Rabattan glared into the smoky darkness. His green eyes gleamed with satisfaction. “I hope your stay with us will be…comfortable, my queen!” he sneered.
Hazel eyes peered back at him from beyond the icy bars. Queen Sarafina bit her tongue, refusing to rise to his insolent baiting. She had been captured by the trolls only that morning, succumbing to their bile and venom as they led her back to their lair under the roots of the acorn tree in South Meadow. It was better this way. Her kingdom would remain safe for as long as the trolls thought they were in power, and it would give her secret plan time to unfold.
She smiled, drawing closer to the frozen stalactites keeping her prisoner. Her fingers curled around their icy points as the prison guard’s greeny pupils expanded in fear. “Enjoy your moment, Rabattan, for I shall certainly revel in your hospitality.” A gentle growl emanated from the back of her throat. She smirked as he took another tentative step back. Her reputation for being a bit of a hot head had obviously reached far below the earth’s surface to the habitants of the underworld. Their audacity to try and capture her meant that all the tribes had agreed to take action against the sun dwellers of South Meadow. The fairies, gnomes and goblins who had co-existed in peace for centuries were now under threat.
Time was running out for their serene existence as the underworld dwellers grew tired of living on grubs and scrambling through the darkness, separating roots for homes and digging endless tunnels that collapsed more regularly than the sugar fairies fell from honeysuckle flowers.
Desperate footsteps scrambling towards the prison broke her train of thought and the sight of one of the moles from the northern heath shocked her. Had they joined with the trolls too?
“Lord Rabattan, I have an urgent message for you from Prince Grotchen,” the little creature whispered, his eyes searching for the prisoner hidden in the shadows.
“What is it?”
“Umm, he said to come to his aid right away, sir.”
Rabattan scowled. Prince Grotchen wasn’t capable of wiping his insectile rear end without asking for assistance. If it wasn’t for his princely status, Rabattan would have rid himself of the pesky prince a long time ago. But his presence was necessary to keep the factions together, for now. He ushered the little mole back up the earthen steps lit only by a sliver of light filtering past the roots of the old tree from above and followed him through the narrow passageways up to a wide hall surrounded by trellis shoots and packed earth.
Making an elaborate bow he extended his green, spotted arm to the king. He walked up to the throne and awaited further instruction from the snake-like figure sitting in the large, woven willow chair.
Prince Grotchen watched his strongest general approach and sighed. If only Rabattan held a little more respect for him, he could keep him on in his services. As it stood, his spies had informed him of his general’s plot to remove him from power and take the throne for himself. That would not do. Their alliance with the other underworld kingdoms was tentative at best, and he refused to allow anything to scupper their chances of winning the foretold war against the sun dwellers. His thin lips formed a semblance of a smile and he gazed at the general, keeping him waiting for longer than was necessary.
“Get rid of him,” he grimaced.
Surprised by the turn of events, Rabattan watched the approaching troll soldiers and panicked. Courtiers to the prince stood back, their bug eyes reflecting the shiny leaves and acorn caps used by the soldiers. A small door stood slightly ajar to the left of the throne. There was his escape. He leapt forward, taking the first two guards by surprise as his landed with a hard thud on their oversized heads. The crunch was unpleasant but there was no time to think. With a swoop, he swung his spear (a sharpened bamboo shoot with a granite stone tip) at the prince, who screamed and scrambled up the back of his throne. His praying mantis body twisted and the darkened green wings caught on the sharp sticks, holding him captive.
“Don’t just stand there, stop him!”
Too late. The guards gave chase as Rabattan disappeared behind the door, slamming it shut in their faces.
Click here for Chapter Two.
Click here for Chapter Three.