We return now to the year of our Lord MCMXCIV,
The magnificent panther, Queen, sped through the woods with speed and quickness greater even than Sir CJ2K through a bad tackling aerial defense squadron. And though young Anastasia seemed as naught but a feather upon her back, Queen was ever mindful of her precious cargo, warning Anastasia before making sudden turns and leaps. Anastasia, however, was constantly encouraging Queen; "Faster, go faster." While one might rightly construe that she was expressing her overwhelming impatience to reach home, Queen could sense that Anastasia's entreaties were charged with an almost equal measure of pure exhilaration.
As they neared Anastasia's home village of Trojanburg, Queen slowed. Her senses far more keen than humans, she could smell the smoke ahead; but, there was something else, another odor with which she was all too familiar... the stench of burnt flesh!
Queen: "We must proceed with utmost caution, for I sense a great evil be afoot."
Anastasia: "Do as ye must, my Queen, but know that I fear greatly for me Mother's safety as well."
As they grew closer to the forest's edge, Queen stayed out of sight while circling the village.
Anastasia: "Egad, what be that horrific smell. Such a stink is this that me very nose doth take offense. Worse than Sir Barkley's gym bag, even, and by no small margin."
Queen: "Aye lass... tis the smell of death, of that there is no doubt."
Having circled Trojanville and spotting no sign of movement, Queen left the trees and moved stealthily toward the town entrance. Upon entering the walls, both Anastasia and Queen found themselves speechless, unable even to form a coherent thought, as they surveyed what was once Anastasia's home village. The buildings themselves were, without exception, reduced to smoldering rubble that littered the streets. But, Queen and Anastasia barely noticed the ruins, for amid the rubble were bodies, burnt beyond recognition. Silently, they continued to the town square, and Anastasia half gasped, but ultimately gagged at the sight. For in the square were literally hundreds of bodies, piles of bodies, many burnt to a crisp, and many reduced to mere smoldering skulls and bones.
Anastasia (now sobbing uncontrollably): "Oh, (sob) Queen, (sob), what could have wrought such an apocolyse as this? And (sob), how can I ever hope to find me poor Mother?" She burst into unrestrained crying, for such a horrific moment should never be faced by one so young.
Queen: I know not what happened, dear one, for I have not the gift of 'seeing'..."
"A-A-Annie?" Anastasia and Queen turned sharply toward the sound. "Annie, be that you?"
Gazing over the countless bodies, their eyes were drawn eventually to a single standing wooden pole, in the very midst of the worst of the massacre. Piled around it's bottom was a large heap of unburnt wood, and tied to the pole, the naked figure of Lucinda, Annie's dear Mother.
Annie: "Oh mother, I was so afraid ye had come to harm. Are ye sound?"
Lucinda: "Aye, mostly so; a lot more so than these rotting bastards. I could 'see' ye coming home in such great haste, I actually feared ye might arrive too soon. I um can't help but notice ye have a new pet. Now ye be knowin' we've talked about..."
Annie (excitedly): "Queen's not a pet, mother dear. She is me friend and protector. We can talk with our minds."
Lucinda (casting a knowing glance toward Queen): "Well, then, where are yer manners? Introduce me please."
Annie: Mother, I'd like to introduce Queen Charlotte Carolina Victoria. I just call her Queen. Queen, please meet me mother, Ms. Lucinda DeLuscious."|
Lucinda: "I'm honored to make yer acquaintance, Yer Highness. As I be grateful for the care shown to me wandering daughter."
Queen: "Please call me Queen, and it is my pleasure, I'm sure. May I say that even in these circumstances, your beauty is unsurpassed in all the lands."
Lucinda: "Yes, yes, and so on and so forth. Now that we've dispensed with the platitudes, do ye suppose the two of ye could GET ME DOWN FROM THIS FUDGING POLE?" (of course, she didn't say fudging).
Annie scurried onto Queen's back, and the great panther sprang forward, easily clearing the corpse pile and landing just at the base of the pole. Annie stood on Queen's back and untied the bonds of her mother, who, not coincidentally managed to land perfectly astride Queen's back. Another great leap, and all three were clear from the worst of the carnage. Annie and Lucinda hugged and kissed, and Annie noticed her mother wincing slightly. When they separated, Annie noticed the many, many bruises, cuts, and scrapes now blemishing her Mother's always perfect skin.
Annie: "Mother, what happened here? "
Lucinda: "I have much to recount to ye, but at the moment I'm very parched and in need of water. And tho' I've never held much regard for modesty, I should like to don a bit of clothing. Let us return to our home forthwith."
Queen wound her way deftly through the village streets, thinking Lucinda daft to believe her home still stood. The thought drew a surprisingly harsh response from Annie, promptinq Queen to remember her thoughts were no longer her own. Annie's mental commands led them eventually to a quaint cottage. Queen turned her huge head to the side as she Pondered how this one home survived such a conflagration unscathed.
Queen: "I'm sure m'ladies need time to discuss matters. And, to be honest, I am quite famished. Having never taken to the taste of human flesh, even cooked, with your leave I will return to the forest for a short while. Worry not, for I shall have a good look about before my hunt. And should danger present, call me and I will speed back in all haste."
A sudden and weird realization struck Lucinda...
Lucinda: "Yo, Queen."
Queen (stopping and turning back to Lucinda): "Yes, Lucinda?"
Lucinda: "How is it that I can hear you speak. I mean, I know of yer bond with Annie, but..."
Queen: "Tis quite simple, really. I merely mapped Anastasia's DNA obtained through sensory input, then reverse engineered the strand in my head in order to then map my thoughts to your auditory receptors, allowing you to quite literally hear what I'm thinking. I did not do the reverse mapping, so I cannot hear your thoughts, but I understand human speak well enough."
Lucinda: "Oh... so yer saying it be magic."
Lucinda: "Cool. Look, would ye be a dear and bring some food back fer us as well. I did na make it to the store, and well, now there is no store."
Queen: "Happy to oblige, m'Lady."
Queen disappeared into the night. Lucinda took Annie by the hand and headed immediately for the basin, whereupon she filled a pitcher of water, poured a glass for Annie, then began to drink directly from the pitcher...and drink... and refill...and drink some more. She then led Annie back to the main room, pausing briefly to wrap herself in a dirty sheet from the neglected laundry.
Annie: "Verily ye were of great thirst. Now will ye tell me what happened?"
Lucinda: "Sit here by me, Annie. Oh Annie, Dreamboat Annie, my little ship of dreams. I have so much to tell, much more than just about this bona fide Beast of a day." Annie sat, hands folded in her lap, and waited patiently for her mother to begin...
And thus the curtain closes on Scene 2 of Chapter III... tune in tomorrow, or perhaps the next day, to learn the harrowing tale of Lucinda DeLuscious, mother of Anastasia.