18 year old Erebelle Morrison, was walking through the woods, just as she would do every day, but today was unlike any other day. As she crossed over a giant log, she heard a low growl come from inside of it. Erebelle gasped and when she jumped down from the log, she peeked inside. Staring back at her were two sad, green eyes.
“Hello there. Don’t be scared, come on out.” Erebelle persuaded the creature. She was known, at least by her mother, for being able to communicate well with animals. The creature slowly poked it’s large head out of the log. Inch by inch it made it’s way out of the log, and Erebelle grew more and more amazed. She had never seen an animal quite like this one before. It crawled on all fours and had a hunched back with a long spiraled tail. It was furry and had a large mouth.
“Well, whatever you are, you are definitely a baby. Where are your parents?” Erebelle asked the little creature and it wailed.
“Oh. My papa is gone, so I can understand how you’re feeling.” Erebelle said sympathetically. The adorable little creature crawled over to her and nuzzled her arm. Erebelle giggled.
“You know, you’re going to need a name. How about… Damarias! Yes, that’s perfect for you!” Erebelle decided and Damarias growled, almost as if he agreed that it was a good name. Erebelle smiled and stroked his long ears, but Damarias began to panic.
“Damarias? What’s wrong?” Erebelle asked, and then she felt it too. The ground was shaking, and she knew it was the prince out on a hunt. Erebelle saw the fear behind Damarias’ eyes and she realized that the prince must have killed his parents, and that now they were after him.
“Come on, Damarias, I’m bringing you home with me, where you’ll be safe.” She told him, and he let her scoop him up in her arms and carry him home. Erebelle brought him down to her father’s old work shed. Her mother never went in there anymore, so she knew he’d be safe in there. Erebelle grabbed a rope and spoke gently to Damarias.
“I have to tie you up, okay? Do you trust me?” Erebelle asked and he lifted his head for her to tie the rope around him.
Then Erebelle made a promise to him,”I won’t keep you in here forever. I’m going to protect you. And I’ll let you out once in a while, when it’s safe, so that you can run around and play. I promise.”
Six months later….
Hunting horns sounded as the prince of Charzul and his men galloped on their horses through the Plormont Woods. They had been hunting for this creature for months, but even with how close they got to killing it, they never did catch it. None of them knew what it was, only that they wanted it dead. They chased after it for miles, but once again, it vanished. The company came to a halt and the young prince jumped out of his leather saddle. With a sigh he asked,
“Are we ever going to catch that beast, Alfred?” Alfred, the prince’s royal guard, dismounted his horse and joined his highness’ side.
“You are the country’s greatest hunter, Sire. I know you’ll catch it.” Alfred replied as he straightened his cap atop his head of long black hair. The prince mounted his horse again and he and the company rode back to the palace, but this time, the prince wanted to cut through the village. He loved his people, and he enjoyed checking in on them from time to time, to see that everything was good in their lives. As they were riding past the butcher’s shop, the prince brought his horse to a halt.
“Sounds like a bit of a ruckus in there. I am going to check it out.” The prince said and dismounted his horse. As he entered the butcher’s shop, he saw a young lady with long red hair arguing with the butcher himself.
“Please, sir, just stop talking for two minutes and let me explain!” The lady said with annoyance.
“No! You may not purchase all of my beef! I care about the people here, and I’d like them all to be able to buy beef! I do not care about the money!” The butcher yelled.
“Excuse me, butcher, but what exactly is the problem here?” The prince interrupted. The red headed lady turned around and rolled her blue eyes, thinking the prince hadn’t noticed.
“Oh, Prince Neal! Forgive me, I didn’t see you come in.” The butcher said, quite embarrassed and surprised to see the prince in his shop. Prince Neal raised his hand,
“No, it’s alright. I heard a bit of a commotion in here, and I thought I’d come in and see what the trouble is.” The red headed girl curtsied and said,
“Please excuse me for saying so, Your Highness, but really, I don’t need any help.” Prince Neal took a step closer to the two.
“Why do you wish to purchase so much beef, Dear Lady?” He asked, his hand resting on his sword.
“I, uh, have a large family.” She replied slowly.
“No, now that is not true! She comes in here all the time! She is an only child living with her mother on a small farm just outside of town!” The butcher corrected.
“Ah, I see.” Prince Neal said with a tilt of his head, then continued, “So you would take the risk of lying to your prince?” He asked with a smile.
“Well, I – Ugh, I just need the beef. It can not be described, especially to you! You wouldn’t understand!” The girl said in frustration.
“Oh, please explain, Miss…?” Prince Neal said.
“Erebelle. And no, I can’t explain, Your Highness.” She said firmly. Neal put his hand over his mouth and chuckled,
“Very well. You may keep your secrets, Miss Erebelle. Butcher, give her the beef. I will pay for it.” Erebelle’s eyes widened in astonishment.
“Really, Your Highness, that won’t be necessary. I have enough to pay for it myself.” She assured him. “Please, allow me. Accept it as an apology gift for any frustration I may have caused you by trying to force you into telling me your secrets.” Prince Neal pleaded. Erebelle nodded her head in agreement. “Thank you, Sire.” She said with a curtsy and went on her way home.
Erebelle sprinted through the door of her cottage while humming her favorite song.
“Erebelle, dear, is that you?” A gentle voice called from upstairs.
“Yes, mother! I’m going back out to check on the animals. I’ll be right in!” Erebelle called back, and went outside.
She walked past the well and across the little bridge that went across their moat. She walked down some stone steps and came to her father’s old work shed. She spun her head around to see if anyone was looking, then unlocked the shed and stepped in.
“Hey, Damarias. I got some beef for you. I got all the beef they had actually.” Erebelle whispered as she walked over to her strange creature. She knelt beside Damarias and stroked his fur.
“I know you don’t like being cooped up in here, but the prince and his men are after you. I promised I would keep you safe, so I think you should stay in here from now on, okay?”
Damarias moaned as he chewed his beef and looked at Erebelle with sad eyes.
“I know, I know, but trust me. This is best. I just don’t want anything to happen to you.”
Although Damarias was an animal, and he couldn’t talk, Erebelle knew that he understood every word she said, and they communicated in their own way.
“Well, I better get back inside before mother comes looking for me. Be a good boy!” Erebelle said as she kissed his fluffy forehead and scratched his jaw, then she got up and went back into the house.
“What took you so long, dear?” Her mother asked as she entered the kitchen.
“Oh, you know me, Mother. I just love talking with the animals.” Erebelle replied as she tied on her apron.
“Yes, I know, but I meant, what took you so long in town?” Her mother corrected herself. Erebelle paused as she tried to think of the words.
“Oh, I just, um-” Erebelle began, but was interrupted by her mother,
“Oh, please tell me you didn’t go for a walk in the woods again! I worry for you so when the prince is hunting in the area you are by.”
Erebelle bit her lip. “Sorry, Mother. I just love the woods, you know?” Erebelle said with a guilty smile. She hated having to lie to her mother, but she couldn’t let her find out about Damarias. “No one must know about him.” Erebelle said to herself and began kneading some dough.
“NEAL!!” The king yelled at the top of his lungs from the palace steps. Neal was just walking up.
“Yes, Father?” He asked with a huff. Whenever Neal was out hunting, his father would get furious.
“Have you been hunting again?!” The king shouted.
“Yes, I have.” Neal replied with a sigh.
“You know I don’t want you hunting anymore! You should be in the palace learning how to be a proper ruler. You don’t rule your kingdom by killing animals!” The king yelled furiously.
“Father, you have a good many years ahead of you, and as do I. It’s not time for me to be king yet, so I will continue to hunt.” Neal said decidedly. The king clenched his jaw and lowered his eyebrows.
“Neal, I am your father and your king, and you will do as I say! No more hunting, Neal!” The king said firmly. Neal sighed.
“Father don’t do this. I am so close to finally getting the rare beast I have been after all these months!” Neal said, trying to change his father’s mind.
“Neal, I didn’t want to do this, but you leave me no choice. I forbid you from hunting! I forbid you from even going outside the castle grounds! You will spend the rest of the year learning how to be a good king, and at the end of the year, you will choose someone to be your queen, at which time, I will retire from ruling.” The king commanded.
Neal’s face was completely serious. He had never imagined this would happen to him, and this time he couldn’t do anything but agree.
With a bow of his head, he said, “Yes, father.” And slowly headed back down the palace steps.
“Where do you think you’re going?” The king inquired in a loud voice.
“Just going for a walk in our secluded palace grounds.” Neal replied and walked away.
When he was out of sight, he climbed the palace wall and entered the forest where most of the commoners went to pick berries. As he walked along, he suddenly caught sight of the young girl he had met in the butcher’s shop that day.
“Well, we meet again.” He said to Erebelle, who, rather startled, spun around quickly at the sound of his voice.
“Oh, good afternoon, Your Highness.” Erebelle said with a curtsy.
“Picking berries, Miss Erebelle?” He inquired.
“Yes, I come here most every day. If it isn’t for berry picking, it’s simply to take a walk.” Erebelle stated. She hadn’t had much practice speaking to royalty, so she was a little nervous.
“I come here a lot, too. But unfortunately, today I had to climb the palace wall to get out here.” Neal said with annoyance.
“May I ask why, Sire?” Erebelle asked politely.
“My father has just forbidden me from hunting and from even stepping a foot out of the palace grounds. Although I shouldn’t have told you this. Please promise me you will not tell a soul.” Neal begged of Erebelle, who was smiling broadly.
“Oh, forgive me, Sire, I am not smiling at your troubles. But yes, I promise I will not tell anyone.” Erebelle had to bite her lip to keep from smiling. She was so excited that he wouldn’t be hunting anymore, because perhaps now, Damarias could come out of hiding and live freely.
“Thank you, Miss.” Neal said gratefully.
Erebelle fixed her shawl and said, “I’m sorry I have to rush off like this, but I really must be going now. Good day, Your Highness.” Erebelle curtsied and darted off towards home.
Erebelle entered through the kitchen and set her basket full of berries on the counter.
“Goodness, Erebelle, what’s all the rush about?” Erebelle’s mother questioned.
“Oh, I’m just so excited to be home, that’s all. Well, I’m gonna go speak with the animals. I’ll be in soon, Mother!” Erebelle called over her shoulder, as she was already running out the back door.
Erebelle ran down the stone steps, smiling all the way, but as the shed came into view, her smile faded. The door to the shed was wide open. Erebelle scurried into the shed.
“Damarias! Damarias!” She called as she looked around for her friend. Erebelle looked at the ground and noticed Damarias’ paw prints, and she saw that they were following hoof prints.
“No…” She breathed and hurried back into the house.
“Mother! Did anyone come to visit today?” Erebelle asked breathlessly.
“Oh, I take that you went to your father’s work shed. Yes, some of the prince’s men came by looking for a mysterious creature. I’ve known about that creature for a while now, so I sold him to them. Thank goodness they came when they did or we would have no money to keep the house.” Her mother said quickly. Erebelle tried to fight the tears.
“How could you? I’ve taken care of him for months! I’m like a mother to him! He understands me like no other animal does! First I lose Papa, and now I lose my dearest friend.” Erebelle felt tears going down her cheeks. Her mother wouldn’t make eye contact with her because she was too ashamed with what she had done.
Erebelle ran out of the house and hurried to the palace. She walked up to the entrance, but was stopped by a royal guard.
“Please, you must let me in! I have to speak with the prince! It’s a matter of urgency!” Erebelle cried.
The guard replied, “Sorry, miss, but not just anyone is aloud inside, unless their presence is requested by the king.”
Erebelle sighed. “Please, sir, I have to speak with him!” She begged, but the guard sent her away. Erebelle walked a few steps away and then fell to the ground. The prince happened to be walking by and stopped in front of her.
“Erebelle, is everything alright?” He asked. Erebelle looked up at the prince with tears pouring out of her eyes.
“Sire, my dearest friend has been sentenced to death – by you.” She said slowly. Neal raised an eyebrow. “You must be confused. No one here is sentenced to be killed.” He assured her.
“Not all friends are humans, Sire. Sometimes the very best of friends are animals.” Erebelle stated.
“Do you speak of that creature?” He asked with disgust.
“That creature is the last of his kind!” Erebelle said, raising her voice.
“It’s a vicious monster.” Neal stated.
“No! I have taken the time to get to know him! He’s a kind and gentle creature! But you wouldn’t know that. All the time you’ve spent with him is chasing him down to kill him!” Erebelle shouted, and the guards and Alfred joined the prince’s side.
“What would you ask of me?” Neal inquired.
“Let him go. Spare his life and let him be free!” Erebelle said.
“I’m sorry, miss, but that creature, although he is good to you, could be a threat to the rest of the kingdom, just as his parents were. I will not let him go. Leave now or the guards will take you away.” Neal commanded, and Erebelle, very hesitantly left.
Neal walked out to where Damarias was being kept and looked into his eyes.
“Am I doing the right thing, Alfred?” Neal asked unknowingly.
“I think any decision of yours is right, Sire, but yes, this creature needs to die. It’s parents were mad.” Alfred replied.
“But does that make him that way as well? Do you think perhaps I ought to let him go?” Neal wondered. Alfred answered sincerely, “No, Highness. You’re doing the right thing.”
Erebelle cried in her bed that night. She was hurt that Damarias was sentenced to die. She was hurt by what her mother did, and she was hurt by the prince’s cruelty to innocent animals. Suddenly she had an idea.
“I’m going to take him out of there and send him far away.” She said to herself and hopped out of her bed to quickly change. She was going to take him back that night.
Erebelle pulled the hood of her cape over her face as she neared the castle. She crouched behind a bush that was just outside the castle gates. She had to think of a diversion to get the guards out of the way, just for a moment, so she could enter without anyone knowing it. She searched the ground for a stone and picked one up.
“Oh, I hope I aim this right.” Erebelle said under her breath and threw the stone as hard as she could. It landed with a loud clank on the bars of the gate.
“What was that?” One of the guards asked, raising his sword.
“Someone must be out there, let’s take a look.” The other guard said and they both set off in separate directions.
Erebelle quickly went to the gate and climbed over it, which was not very easy to do in a dress. When she jumped down from the gate and hurriedly got out of sight, she sighed in relief.
“Now all that’s left to do, is find Damarias and somehow sneak him out of here.” She thought, beginning to doubt if she would be able to succeed.
“Well, I’ve come this far, so I have to keep going.” She decided and crept through the palace courtyard. She came to the stables, wondering if Damarias would be kept there.
“Damarias!” Erebelle whispered. “Are you here?” She asked hopefully. Then suddenly she heard a little growl. Only it wasn’t coming from one of the stalls, it was coming from the direction of a locked wooden door. Erebelle busted the lock and opened the door, where she found a spiraling staircase that went down forever. Erebelle hesitantly began stepping down the stairs, hoping that she would find Damarias at the bottom.
When Erebelle neared the last few steps, she whispered, “Damarias, are you in here?”, and a low, gentle moan answered her voice. Erebelle’s heart stopped for a moment and she ran down the last few steps. There lying in chains, was sweet Damarias. Erebelle threw herself on top of him and gave him the biggest hug.
“Oh, my sweet little guy! How could they do this to you?” She cried and Damarias blew on her face, just as he always did when he was happy to see her. Erebelle laughed and rubbed her tears away.
“Alright, buddy, we have to get you out of here.” She said as she tried to slip off the chains, but they wouldn’t budge.
“Damarias, would you by any chance know where the key is to unlock the chains?” She asked hopefully and Damarias shook his head to the left. Erebelle gasped in surprise. She had not noticed the sleeping guard in the room. She then noticed the keys on a loop in his hand. Erebelle studied the loop, and then looked at Damarias’ tail.
“Hey, I need you to do something for me, Damarias – well, for yourself, too. I need you to very carefully slip your tail through the key loop and hand it to me, okay?” Erebelle explained her plan and Damarias nodded his head. He stretched his tail out as far as he could and cautiously slipped it through the loop, but paused when the guard moved. Erebelle sighed in relief and motioned for him to continue. When Damarias had the keys he lifted his tail to Erebelle.
“That’s my good furry boy!” She said and stroked his head. Erebelle unlocked the chains and quietly placed them on the floor.
“Now, let’s get out of here!” She said with determination and Damarias snorted in agreement. Erebelle slowly and quietly lead Damarias past the snoring guard. There was a large door that was just big enough for Damarias to fit through and it lead right into the woods. Erebelle was outside the door, waiting for Damarias, but while he was walking, his tail whacked the guard and he fell to the ground. Damarias turned around to look at the man who was staring angrily at him and Erebelle.
“YOU! Get back in here!” The guard shouted, but Erebelle yelled,
“NO! He belongs to me and I am here to retrieve him! Damarias, RUN!”
With that Damarias darted out of the room and into the woods. Erebelle had swung herself on top of him, so they were now running for their lives through the dark woods. Royal officers were chasing after them on horseback, and they were nearly on their tail, but Damarias made a quick turn that only he could fit through and lost them.
“Damarias, I don’t think it’s safe for us to go home now. We’d be better off hiding out here in the woods.” Erebelle said sadly. Damarias flapped his ears to try and cheer her up.
“Well, at least I have you back.” She said and kissed the top of his soft head.
Erebelle woke with a start.
“So, you’ve finally decided to wake up?” Prince Neal asked from the campfire. Erebelle sighed with disgust and then frantically looked for Damarias, who was surprisingly, still sleeping beside her.
“What are you doing here?” She asked, not worrying herself with talking respectfully to her prince.
“I heard about all that you did by several of my guards and I thought I would come find you and commend you for doing such an excellent job.” Neal said kindly.
“You mean, you aren’t going to press charges?” Erebelle questioned.
“No. I’ve decided to drop the hunt for your pet. You can take him back home if you would wish.” Neal said with a smile, but Erebelle wasn’t going to agree just yet.
“How do I know this isn’t some sort of trick?” She inquired.
“Miss, I give you my honest word as your prince, he is safe, as are you.” Neal promised, placing his right hand over his heart. Erebelle smiled with relief.
“Thank you, Your Highness.” She said gratefully. Damarias stood next to Erebelle and groaned happily. Erebelle laughed and cuddled his big fluffy face.
“Well, I should be off now. Good day, Miss.” Prince Neal said and walked away before Erebelle could say a word.
“Sire, would you like us to go after the creature and that peasant girl?” Alfred asked as Prince Neal walked through the palace gardens.
“No, there shall be no more hunts for that little fellow anymore. I want no harm to come to him or the girl, is that understood?” Neal said and Alfred bowed his head and headed for the stables.
“Well, are we going?” One of the hunters asked once Alfred entered the stables.
Alfred mounted his horse and said, “Yes, let’s rid the kingdom of this beast once and for all.”
Meanwhile, Erebelle was preparing a proper place for Damarias to sleep in their barn. She was decorating his stall fit for a king.
“What do you think?” Erebelle asked with a smile as she fluffed up the last pillow. Damarias pawed at the ground, which normally meant he wanted to go run in the woods.
“Oh, I don’t know if that’s safe yet…” Erebelle said, unsure of his safety. Damarias looked up at her with pleading eyes.
“Oh, alright, but just for a while okay?” Erebelle agreed and Damarias galloped across the yard and into a large open field.
Damarias growled in delight and rolled over the pokey grass, perfect for a good back scratch. Damarias lifted his head and ears and listened closely. Hunting horns! Realizing that he was still being chased after, he began running as quickly as he possibly could. He pulled his head down and lifted it back up, letting out the biggest roar he could let out, hoping that Erebelle would hear it.
Erebelle was telling her mother all about Damarias’ new stall when suddenly she heard a bone chilling roar.
“Damarias!” She breathed and ran out to the barn to fetch her horse. When she exited the barn she looked at the ground for Damarias’ paw prints.
“That way, Moonlight!” She yelled and her horse raised back on two feet and galloped in the direction of Damarias’ paw prints.
Everyone in Charzul heard the roar, even Prince Neal who was looking everywhere for Alfred. When he heard the roar, he hurried to the stables to see if Alfred’s horse was still there, but all of the hunter’s horses were missing. Neal hopped on his horse bareback and he, too, went after Damarias, but this time, to keep him safe.
Damarias continued running, his face getting scratched and bleeding from brushing up against branches in the forest. He noticed a fallen down tree and knew he had to jump over it, but if he didn’t make it, the hunters would catch him. Damarias reared back and jumped forward, and although he did make it over the tree, he had a bad landing. The hunters caught up with him and circled around him. Erebelle came riding from the west and Neal from the east.
“STOP!” Erebelle and Neal yelled in unison, but it was too late. One of the men fired a shot and Damarias let out a wail that made Erebelle’s heart skip a beat.
All of the hunters, frightened by Prince Neal, ran away, but Alfred stayed and faced him.
Erebelle jumped off of Moonlight and fell to the ground in front of Damarias, tears pouring out of her eyes uncontrollably. Damarias turned his big eyes toward Erebelle and moaned. Erebelle pet his face and said, “It’s going to be okay, Damarias. I’m gonna get help, and you’re going to live.”
Damarias flapped his ears, as though he was telling her that she was going to be fine. Damarias lowered his head toward his wound and looked back at Erebelle with sad eyes and moaned.
“You’re not going to die!” Erebelle cried, but Damarias groaned and flapped his ears again.
Neal walked up to Alfred and said, “I gave you orders, and you disobeyed them. Get on my horse. I’m bringing you back to the palace so you can spend a few years in the dungeon. And don’t even think about running away. I’m keeping my eye on you.” Neal commanded and Alfred did as he was told.
Neal stepped over to Erebelle and Damarias and knelt down. Erebelle continued talking to Damarias, but after a moment, he let out his last breath and was gone. Erebelle threw her arms around Damarias and sobbed.
Neal placed his hand on her shoulder and said, “I can’t tell you how sorry I am that this happened. I want you to know that it was not my doing.”
Erebelle tried to speak, but her pain was too strong, so she nodded her head. Neal stayed with her until she was ready to part with him.
Erebelle rose and faced the prince, her eyes small and red.
“Thank you for changing your mind about him.” Her voice cracked.
“I just wish I could have stopped this.” Neal said sadly. Erebelle sniffed and wiped her eyes.
“We did everything we could.” She said.
Neal nodded his head and said, “You’re very lucky to have had such a good friend. Not everyone is blessed to know someone like him.” Erebelle smiled and more tears streamed down her cheeks.
“Well, goodbye, Miss.” Neal said and rode back to the palace with Alfred. Erebelle stayed in the forest a while longer thinking of all her friends in the village and of Damarias. She turned back towards Damarias and said, “Thank you, Damarias, for being the greatest friend of them all.”
Written by L.M. Fluffet