Queen of War

(Another story.)

The Flower Princess had wandered long years in the wilderness, deeper into the bush than her people imagined possible, but not deeper than the shame-ridden warriors. Though they had fled far from their people, the war men yearned for home. The songs that the Flower Princess sang inflamed this yearning and when their yearning exceeded their shame, they rushed forth from the woods in chase of the beautiful songs of home.

She could not see them, but heard the onrushing wave of the home hungry men through the brush. In fear for her life, she ran from them, faster at first, they were yet harder and could run longer. As she felt her legs grow heavy, as she heard their crashing grow near, she spotted a large and prickly holly tree. With her last burst of strength, she lept into its boughs, crawled deeply into its biting heart. Though it knicked and bled her, the tree held her close. When the war band closed around her, the tree embraced her. They threw themselves against it, but were thrown back upon the ground, bloodied and newly wary.

In the holly’s heart, the tree bloomed soft blossoms for the Flower Princess. When the winds before the storm passed through its boughs, the tree sang soft songs to soothe her.

The men set camp around the tree, watching and listening. From her safe place, she watched them and saw beneath their ragged beards and pockmarked hands faces she knew from home. She took from the tree a freshly broken bough, wove what was left of her feather crown between its biting leaves, and slid down the tree’s broad trunk.

The men rose with maddened hearts, savagery and home-hunger intertwined, but she sang the tree’s soft songs and swept the hard earth with her holly fan, holding hunger and savagery apart until the memory of home grew bright in their eyes. With tears, they dropped to their knees and pressed their faces into the warm earth as she moved between them.

Flower Court

After Sophia, the story of the Flower Prince and Princess follows. Again, told as directly as I can manage.

Theirs was the world of the cities spread over the land, close enough to breed envy, far enough to make conquest difficult. Men who sought status as well as the thrill of the hunt became raiding soldiers.

The Flower Prince, magnificently arrayed in bright feathers and equipped with fine spear, sought to make the Flower Princess proud of his courage and skill. In some tellings, the two were devoted siblings, in others fresh-faced newlyweds, but in all the tales they shared each other’s confidences and desires, so it is as if they had but one heart. Though she could not go to war, her hopes went with him.

He presented himself to the master of war and being healthy and hale was readily welcomed. Little did he know of the undoing that awaited him, for sickness hid beneath the master of war’s skin. Their blood mingled in their common cause and the infection spread. The boils rose up blood red from the master of war’s flesh and he fled into the bush where neither farm nor city stood. He fled in the night unseen, leaving his confused charges to find their way home. They would soon guessed the master’s shame as they succumbed to the boiling plague. Not dead, but wretched, they followed their master’s lead.

All but the Flower Prince. Through the woods he moved, gathering sweet flowers and bitter roots. With river water he made sweet perfume and pungent salve. He bathed, scrubbing. As each boil burst he sealed it with salve and flower. Seemingly whole, he turned toward home singing.

There the dogs caught scent of him and knew the sickness lingered beneath his sweet perfume. They growled and snapped, held him at bay. Realizing the sickness still inside his skin, he sobbed, and fled into the woods.

But the Flower Princess had heard his songs from afar. She rushed to meet him, but was halted by the huntsman who heeded his dogs’ caution. The last she glimpsed of him was his flower daubed form fleeing between the trees. She sought him later in the secret of night, singing the songs well-known to them both. He dared not approach, remaining a shuffling shadow after which she wandered lonely further and further into the woods.