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Caitlin and the Librarian’s Cousin

by on June 30, 2011

Caitlin’s boots squelched on the muddy ground as she plodded forward down the road. It had finally stopped raining an hour before, but the sky was still slate-grey with clouds, and it looked very much like it might start raining again at the drop of a proverbial hat. The weather matched her mood perfectly. The princess was beginning to wonder why she’d ever started off on this quest at all.

Granted, it was a worthy goal, finding the hiding place of Princess Ermingard, trapped in an enchanted sleep that could only be broken by true love’s kiss. But therein lay the problem, for Ermingard’s true love, Prince Roderick was a) married to another girl, and b) dead. Caitlin had no idea how she was supposed to wake up Ermingard now, generations later, even supposing she could find Ermingard in the first place. That was another problem, for Caitlin didn’t have the slightest idea where Ermingard’s hiding place was. All her castle librarian had been able to tell her before setting out was the location of the first clue, which led to another clue, which led to another and another and another until eventually the line led to the very last clue which might possibly reveal the hiding place. All in all, Caitlin was beginning to think her new quest wasn’t going to be nearly as fun as the last one. Last time she’d saved all reality, avenged and resurrected her mother, and gotten a neat new lightsaber. Compared to that, this quest was looking like a Disney movie sequel, and not one of the decent ones either like Return to Never Land, but one of the crappy straight-to-video ones that don’t tell a coherent story but just throw a couple vignettes together and call it a movie.   (Not that Caitlin would know about Disney movie sequels because, you know, medieval princess).

On the bright side, Caitlin did at least have the three essential items necessary for a successful quest. A wolf-skin cloak (for keeping dry on rainy days like the present one), a magic bean (what it actually did, she didn’t know, but the librarian had assured her it did something cool), and an apple, in case she got peckish and needed a snack. And also her lightsaber. So Caitlin had the four essential items for a successful quest: a wolf-skin cloak, a magic bean, an apple, a lightsaber, and a sidekick.  Okay, Caitlin had the five…no…amongst her many essential items for a successful quest were a wolf-skin cloak, a magic bean, an apple, a lightsaber, a sidekick, and a nice red uniform…oh darn.

At any rate, what our heroine didn’t know was that one of her essential items wasn’t what it appeared to be. Nor did she know that she already had a nemesis scheming to stop her from reawakening Ermingard. If she had, her mood probably would’ve gone from unhappy to downright glum. Possibly even weepy. There could be tears. Or would’ve been, except of course she didn’t know, so her mood at present was only a little vexed.

Moving on, in point of fact, she didn’t just have one sidekick, she had three. Two of them were her faithful shoulder-companions, though, and they didn’t look like they were going to be much help at all. Earlier in the day, her shoulder-angel had produced a tiny harp and offered to play a brisk traveling song. The poor angel had gotten only a few bars into “This Little Light of Mine” when Caitlin’s shoulder-devil had whipped out a tiny electric guitar and ripped into AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell”. Not to be outdone, the shoulder-angel had rallied a few of its shoulder-angel friends and launched a rousing rendition of “Oh Happy Day”, but the shoulder-devil called in its own friends and came back with the Disney villain song “Hellfire”. Blows ensued, along with a great deal of dreadful language. When last Caitlin checked, they had broken apart and were lying groggily on separate shoulders, clearly not in condition to do much fighting or anything else that day. Sometimes Caitlin wondered why she kept them around.

Her third sidekick was Perrion, who generally went by Perry, and he was Percy the Librarian’s young cousin. Caitlin had agreed that she needed a sidekick (they tended to be terribly useful on these sorts of quests), but she had wanted her long-time bodyguard Colin the Mime-Assassin. Unfortunately, Colin was still nowhere to be found. Caitlin was growing seriously worried about him, but she didn’t have time to wait till he turned up. That was how she’d gotten stuck with Perry, who had never set foot outside of Shmirmingard, never handled a sword or bow and arrow or battle-axe, never even saved a damsel in distress. Worst of all, he had a frightful case of springtime allergies; she could hear him sniffling and wiping his nose even now behind her as she marched. Perry’s one selling point was that he had studied the language of the tribe of paranoid dwarves which had hidden Princess Ermingard away, and Caitlin couldn’t speak a word of Paranoid Dwarvish (she wasn’t much good with mythical languages in generally, really; the highest grade she’d ever gotten was a C+ in Beginning Quenya, and it was all downhill from there).

Perry also had the map with him, drawn by his elderly cousin, which was supposed to show the location of the first clue. Caitlin shot a glance back towards her sidekick. “We nearly there yet?” she called. All she got in reply was a ferocious sneeze and a sniffle. “Perry?” she repeated, allowing a bit of exasperation into her voice. “Are we anywhere close to the clue yet?”

“No,” Perry said, fumbling about with the map, “we’re only *SNEEZE* half-way. We’re at the Desert of Blistering Sands; once we cross that, *SNEEZE* then we keep going for another day until we reach the Scrumdiddly Mountains, *SNEEZE* and find this little valley with a stream in it. The clue’s cut into a rock hidden near the stream.”

Caitlin’s voice went very low and quiet. “Oh. We’re at a desert, are we?”

“Yes, we’re at…” Perry looked around. They were standing on a green path surrounded by the gently sloping walls of a mountain valley. A little stream burbled placidly nearby. Perry looked at the map, then at the stream, then at the map. “Erm,” he said disconsolately, “I think I’ve been reading this wrong.”

The princess rolled her eyes. “Oy. Just tell me where the blasted rock is, okay?”

“Right. Okay. Erm. So, you go to the edge of the stream right where it bends underneath a really tall willow tree.”

Caitlin saw the willow in a moment, and ran to the stream’s edge. “Now what?”

“You should see some stepping stones. Go to the fourth one, and look down. You should see the rock that has the clue on it.”

“Right. One…two…three….WHA-*SPLOOSH*

“But skip over the third one, because it’s unstable and you’ll fall in…oh.”

Slowly, her ears turning red with simmering fury, Caitlin clambered out of the icy-cold streamwater, climbed onto the fourth stepping stone, and looked down. For once, Perry had gotten it right. There, in the midst of swirling water and wafting plants, lay a small flat rock covered in Dwarvish runes. Caitlin bent awkwardly down and retrieved the rock, then made her way back to the safety of the stream bank. Caitlin, dripping wet and shivering from the shock of the cold stream water, glared daggers at her sidekick, then shoved the rock in his face. “You. Translate. Now.”

Perry, after yet another sneeze, peered closely at the runes. “Well…oh dear…erm…it says…this can’t be right…”

“Just tell me!

*SNEEZE* “It says…I give up; my face is in the butter.”

Caitlin did a long, slow blink. “My face is in the butter. That’s the clue.”

“Yes.”

“Not ‘the secret lies with Charlotte’, or ‘Boar is badger, named after wood, not after forest but trees’, or ‘what has it got in its pocketses.’ Just….my face is in the butter’.”

*SNEEZE* “Right. Also, ‘I give up’.”

“Well…” Caitlin said, completely at a loss. She turned to her shoulder-companions. “Any ideas, people?”

Her shoulder-angel gave a weak flutter of its wings and murmured dizzily, “Ohhhhhh we’re halfway there, woooah-oh, livin’ on a prayer….”

Caitlin glanced at her shoulder-devil, but its only reply was a rude gesture. The princess’s head was starting to hurt. “Okay. I give up; my face is in the butter. That has to mean something.”

“Perhaps…” Perry ventured.

“You shut up.” Caitlin pressed her fingers to the sides of her head and thought very hard. “Okay. I give up; that’s what people say when they’re surrendering. And when you’re surrendering, you generally wave a white flag. If the enemy doesn’t accept your surrender, they’ll say ‘no quarter given’. Quarter…four! It’s something to do with four…four what? Miles? Let me think…”

“Maybe…”

“Shut.Up. Right, where was I? Okay. My face is in the butter. My face is in the butter…my face…Myspace…no…um…okay. My face. Why not your face, or her face? Why my face? Because…because you can’t see your own face, not unless you look in a mirror, and even then it’s all backwards. Backwards. Is my face in the butter, or is the butter in my face? WAIT.” Caitlin’s eyes went wide as revelation dawned upon her in a single rush. “If the butter’s in my face, then I’m looking at the butter, I’m going towards the butter, and butter’s something you put on bread like toast, buttered toast, and when do you eat buttered toast? You eat it at breakfast, which is in the morning, sunrise, east, YES! THAT’S IT! The next clue’s exactly four miles east from here! It’s all so clear now!”

“Um, Caitlin?”

“That’s Princess Caitlin to you, Perry, and please, be quiet. I’m on a roll here. Roll, toast, ah-ha. That’s funny.”

Perry sneezed in mortification, but then he gathered himself together and tried one more time. “Princess Caitlin, er, you might want to draw your, erm, magic glow sword now.”

“And just why exactly would I-” Zzziiip-thwack. A thin arrow sliced through the air and stabbed into the ground, a hairs-breadth away from Caitlin’s left boot. She looked up, to see what Perry had been trying to warn her about all along. On the western ridge overlooking the valley, waving small but deadly axes and stringing vicious bows, swarmed a howling tribe of small female weasels. Each one chanted in a shrill voice, “Stick ‘er! Stick ‘er! Stick ‘er!” and from the way they were all pointing at Princess Caitlin, it was abundantly clear which ‘er they meant to stick. “Oh dear,” Caitlin said, even as her hand flew to her lightsaber. “This could be a problem.”

To be continued…

Note: This story was written using nearly all the prompts from Prompt Number Twenty-Six, at the halfway point of the Chrysalis Experiment. The random clue was contributed by Julia, a friend of mine from Facebook. The interpretation of the clue was Caitlin’s own. 😛 For previous adventures in the Caitlin Chronicles, go here. I hope you enjoyed this week’s entry, and stay tuned for more, as our plucky heroine and her sidewalk battle the weasel tribe with only their wits and a lightsaber. *dun dun DUNNNNN*

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4 Comments
  1. The title rocks! Almost sounds like a soft-core romance novel!
    Good job.

  2. Not unrelatedly, I have been thinking of giving Caitlin a love interest…:P

  3. Finally read this. There was a part earlier on that cracked me up, but right now all I can think about is THIS part that cracked me up:

    Her shoulder-angel gave a weak flutter of its wings and murmured dizzily, “Ohhhhhh we’re halfway there, woooah-oh, livin’ on a prayer….”

    I’m intrigued by these weasels…haha

    • I think that one came from a prompt left by Brooke; the prompt was “Sometimes you have to stare down little girls to save your stickers. That’s just the way it is.” How that morphed into tiny weasels with axes yelling “Stick ‘er!” is a mystery. 🙂

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