Eileen staggered out the screen door, her hair still steaming from the explosion and gave a little wave with the Scum Remover can. She wasn’t sure she could let it go. All the muscles in her body were so tense they wouldn’t release on their own. “Hey Bruce. This stuff actually does take out scum.”
Bruce dropped the branch of the African Fig that he was chewing, “what happened to you?”
“Cleaning.” Eileen’s muscles suddenly released and she melted down onto the sidewalk.
“Really? Petula had said there was no magic in this world. Hmm. Do you always clean this way?”
Eileen just stared. “Always.”
“If I had known rinsing would be this big of a deal I would have told you to forget it.” He nudged her several times with his nose. “No time for sitting, we’ve got to go right away. Your daughter is in terrible danger. We’ll start flying and figure something out on the way.”
After several truly embarrassing attempts to get on Bruce’s back, all of which ended with Eileen either falling on the ground or sitting backwards, she was finally holding on for dear life watching the ground lift away below her feet.
Bruce pulled his head forward and shook, “Not so tight Eileen! You’re going to rip my mane right off!”
Eileen didn’t feel so good. She had never been air sick, but then, every plane she had been on had sported a floor ... and a chair. “I don’t think I can. I am going to be sick, or fall off, or both. Oh dear!”
“Oh no you’re not!” Bruce yelled , his hide forming goose bumps under her hand.
Eileen grimaced as the whole world as she knew it became so small she could put it in her pocket.“This is not going to work. There must be another way. Surely there’s a door in a closet or hole in a lake or something else. Anything else. You could fly. I’d meet you there.”
“Absolutely not, I go where you go. I am lotted to you alone. I can’t change what the fairy council has done. For a little girl who wanted a flying horse, you would think you’d like flying ... or at least riding.”
Eileen clenched her teeth together, “I was five.”
The next twenty minutes passed in more or less silence. Eileen tried desperately to loosen her grip on Bruce’s mane and took long soothing breaths in the hopes that it would calm down her tummy. When a small flock of birds came bursting out of a cloud in front of them Eileen waved her free arm frantically hoping they wouldn’t hit her in the nose. It was at that moment she realised she was still holding the scum remover. How embarrassing. If anyone saw her waving around a cleaning bottle they would think she had gone mad. Actually, if anyone saw her flying on the back of a Pegasus that would be the least of her problems. She quickly tucked the cleanser into one of the pockets on her apron.
They had levelled off now and Bruce turned his head ever so slightly, “Well, you must be doing a little better, you’re not riding like a sack of potatoes anymore.”
“Thanks.” she said.
“A few more days should have you in shape. We have about twenty more minutes until the gate so now might be a good time to come up with plan. I don’t think we should fly right in ... too dangerous. He might just kill you and take me and the girl ... we’ll land a days walk to the south. He doesn’t watch the borders much, not enough men yet that he can fully trust. Now, how are we going to defeat Nestor.”
Eileen took a deep breath, “Look. I just want my daughter. No offence but, I really can’t get involved with your politics. He wants you, you go with him.” she patted him reassuringly, “I’m sure he’ll have nice grass.”
Eileen nearly fell as Bruce reared in the air, “Nice grass! Nice grass! Nestor is evil! He’ll do anything to gain power. That is why the fairy council sent ...” he cleared his throat anxiously, “I can’t and I won’t”
“Oh, yes you will. He can’t be all bad.” she bit her lip hard, “Besides, you could run away.” Something tickled the back of Eileen’s brain, “Hey, what ‘fairy council’? I did not rescue a council of fairies I know that much for certain. What is going on here?”
Bruce sighed, “I wasn’t supposed to tell you. Alright, it seems only fair now that your daughter has been taken. You did rescue Petula when you were five, but she had no intention of rewarding you with me.”
“See! Ha, ha! I knew it.” Eileen tossed her head, accidentally letting go of Bruce’s mane. For a moment she seemed suspended in air and then finally, she grasped the thick strands of mane once more.
Bruce didn’t appear to notice, “Ah hem. No, instead she gave you the figurine you found at the end of your lane.”
“Oh, I loved that one. It was a lovely horse with wings, all crystal. It made the best rainbows when I set it on my window sill. I wonder where it has gone?”
Bruce snorted, “Yes, on reflection quite a suitable replacement. Anyhow, the pegasi of our land are rare, only four are bred every fifty years, we are highly trained, tightly guarded and when we are mature we are only lotted to one of the four rulers of our world. We are lotted for life and must do what they command.”
“Oh. How did you escape?”
“Escape! I didn’t escape! Never in all my life have I ...” what sounded like a growl rumbled in his throat. “You have no idea. It came time for the pegasi to be lotted but there had been trouble in the third kingdom. The king and his pegasus, D’Argon, died while performing a simple manoeuvre for the crowd on Ascension Day. They were doing a lay up into the clouds when D’Argon suddenly lost air and plunged into a tree. They both fell to their deaths. D’Argon was a great Pegasi, strongest of his fold, those sent to the third kingdom always are, they have to be. He had years left to his pasturing it seems incredible that something so simple could bring him down. Then the Queen died of a broken heart, and soon after their little boy disappeared during a walk with his nurse in the woods. The nurse disappeared too. All very suspicious. Everything had an explanation, mind, but taken all together it was suspicious. Then a dragon started troubling the kingdom.
“Dragon?” terrible nightmares fled through her head. While other children had brought flashlights into their bedrooms to ward off monsters, Eileen had made a nest under her bed to protect herself from dragons. “As in real Dragons? I thought it was just, make believe.” but then everything make believe was suddenly real. Why not that?
Bruce sighed, “Even here many do not imagine they exist. They are rarely seen. Dragons usually hate populated areas, and are incredibly lazy.” Bruce laughed, “There is a dragon who lives at the tine, Nimbleflame, the fairy council had brought him to protect the breeding grounds ... but you would be lucky to wake him with an army. Fairy Tusca dotes on him and feeds him too many cows. However, the dragon in the third kingdom acted like none before him. He had an unquenchable thirst for carnage. He raided for days on end. He openly attacked many of the noble keeps and carried off anything of value, including the young boys who never returned. Now, a fully trained king or queen with their pegasus and quarter of knights, could have ended the dragon, or at least bound him to a place far away, but the kingdom was defenceless. Many of the knights who could have stood a chance against the beast were attacked and killed before they could band together. It was almost as though the dragon knew everything, who to attack and when. The winter winds were almost at our door by the time a single knight arrived at the tine. He was barely alive. The dragon had hunted him over the mountains. He had been burned and left for dead by the beast but still managed to crawl to the council chamber in the hope that the fairies could band the kingdoms together to save his. He died in the end and the fairies, with their politics at their feet, argued away the remaining weeks before winter. By the time they sent out the call it was too late."