The Amazing TAles of Princess Amelia – chapter 2

The Amazing Tales of Princess Amelia

Chapter 2:-

Characters in this tale may not really be based on real people.

There was something extraordinary about Princess Amelia. Her parents and grandpa expected her to be traumatized by her experience in the grips of the Terraloon and witnessing the attack of the Fire bee dragons, but she continued to be a wildly energetic fun loving child, playing with her cousins and sleeping peacefully each night. However her parents, grandpa and nanny kept an eye on her just in case she needed some extra love and attention. The ancient protection charm Amelia wore during her ordeal seemed to have also prevented her from experiencing real fear, even in the days after the incident, whether she wore the charm or not.

Her mother upon hearing of the frightening events via messaging pidgeon that same evening, had set off within an hour, accompanied by five trained soldiers and nanny Margs, galloping through the night, with only one short stop, and arriving at King El’s palace by mid morning. There was such a loving reunion with her family that it cannot be described but needless to say celebrations rang out through the castle for many days. All Fire Bees were slain and the soldiers returned to the castle in high spirits even though many had been injured. When Marshall Matt and his Great Knight of the Realm Luke arrived, to great fanfare, all three brothers, Luke and grandpa Ant went to the great hall to recount the battle and consider just where such creatures may have come from. Were there possibly still other similar creatures out there? They all believed that there was still a high probability of more Fire Bees hiding in their many adjacent kingdoms and provinces. From now on rumours of strange creatures would be investigated, more thoroughly no matter how far away. A variety of defensive and attacking tactics were also discussed.

Queens Emma, Michelle and Aunt Sue settled down to a long series of discussions, whilst Amelia joined her cousins in the games room. The hanging horses were always an immediate favourite of course, as they swung around a high and large circular frame, pushed of course by some willing adult. The children would cling on to the handles at the front of the saddles and the musical box would play a tune faster and faster as they accelerated around whooping with laughter.

“We know a secret place” Reese whispered in Amelia’s ear, the three children sitting recklessly on the parapet wall to the eastern tower, overlooking the early morning mists that lay across the mixed landscape of babbling brooks, open fields and woodland with the rocky mountain cliffs to the west glowing yellowy orange in the morning light. “Where?” asked Amelia excitedly. “Down by the rocky ridge” piped Harry “but it’s quite far so we’ll have to take sweets and lemonade”. “ But Dad said we can’t go without an adult” Reese muttered. “ Let’s ask Grandpa” suggested Amelia. Reese was the eldest and thought that maybe that was a good idea because he was probably too old to worry about them going into the cave like Dad or Mum would. “Ok!” she said, and they hurried off to find him.

Grandpa Ant was showing his three sons and Luke how the ExCaleebra sword blades cut through various materials, in the privacy of the armoury. They each took turns, feeling the weight and learning how hard to strike, without over-swinging as with a normal sword. El, Matthew and Luke were still in awe of the weapons and couldn’t understand how the blade remained undamaged and how no material had yet blunted the cutting edge. The black obsidian rock provided the highest resistance, and without the right cutting speed the blade would get stuck within the rock and sit there vibrating at a high frequency. It was impossible to pull it out of the rock until Grandpa Ant showed them how and it was the opposite of using force. You had to feel the sword calmly within yourself and it would then slip easily from the rock. One day in the far future, one of his swords would choose a great future King Arthur in a far off land.

The children crashed in through the door, past a stammering apologetic red-faced guard, all yelling at the same time. The door was quickly shut again behind them. They wanted Grandpa to join them on an adventure. The men laughed at the excited expressions on their faces and caved in to their request; and so it was that Grandpa was about to discover, with three wildly excited youngsters, something totally unexpected. Reese and Harry quickly noticed the glowing edge of one of the swords and wanted to know more about it. They marveled at the ability of the sword in action, but being children quickly decided that they had far more exciting things to do. King Jay then explained to his brothers and Luke the need for such special scabbards to carry the swords, daggers and pike ends, as well as future arrow tips. He showed how, by just resting the blade edge on a surface such as the granite bench top, the blade would sink right through like a hot knife in butter. “Ok young’uns” said Grandpa “ lets go see what this big adventure of yours is. Don’t forget; no word about what you’ve seen in here to anyone else, otherwise some very bad people could come to hurt us and try to steal them. I want to hear each of you promise and I’ll know if you’re fibbing”. After solemn promises while putting on serious faces, Grandpa Ant said ok. He mentioned a few more things to his sons and Luke before being literally dragged out by the kids.

Nanny Miche and great Aunt Sue prepared little knapsacks for the adventurers with some sandwiches, water and a newly plucked apple each. After much pleading a small bag of lollies was added for grandpa Ant to dole out if they were well behaved. There were no dangerous animals or snakes in this area but grandpa always carried his special staff and his Ex Caleebra dagger. They set off on the two mile hike mid morning toward rocky ridge, with the kids skipping ahead much of the way, until the first stop under the Acorn tree. The tree was enormous, with a rope swing hanging from a branch almost forty feet above. The swing seat was six feet wide with hold on handles for three. Grandpa Ant immediately sat down in the middle and asked them to push him. After a stunned moment they realized he was joking and pulled him off laughing. Amelia jumped into the middle with Reese and Harry sitting either side and then they waited expectantly for Grandpa to push them but he said they must first say the magic word. “Abracadabra” said Amelia cheekily. “It’s please!” cried the other two in unison, so Grandpa pushed them until they were screaming with delight. Because of the extraordinary rope length, the swing moved forty feet on each arc, with exhilarating speed. Harry decided to jump off after five minutes or so, into the large hay-stack, moved here for that very purpose. As he lay there laughing he dared the other two to do the same. On the next forward swing, a shrieking Amelia was followed closely by a yelling Reese, both flying through the air, with arms and legs moving around wildly and landing in a jumble of loud laughter and bits of hay flying about everywhere. They insisted on a second and then third repeat of the same game, before all finally and happily agreeing to move on with the last half mile walk to their destination.

They soon reached one of the streams at the foothills of the rocky ridge and had to take off their shoes and socks to cross. The water was crystal clear and the bed of the stream was made up of mostly flattish rocks and many colourful little pebbles, which they all spent some time examining. They all ended up pocketing a few each, before reluctantly moving on, out of the refreshingly cool water. They walked on around a small outcrop before coming to a rough but wide rocky path, leading up to a cave entrance just visible above. Harry scooted up ahead, followed rapidly by the girls who were not going to be outdone. “Wait for me at the top scallywags” yelled Grandpa and then decided rather to race them to the top. They didn’t realize this until he ran past Amelia who shouted “hey that’s unfair Grandpa” and then she determined to turn it into a real race. Once realizing the race was on, Reese scampered her way past Harry who figured it out too late and reached out to grab her skirt and slow her down. As they tumbled onto the pathway, grabbing one another’s clothes, to stop the other from gaining advantage, Grandpa and Reese raced past.

Grandpa Ant was highly competitive but thought he would let Amelia beat him to the top, then changed his mind in the spur of the moment, and touched the top first. “Ha ha!” he yelled triumphantly. Squabbling voices rent the air as each child loudly proclaimed that they should have won. Reese and Harry dusted themselves off and surprisingly quickly calmed down their arguments about unfairness, when Grandpa brought out the bag of sweets. “ Ok this is what we do” said Grandpa calmly. “One lolly each, of your choice, because you let your old grandpa win the race, but then no more until after lunch, which we’ll have after we explore the cave. Ok everybody?” Wisely the ladies had ensured an equal number of the same lolly, so no bickering ensued.

They all sat on the outer edge of the floor of the cave, looking back the way they had come, across the grassy green and gold landscape, with the bronze stone castle turrets just visible above the distant hillock. The sound of many birds chirping and some lazy crickets, was given harmony by the accompanying sound of all four of the adventurers sucking, slurping and crunching their lollies. It was a really beautiful sunny early autumn day.

Grandpa had heard and read about this cave but never actually visited it. It was actually a series of five cavenous areas, leading from one to the other, through some quite narrow and low rough rock passages. As they started exploring, Grandpa realized that man had definitely played a large part in hollowing out some of the cavern areas and passage-ways, but not in present known times. Each cave had some form of natural light coming through a high level opening connecting through to the cliff face. The fourth and largest cave had an opening that also fed in water, which constantly flowed down a tiny waterfall into a pond, and then back out through the rear rock wall. There were also some rough-hewn rock benches and some strange cave paintings with unidentified symbols or writing on the wall leading to the fifth cave.

Grandpa stared in wonder at the paintings and thought that he recognized some of the symbols from his time with Merklin. In fact he suddenly remembered which book, and would send for it straight away, on their return. In the fifth cave there were two sky openings and again many carved rock benches but these looked more decorative. Meetings or gatherings must have been held here a very long time ago. The wall paintings here consisted almost entirely of shaped symbols, some coloured. “Definitely writing!” Grandpa thought, due to the repeated use of the same markings. These symbols were cut into flat sections of the wall and he also noticed some larger rectangular grooves at one end of the cave. “Hmmm” Grandpa mumbled “why haven’t these been mentioned in the reports I’ve read about the caves?”

“Come look Grandpa Ant. Come and look!” Amelia yelled, taking his hand and pulling him back to cave four. Harry had pulled up one of the flat rocks at the bottom of the pond. Underneath where the rock had been, the surface under the water was shiny and flat. Grandpa bent down to rub it and realized that it was smooth, a silvery blue sheen, and he again noticed some symbols, like on the walls. “I told you there was a light between the rocks Harry” Amelia said proudly. “Well done all of you” grandpa said excitedly “lets take out some more rocks but roll up your sleeves so that they don’t get wet”. The pond was the size of two big straw beds pushed together. The flat rocks were lifted up quite easily, and it wasn’t long before they had them all removed from the pond. What was revealed was most astonishing.

The water continued to flow into the pool and cover the discovery, but there, below the water, was what looked like a map of sorts, again with this strange writing, which Merkin had called Hirogrif something or other. Grandpa wasn’t sure what sort of metal or stone this was, but it was absolutely flat and smooth. He took off his shoes and socks and walked carefully to where the water flowed out of the pond. There it was, he smirked knowingly, thinking himself rather clever, and carefully pulled back a horizontal rectangle of stone from a slot in the wall. The waterfall now ran straight down into the opening in the rock behind, without entering the pond. Another vertical slab of rock, rough hewn on the visible side, held back the water in the pool until grandpa lifted it a couple of inches and rested it on a small rock. While the water was draining out, and grandpa ensured that the markings would not easily scrub off, they all jumped in the pool and swept the settled mud away.

They all stood there fascinated and studied the floor map. Amelia’s sharp little eyes and active mind was the first to notice that the five circles, at the start of the map, were lying in the same arrangement as the caves they were in. “Oh my merry stars” whooped grandpa, realizing that the map was of tunnels and spaces leading on from the fifth cave, most likely at the point where the deep grooves were. They all tried to make sense of what the spaces indicated by the map might mean, and then decided it was time to head back to the cave entrance and have their lunch. “Do you think there will be treasure?” Reese asked breathlessly. They were all so excited they could hardly settle enough to eat their lunch. “No rush my little adventurers. Let’s eat all of our lunch, have another lolly and then go and have another look. If we discover how to get through, from cave five, we should first go and tell the others before going any further. Just in case. We don’t want to disappear without your parents knowing where we are”.

After lunch they all hurried back through to cave five and had a careful look at the walls. Grandpa tried to pull on the rectangular grooves but without success. He felt inside them trying to find something that might act as a lever or button. Amelia said “Grandpa, that’s not where the map shows the tunnel going. I’m sure it’s over here where these drawings are”. She walked across to the flat section of wall where the symbols were cut into the rock. “Are you sure honey?” asked grandpa and walked back into cave four to check the map. He realized that she was right, however the map showed a small circle with a cross on it in the area of the grooves. He walked back and examined the flat wall and then the area of the grooves again. “Can any of you see a circle with a cross on it?” grandpa asked. They all searched carefully, pushing and pulling bits of stone and symbols. “There it is!” yelled Amelia, so suddenly and loudly that grandpa nearly jumped out of his skin, and Harry punched her arm for giving him a fright. A blue flash jumped from the point of impact with Amelia’s arm and Harry hit himself on the nose. “Ouch!” he said and both girls laughed. “Don’t hit girls Harry” said Grandpa Ant and quickly tried to avert Reese and Harry’s attention from what had happened. They didn’t know about Amelia’s charm and he didn’t want them getting too inquisitive about it.

Amelia was pointing up at the stepped ceiling above the wall where the deep grooves were. It was hard to see in the shadows of the rough rock ceiling but looking carefully, there was definitely a circular groove in the face of the rock with a rather feint plus sign in it’s centre. “Now what!” said Grandpa mostly to himself “just how am I going to get up there? I think we’ll need a long pole, or better still a ladder from the castle kids. I think we should head back and return tomorrow, if that’s ok”. “ What about if I stand on your shoulders grandpa?” Reese asked. “It won’t be high enough honey. Look, tomorrow we will have some guys bring a ladder and I’m sure all three of my sons and their ladies will also want to see what lies beyond. And it is your father’s land Reese and Harry, so I am sure that he will want to be here for the discovery. But listen carefully young ones; we will all talk about this together back at the castle with your folks, but do not mention this to anyone else at all before then, including friends, or even your nannies and special servants. Is that understood?” “Yes” they all cried out in unison. Grandpa knew that they were actually pretty reliable with keeping certain information within the family unit only, as it was a specific part of their royal education. They headed back in high spirits and absolutely dying to tell their mummies and daddies about what they had discovered.

Once the excited kids had gone to bed the Royal grownups had a long discussion about the discovery. It had been pure chance that Amelia had seen a glint between the flat rocks in the pool. Grandpa surmised that the obviously advanced Ancients must have deliberately hidden the clues for those knowing where to look, presumably written down in some manner for their future generations. But those future generations had never returned. Why? The material and manner in which the map floor below the pool was made, was beyond anything he had seen in his lifetime, apart from some of the discoveries he had uncovered with Merklin. Perhaps it was the same Ancient people, in which case, what may be revealed through the fifth cave would not only be very interesting but may also be extremely dangerous if misunderstood. He convinced the others that he needed his book of old language symbols before they proceed further. All hoped that the messenger bird sent some hours ago with instructions to his apprentice at Jewel Castle would result in his Eagle returning early morning with the book. They all looked intently at the map layout that Grandpa and the kids had created on the board from memory. Little Amelia especially, had remembered the most astonishing details. From the fifth cave there was a square drawn, presumably larger than any of the five caves they had explored, leading through what they presumed was a tunnel, criss-crossed with squiggles, through to a ‘tree’ looking shape, lying flat. The tunnel branched into five branches, each of which branched into another five branches, which in turn branched into another five branches. Only one of the many branches led to a circle and then out into a very large circular area with a sun symbol in the middle. There was a dashed line along the only path through all the branches, presumably the way to follow to the sun symbol, but none of the kids nor Grandpa could remember exactly which way it went. On the exact opposite side of the large circle containing the sun symbol was another tree shape, with a star symbol above the branches, but without any dashed or other line showing the way to go. They all went to bed excited about exploring this discovery, if there really was something beyond the fifth cave wall, but had yet to agree whether or not to allow the children to come along. “This has been on our land for so many generations” sighed King El loudly “and it takes just three little ones and a grumpy old man to finally discover it. Ha ha ha!” he bellowed loudly at his own joke. “Shhh dear! You’ll wake the kids. And you’re not so grumpy are you Grandpa?” Michelle chuckled. “Ok youngsters, time for your beauty sleep or you’ll all look like me sooner than you think” Grandpa Ant retorted smiling, and stood with a yawn. “Nite nite”

At the crack of dawn, as the growing golden light bathed the ceiling of his room, there was the sudden loud sound of rushing wings and a louder shriek, and a thick leather bound book landed on Grandpa’s head, waking him up with a start. A large brown and white spotted eagle, with giant beak and sharp claws, was now cheekily perched on the stone window sill, cocking its head and staring intently at a sprawled Grandpa, who had fallen out of bed, having somehow tipped his washing bowl of water onto himself. He sat up dazed and wet, spluttering and again cursing out loud, until noticing his special book lying at his feet. He suddenly remembered where he was and why the eagle was here in his room. “I ought to roast you on a spit, feathers and all, you rapscallion flying turkey!” he shouted. “And how the heckling blazers did you know where I was sleeping you brainless goose?” By now he was starting to feel quite proud of his gold eyed staring friend. “I suppose you think you deserve one of these treats hey?” he said in a much happier tone, opening up his leather bird sack and taking out some dried meat. He loved all his feathered friends. “Off you go now Speedy, and thank you, you crazy loon!” He watched with admiration as the bird swept up into the blue skies heading back to Apple.

After a hearty breakfast the first rather large party set off for the caves on horseback with four house men and two women cooks bringing up the rear on wagons, carrying two types of ladders, brooms, poles, rope, writing vellums and carbon scribble rods, various other implements and two days worth of food and refreshments. Everyone had a backpack with various items including rope and pegs in case of walls to climb or to drop down from, on the adventure. Another group of armed soldiers would follow in about two hours time, giving time for the first group to properly clean and examine the pool map and for Grandpa Ant to hopefully interpret the Hirogyptics (that’s what they were called, he now remembered, according to Merklin) symbols and markings. The children all insisted on riding up front with their parents and Grandpa, and not in the wagons behind.

Before they reached the caves, there was very bright blue-green flash of lightning followed immediately by a very loud crash of thunder. Rolling over the top of the mountains ahead was a massive rolling black cloud, full of flashes and a continuous deep rumble. This was going to be a big storm and Grandpa shouted “Dismount and hurry to the caves, quickly! Michael, have five of your men tether the horses together in train and get them back to the castle. Tell them to leave the wagons and to return when the storm abates sufficiently. Is that clear” There was no shelter for the horses and the lightning looked frequent and dangerous. The wind started blowing strongly. They were almost at the caves and there would not be time for everyone to get back to the castle safely.

Everyone realized now that they must move really quickly, and started to run across the stream for the stony path up to the caves. The children refused to be picked up by an adult and were dashing ahead of their parents, shouting and laughing against the crashing din of the thunder.

The first few splatters soon turned into a heavy torrent of driving rain and Amelia was almost blown off her feet just as she reached the foot of the cliffs. Reese grabbed her hand, and Harry’s, and they helped pull each other up the steep path to the caves, even though the increasing downpour was starting to turn the path into slippery dirt. They yelled happily once they reached the shelter of the cave entrance, then turned and watched the rest of the group making their way up, but realized in shock, that many were really starting to struggle and slip. Amelia’s mummy and daddy were the first adults to safety, soaking wet, followed by King El, Queen Michelle and Marshal Matt. The men then went back out to see if Grandpa and the rest of the group were ok. Another ear splitting crash of lightning and thunder made everyone jump back in fright and the sound of the roaring wind and rain was getting so loud that people had to shout really hard to be heard. There was a big problem! Half of those remaining on the path, had slid back down to the bottom and most of the rest were on their hands and knees, clinging onto the rocks on the side of the path, to avoid being washed or blown over the edge of the cliff. Grandpa was clinging onto a rock near the top but shouting to those in the cave to look for rope to throw out to him, but not to come out of the cave. It was so dangerous now that no one could stand or pull themselves up the path;- the wind was so ferocious that clothes were being ripped off people. Even though it was only mid-morning, it was so dark that it was almost like night. Amelia looked on with horror as she realized how dangerous things had become. “Hang on Grandpa! Daddy’s tying ropes together. Hang on!” she screamed against another loud crash of thunder. Grandpa glimpsed something large hurtling down the stream to his right and realized that it was a massive wall of water approaching rapidly. He yelled down the path to the others to warn them. There were still men at the bottom who then saw the danger and frantically tried to climb back up the path and some started hurriedly climbing the trees below. There were shouts and screams as the wall of water crashed into the sides of the cliff and added to the immense din. The wagons exploded into bits of broken wood and canvas and were swept away as the water continued to rise higher and higher. The brother kings El, Jay and Matthew had secured one end of the rope to a large rock in the cave and King Jay made his way out into the howling storm along the rope to rescue Grandpa Ant. He was immediately blown off his feet but held on to the rope as he scrambled out to Grandpa and tied the rope around Grandpa’s waist.

A very tired bedraggled Grandpa Ant was pulled to safety to the great screaming joy and hugs of Amelia and the others. The rope from Grandpa’s backpack was added to increase the length of the rope and this time Marshal Matt braved the storm to reach others clinging onto rocks further down the path and bring them to safety. Some had lost their grip in the wind and had been blown over the cliff into the raging waters. Additional rope was added as it became available and those surviving were brought up to the cave, many bleeding or with broken bones.

At least eleven men and the two dear old women cooks had been swept away by the flood. Three men were still clinging to branches in the few trees that had withstood the flood, but most trees had been uprooted and washed away. There had been no storm like this in living memory. Amelia asked Grandpa if the horses and men that rode back were safe. “I don’t know dear, but let’s hope so”. Grandpa hugged Amelia and looked at the others, realizing how lucky they were to be alive, but wondered sadly how much damage the village and castle must have suffered; they were higher up the hill, so most likely out of the reach of the flood itself, but the winds must have wreaked havoc. Hopefully most folk had made it to the castle safely.

What could have caused a sudden storm of this magnitude and how far across the kingdoms had it spread? Something about the storm felt unnatural, Grandpa thought, not just it’s suddenness and magnitude but also it’s timing; just as they had made this discovery in the caves. He thought back to some of the stories Merklin had told him, of events many hundreds of years ago in another land. Something very similar, but many believed brought about by a powerful witch they called Red Wasp. The legends told that she had turned an approaching army into salt with golden fire from her wand and then entered the caves that they had been heading for, leading through splitting tunnels to objects of great power and mystery, which had been discovered four days prior by a shepherd and local farmer. Only a few men at the rear survived and rode off to tell their king. A second larger army approached some weeks later, led by their king and many knights. They had been set upon by a sudden and deadly storm, which had washed away half the men, within half a mile of the cave, and many hundreds were struck dead by lightning, including the king. Half the mountain had then collapsed in front of the cave, blocking off the entrance forever and no one had seen or heard of the witch Red Wasp again, apart from rumours and scary stories. She was, legend has it, over six feet tall with long curly bright red hair, yellow skin and glowing green eyes.

Suddenly the storm stopped as quickly as it had started and the skies cleared with not a cloud in the sky and the silence seemed deafening. No one made a sound. Grandpa Ant and some of the others walked out of the cave entrance looking down at the stark devastation. Amelia asked Reese, in a whisper, why there were no bird or even cricket sounds. The stream was back to its normal size but the water lay still as in a pond. Every surviving bush and tree, as far as the eye could see, had no leaves. At least half the trees were blown over and many tree trunks snapped in half, leaving strange stumps in the landscape. “The birds are all blown away” said Harry sadly.

The sound of horses neighing in the distance broke the silence and some of the wounded in the cave started moaning in pain again. The three limp bodies in the trees seemed to regain consciousness and one man began to climb down. Five minutes later the sound of horse hooves could be heard approaching and twenty men galloped across the stream and dismounted. The leader, Knight of the Realm Luke and five of his soldiers ran up the path to the cave entry and were so happy to see that the royal families and many of their comrades were alive and well. After brief discussion it was decided that all return to the castle and assess the damages to the people and kingdom. Luke reported that all the horses had survived the storm but one; it and it’s rider Saxon had been struck dead by lightning. The cave adventure would have to wait a few days at least.

 

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