.”
“It won’t be me,” said Jaron, throwing himself onto the lone bed. “Good fortune to you, trying to get any rest on that chair. You will be much in need of rest, too, for the ride ahead of us on the morrow is a long one.”
“I’ve been thinking…”
“I would advise you to stop that at once.”
Terren disregarded the interruption and continued. “Is it really necessary for us to go to all the bother of finding an Enchantress and begging for her service? Surely, the scandal of you carrying me off and we two abiding the night in the same room would be enough to convince the Queen of Mayers to call off my betrothal to her son.”
“Perhaps, but even so, I would that we continue on. Why leave these things to chance?”
“Because I would like to go home,” Terren said between clenched teeth.
“Tough haggis, baby. Are you coming to bed or are you not?”
“Not if you’re going to be in it.”
Jaron sighed resignedly. “Uncooperative little waif. Very well; you may have the bed, and I will suffer through the night on a hard, uncomfortable chair. Chivalry is not yet dead.”
Terren was just settling into the bed when Jaron asked, in a suspiciously casual manner, “Just wondering, princess – are you a very light sleeper?”
“No…” said Terren guardedly. “Once I find slumber, which I may never do, if you continue to try and carry on a conversation with me, I tend to doze quite heavily. Why do you ask?”
“No reason,” Jaron said, even more casually, and therefore, even more suspiciously. “Goodnight, Terren.”
“Terren?” said Jaron, perhaps a quarter of an hour later. He received no reply. Rising from his chair, he advanced toward the bed and the sleeping princess.
“Terren?” he repeated, a little louder. Still no reply. He poked her a few times, blew on her face, tugged on her arm, slapped her leg, whisper-screamed “FIRE!” and “Hey, is that corset on sale?”… All without any response to show for it.
Cautiously, he sat on the bed. Nothing. He moved closer to her. Still nothing. Slowly… slowly… slowly he crept forward until he was literally on top of her. Even yet, nothing.
Jaron smiled to himself. This princess would sleep through anything. He could do whatever he willed and she would never stir. He could have his devilish way with her and she would utter no protest. He could do anything his baser instincts dictated he do – anything – and nothing would stop him. Nothing.
And yet… something held him back. He hesitated, indecisive, irresolute, uncertain.
He gazed down at the girl underneath him. She was so very beautiful. Even in the dim light, even with the absence of the invention of glasses, Jaron could see she was very, very beautiful. And he wanted her. He wanted her bad. He had wanted her ever since she was a practically-marriageable girl of ten; so about two years, now. And now she was his for the taking.
Jaron hesitated a moment longer… and then he made his choice.
That night, in the dark room of a remote inn, with no one to see him, no one to tell on him, no one to know what shocking thing he was about to do… Prince Jaron returned to his chair, shut his eyes, and wished that the morning would hurry up and come.
<<< End of Part 3 >>>