The scenery amused both Tara and Willow. The forest foliage exerted beauty and fragrance while the two walked side by side through the natural dirt pathway. A murder of butterflies fluttered along with them.
Miss Kitty reared her backside up and out and shook her tail lightly. She pounced at a yellow and black butterfly, taunting her mutely. Miss Kitty made a small 'rawr' sound and batted at the offending insect. The butterfly swooped back and forth in front of the Oreo kitty.
Willow watched the fury animal with a glint in her eye and noticed that when Miss Kitty pounced for a second jump, the redhead was walking alone. Halting and turning to see where she had lost the gorgeous blonde, emerald eyes met azure eyes for a breath-taking time.
"I'm tired of walking," Tara meekly stated, sitting on a rock and crossing her arms indignantly.
"Well, we can't very well stay here. There's no means of shelter. Let's just walk a little further," Willow encouraged, continuing her walking on the path.
"Meow," Miss Kitty mewed, trotting along beside Willow, as if to agree with the redhead.
"Carry me," a small, yet pronounced voice came from behind the two-some. The redhead spun on her heels quickly with an eyebrow arched.
"I'm sorry, I thought you said carry me," Willow said, laughing slightly. Tara frowned at her and stood from her tiny rock. She walked right over to Willow, pouting intensely.
"Please carry me...um, I apologize, I did not catch your name," Tara said, bowing her head from embarrassment.
"Oh, umWillow. You seriously want me to carry you?" Tara nodded slowly and pouted again. Willow jutted her hip out and shook her head. Miss Kitty flicked her tail and scooted next to Willow's leg for support.
The girls saw that the sunlight was dimming quickly and knew a shelter was needed fast. The silent trip was too unbearable for Tara, who wanted to know more about her daring rescuer.
"Willow a very beautiful name. Was it a family name or just a name your mother picked out?" Tara inquired, whispering it slowly in Willow's ear. The approaching nighttime caused them to lower their voices, as if they were children trying to stay up late at night without parents knowing.
"Thank you," Willow grunted, "The first thing my mother saw when she woke up from labor was the willow tree outside the carriage. She went on impulse. Here, shift your weight to the left more. And scoot up further, you're about to slide of my back," Willow instructed, holding Tara's legs around her waist.
The blonde princess wrapped her arms around Willow's freckled neck and rested her head on Willow's shoulder. She sighed randomly. Willow tried to give her a side-ways glance, but found that it was impossible to do so.
"Something wrong?" questioned Willow, shifting uneasily, making Tara's position on her back more comfortable for the both of them.
"You haven't asked for my name. Are you really not that interested?" Tara whined. She blew a loose strand of hair out of her eyes.
Willow stopped. She contemplated for a moment then carefully set Tara down on the ground. The redhead faced the blonde and gazed at her in the eyes for a moment.
"I didn't ask because I already knew. You're the most well-known princess in the entire land. Like the entire land. I was giddy that you wanted to know my name," Willow looked away ashamed, "I only came to save you because I was up for a beheading if I didn't. I was 'expendable' enough to where they risked my own life to save yours. Either way, they won. I'm not knight in shining armor. I'm just a street rat," Willow whispered, walking down the path, leaving Tara to stand alone.
Small tears ran down Willow's face, the first in fifteen years of her twenty years. They grouped together and propelled down the curves of her cheeks and nose. Some dried on the spot, while others dripped on the dirt.
Willow used the back of sleeve to brush them off, trying to disguise the movement as an attempt to remove something out of her jaded eyes. Tara walked up beside her, stepping in time with Willow. Very discreetly, she wrapped an arm around Willow's and spoke softly.
"I couldn't imagine a better rescuer, and trust me, sitting up in that tower, for what...one, two weeks maybe, I did plenty of imagining. Convict or not, you did a noble thing. You'll be rewarded when we reach home." Willow gave a side-ways smile to Tara, who beamed back.
Miss Kitty, witnessing the entire ordeal, ran in front of them, causing Tara to trip over her feet. The redhead reacted swiftly, catching her before she fell.
Nose to nose now, Tara's breath got caught in her throat. Then, in a fit of giggles, she wrapped an arm around Willow's neck.
Unaware of why Tara was giggling, but overcome by the seas of laughs, Willow laughed as well. She raised Tara back into a standing position, stilling laughing softly along with Tara.
"Why are we laughing?" Willow asked, managing the question through chuckles. Tara shook her head, but continued giggling
"I suppose Miss Kitty felt unloved," Tara stated, bending down to pet Miss Kitty, who rubbed herself gently against Tara's hand. Willow nodded and kneeled down to where Miss Kitty now sat.
"So that's your name eh? Nice to meet ya," Willow announced, extending her hand politely. Miss Kitty tilted her head, her ears perking up at the sound of her name. A black paw with white splashes here and there batted at Willow's ginger hand.
As Willow stood, she spotted a small cave in the thicket of the woods. Had she not leaned over, there was no chance she would have saw it.
Willow flicked her fingers toward the thicket, indicating that she wished Tara and Miss Kitty to follow her.
The cave could be described as tight...so tight that Willow and Tara had to squeeze their lithe figures in between the granite rocks. Miss Kitty simply sauntered between them as if she owned the damn formation.
Once inside, the girls noticed a stairway leading down further into the mystical cave. Tara grasped Willow's arm tightly, not wanting to divulge beyond their safe point, but the adventurer in Willow overtook the better of her. The pair, lead by the redhead herself, cautiously delved down into the dark passage. Almost fifty steps down, the stairway ended on soft gravel.
"It's a tunnel," Tara concluded, hearing the trickle of water around them. Willow looked up. Through the pathway they took, the redhead could see the dimness of light, caused by the moon and stars. She reached for Tara's hand and interlaced her fingers with Tara's, who welcomed the gesture.
"We'll stay here for the night. No use in trying to move onward with the gloominess of it all," Willow explained, sitting down against the boulder. Her tiny head titled backward, resting itself on the rock.
Tara nodded, although Willow couldn't see. The blonde made a bold move, but a move nonetheless. She laid her head on Willow's shoulder, sighing happily when her savoir didn't refuse her gesture. Miss Kitty curled herself up in Willow's lap, causing Tara to giggle.
Tara's light giggles and small body movements roused Willow. Even though, she didn't ask, Tara explained the situations humor.
"She seems to like you. More than she likes anybody else," Princess Tara smiled warmly. A graceful hand petted the kitten, who purred happily on the spot. "She usually hisses, or if her kitten senses really act up, she's snap at whoever is near."
"This cute, little, bundle of joy? I can hardly imagine that," Willow joked, scratching the underside of Miss Kitty's belly. The Oreo kitten could care less about the conversation, or the fact that the conversation was about her. All she cared about was that all the attention was on her and she was being petted and scratched.
"When Father brought around Prince Trevor, Miss Kitty pounced his stupid purple cape. He tried to toss her off, but one of her claws ended up being caught in the fabric. When I finally peeled her off, she hissed at him loudly. The sad part is, he hissed back," Tara chuckled. Willow joined her, but the laughter died down after a while.
"You remember that battle we fought about two months ago, over the land of Travers Kingdom?" Tara questioned. She continued after feeling Willow's nod. "Well, earlier that week, King Travers's son, Trenton, asked my hand in marriage. Miss Kitty thought he was playing a game when he kneeled down and she attacked his face, claws open and all." Feeling Willow's cheeks rise into a grin, Tara concluded her story. "Outraged, Prince Trenton Travers IV stormed out of the castle and declared war on our kingdom. But he forgot to take into consideration that we out number his armies ten to one. So the one battle we fought, we were victorious, yet we owe it all to the 'little bundle of joy' in your lap." The rumble of Willow's body indicated to Tara that the redhead enjoyed the story. Tara snuggled closer into the nape of Willow's neck, smelling for the first time how sweet she really smelled.
"Tell me a story," Tara asked, meekly as if she were five. Willow smiled.
"Tell you a story? Tell you a story eh?" Tara shook her head slowly and Willow nodded her head once.
"Once upon a time, there was a princess. A gorgeous princess who ruled over her kingdom with great success and great dignity. All of her people adored her and they supported her decisions as their own. All the women wanted to be her and all the men wanted to be with her. But the princess could not decide which prince she wanted to marry. Her noble advisor, Miss Kitty, could not help this decision for her either..."
"This story is really depressing," Tara butted in, smiling against Willow's flesh. The tickle of the blonde's breath startled Willow, but she didn't budge. She felt comforted by the princess.
"Sorry, you caught me when I'm half asleep. Ask me again when we arrive home," Willow offered, knowing that when they reached home, Tara would not be able to speak to her again.
"Alright," Tara mumbled, closing her eyes to deep slumber.
Willow however had a hard time falling asleep so soon. Tara's rhythmic breathing against her flesh sent tingles down her body. The vanilla scent, even after two weeks of that tower, still lingered in Tara's honey hair. Willow bit her pink lip.
"Whatever you do Rosenberg, don't get attached. When you reach home, you'll just be another tax dollar," she muttered to herself, letting her subconscious drift into a deep sleep.
Willow's emerald eyes were the first to open the next morning. The light shining from outside reflected off the glistening stream in the cave. The angle of the light beamed Willow directly in the eyes, awakening her.
Blinking rapidly, she attempted to sit up, but the mass of a princess's body held her down. Tara snoozed contently on Willow's shoulder. A lazy smirk spread across the redhead's face.
A sudden chill on her lap hit her and she glanced down. She followed a trail of paw prints that ended with a white-tip tail sticking straight up. Miss Kitty lightly slurped up the stream's water.
Gently nudging the princess, she tried to wake Tara up easily. The blonde headed princess stirred slightly, but she only wrapped an arm around Willow's waist.
Willow's breath hitched, but she calmed herself down enough to nudge Tara again. The second attempt fully awoke Tara.
"Hmm?" Tara murmured, rising her head. Because Willow moved her body out of Tara's, the blonde did not see that she was lying all over Willow not ten seconds ago. Willow's lithe body stretched and walked over to the stream.
Cupping her hands, she carefully sipped the crystal clear water. She then splashed the liquid on her face.
Tara joined her, thankful for some refreshing and cleansing water. Tara snapped out her dream state when Miss Kitty pounced her.
Smiling brightly, Tara bent down and picked the kitten up. She scratched the kitten's ears lightly. She kissed the feline's head softly. For a brief moment, Willow wanted to be Miss Kitty's fur.
Silently, the pair began their walk along the stream's undefined coastline with Miss Kitty in toe. The journey was rather quiet, but they didn't have to walk in silence for long. About half a mile down the cave, they came across a bridge.
"Why the hell do they have a bridge over a three foot stream?" questioned Willow out loud. The green and red bridge went up and over the shallow stream.
Willow eyed the bridge suspiciously, but noticed that the coast they were following ended abruptly. She started toward the bridge but a small elf popped out of thin air in front of her.
The elf wore a blue coat and pants, with a green under shirt. He couldn't have been taller than 4 '4. His pointed forest green had topped off the stereotypical look.
"Hullo!" the perky elf announced, "Name's Pippin! 'm the guardian of 'he bridge 'er. O'ly 'ay to get across 's ta answer me question for y'o."
Both Willow and Tara cocked an eyebrow at the strange little man. But Willow relented. She sighed dramatically to let him know she wasn't happy.
"What happens if I get it wrong?" she asked, on the fly.
"O, 'ell y'o see, 'd have ta close y'o in lil missy. Y'o and y'or girrrlfriend. "'m sorrrry, dat's da ruuules," he apologized, and stood at an attention, waiting to see what the girls would do. Both Tara and Willow blushed at him referring to Tara as Willow's girlfriend, but neither corrected the man.
"Very well, what is the question?" Willow asked. Pippin began dancing around and he played a tune on his little wooden flute.
"Can you name three consecutive days without using the words Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday or Sunday?" Pippin danced more energetically and played his wooden flute with more vigor.
"That's easy," Tara stated, "Yesterday, today, tomorrow." Tara smiled and crossed her arms confidently. Pippin stopped dancing and turned to her with a most annoyed look.
"Blasted you!" he screeched and popped back through mid air. Willow smiled at Tara and crossed over the bridge, but as they reached the center of the bridge, another elf appeared. The elf looked exactly like Pippin.
"Hidoy'odo?" The elf danced around.
"Pippin, that's not fair. We just answered your bloody question!" Willow argued, trying to pass the elf, but it was like an invisible force field.
"Why 'm no' Pippin! 'm Piper, the guardian of the middle bridge," the girlish elf introduced, dancing amusedly around in a circle. Instead of a flute, she carried a small tambourine. The tinkering caught Willow's nerves quickly.
"Let me guess," she spoke, clamping her hand down on the instrument, "we get another question." Piper circled the two women languidly. When the elf passed Miss Kitty, she swatted at the funny little creature. Cocking her furry head, she watched the insane elf bemusedly.
"Dat's correct, lil' missy! 're y'o ready, o do ya need m're time to con'emplate?" asked Piper, tapping her tambourine musically.
"Get on with it," Willow said agitatedly. Miss Kitty mewed loudly to catch the elf's attention as well. Piper halted slowly.
"Do y'o k'ow how of'en we elves vi'st the reel wo'ld? No' ver' of'en. Dun't rush me pl'se!" The brunette elf strightened her small emerald jacket and recited rhythmically, " A murder is condemned to death. He has to choose between three rooms. The first is full of raging fires, the second is full of professional knights with sharpened swords, while the third is full of lions that haven't eaten in three years. Which room is safest?"
Tapping her tambourine, Piper danced about in one place, smirking to herself.
"Do you think raging fires? I mean, people stand a chance...but then again, knights could always aim poorly," Tara offered, biting her lower lip out of habit. Willow momentarily wanted to nip the same lip, but awoke out of her haze when a logical thought hit her.
"Three years?" she asked curiously. Piper halted her dancing and faced the redhead on her heels. The elf eyed Willow suspiciously, her features darkening. "That's not possible," Willow stated, smiling widely, "The lions would have died by then! Room Three is safest because the lions would have died by then by starvation!" Willow concluded, wearing a smug look on her face.
"Oh, cursed the intelligent!" Piper shouted as she too poofed through thin air.
Tara grinned appreciatively at Willow, who in return, winked back. The two waltzed over the bridge and almost crossed the bridge completely when a soft cloud of smoke appeared in front of them.
"Goo' af'ernoon ladies!" a triplet elf welcomed, he strummed a tiny guitar, "Me name 's Pip!" He strutted around the soil beneath his scrub-looking shoes, whistling merrily.
"What is your question oh great and powerful midget?" asked Willow, inciting a giggle from Tara, who politely covered her mouth. Pip narrowed his beady, black eyes.
"Ya 'noe lil' firehead m'ssy, we de'erve mo' 'espct than tha'! We din't go th'ough 'he Lil' People Namesake Wars ta be ca'd Midgets! Sir Elfin Pipster los' 'is poin'ed hat o'er 'he damn caboodle!" He stamped his foot and picked at his guitar.
"We apologize kind sir, please continue with your question," Tara sweetly amended. Willow looked at her in half- surprise, smiling. The elf blushed a deep purple and bowed his head, smiling himself happily.
"Than' y'o Missy! Bu' 's no' a ques'ion I as'. He'e is a shee' o' pap'r. Rea' it and ans'er it ta me!" he announced and handed the sheet of paper to Tara who read it out loud:
"This is an unusual paragraph. I'm curious how quickly you can find out what is so unusual about it? It looks so plain you would think nothing was wrong with it. In fact, nothing is wrong with it. It is unusual, though. Study it, think about it...but you still may not find anything odd," she finished, glancing curiously at Willow whose eyebrows were knitted in thought. Pip smiled brightly and a small wooden chair appeared behind him. Promptly sitting down, he winked at them.
"Y'o mi'gh be 'ere fo' a while," he chuckled playing a light melody on his guitar.
Willow and Tar rolled their eyes. Willow squatted down and sat with her legs crossed on the soft soil. She looked up at the blonde princess when Tara did not immediately follow.
"My dress will get dirty!" she exclaimed, crossing her arms in protest.
"Oh, well then Miss Piss! What do you suggest you do! You need to bend a little bit," Willow retorted, frustrated at Tara's persistence in acting like a sophisticated royalty. But she is...stupid Willow!
"May I sit in your lap?" questioned Tara, relenting a bit, sensing the hostility from her companion.
Willow's eyes shot up in shock. Hardly believing Tara, she dumbly nodded her head. The blonde slowly, careful not to press all her weight on the redhead, sat on Willow's lap.
Regaining regular breathing, Willow softly, almost using a whisper, asked Tara to look at the paragraph and see if she could see anything out of the ordinary.
"I'm sorry, but I don't. It seems, as the paragraph clearly states, nothing is wrong with it. It's quite a stumper," Tara stated, biting her lower lip again.
"Study it?" Willow questioned. The gears in her head turned on overdrive. "School!" she exclaimed, smiling, "It's a clue, it's got something to do with something you study in school," she explained when Tara gave her a blank look.
"It shouldn't be anything too specific. That would be entirely impossible to figure out with only one chance to answer," Tara observed, leaning back onto Willow, laying her head down on the crook of the redhead's neck.
"Damn they use a lot of long words," Willow noted, feelings the embarrassment of the less refined education she was sure Tara was accustomed to.
"No necessarily long, just more vowels than most words..." Tara trailed, smirking at the thought process Willow pulled herself through.
"Yeah, except there's not a single 'e' in the entire paragraph!" Willow stated nonchalantly. She hugged Tara from behind, feeling the simple warmth of the blonde's body.
"Willow, repeat what you just said?" inquired Tara, hopping up from the position, although she internally chasten herself at the loss of contact.
"Um, no use of the letter 'e'?" Willow repeated quirking her tan eyebrow up. The blush in her cheeks did not go unnoticed by Tara.
"Willow, the 'e' is the most common vowel in our language. For an entire paragraph to be written without the use of the said vowel, well it's rare-almost unheard of!" Tara exclaimed, facing the elf once more.
"The fact that there is no 'e' in the paragraph is what is so damn odd about it. Now, can you please let me and my friend cross your damn blessed bridge!" Tara answered, clenching her fists in frustration.
Jutting out his hip irritably, he almost spoke, but Willow's terse words cut him off. "Save it. Go back to the Munchkin Land, would ya?"
Crossing his tiny arms, he disappeared, muttering something about Sir Elfin Pipster. Once he was gone, Tara grabbed Willow's hand happily and ran across the bridge. Clearly on the other side, she sighed heavily.
"Thank God, we're off that horrible bridge!" Tara laughed, shaking her head slightly. Noticing the redhead eyeing her, she asked what was wrong.
"Oh nothing, I just believe my language is having a bad influence on you," Willow replied, heading toward the light at the end of the cave's tunnel.