It was almost midday when Captain Amorphophallus found Princess Lia sitting at the edge of the forest border. Even though the border is invisible to the naked eyes of human beings, dryads have no trouble to see it. Still to be more careful, the Chief had made a thick wall of Honey Mesquite trees. In any case a dryad wanted to cross the magical border and go through the wall of thorn-trees, they could barely make it in one piece. The wall of Honey Mesquite looked like a constant reminder to those who wished to go out of the boundary. No one dared to go near the border. The reason was not because of the thorn-tree wall but the law. There was a law established by all the realm leaders hundreds of years ago, stating that no dryad is permitted to leave their magical kingdom. If a dryad leaves, he or she is to be faced with horrible fate and hence banished forever from all the magical kingdoms.And thus no one would step in front of the wall. They believed that the place was jinxed. Anyone stepped in here would have a terrible fate waiting for them in the future. So no one knew that there grew haphazardlya forest of wild roses at the edge of the border. In the very middle of that forest, there was a beautiful waterfall followed by a narrow stream.
Amorphophallus found Lia on her knees before a rose bush in the middle of that rose forest. She was talking to herself, unaware of the fact that she was not alone. Before Amorphophallus could call her, Princess Lia spoke again.
‘I never wished for this, you know.’ Lia paused for a moment. ‘I just wanted to be a normal girl. This is all you, not me. I can’t do this without you. It was all my fault. I should have listened to you. All I wanted is to help… Because of me…you… you… you are not here’, she broke into sobs.
Amorphophallus came out of hiding and placed her hand on her head silently. Lia almost screamed.
‘YOU! What are you doing here?’Lia said, trying to hide her tears. She then wiped them out with one hand, and tried to push away Amorphophallus’ hand from her head with the other.
‘Chief is looking for you.’ She replied in an affectionate tone, which is very unlike her.
‘I know. You don’t have to tell me that. Didn’t you tell him that…’
‘He doesn’t have to worry?’ she finished her sentence.
‘Yeah, I did that. But you know him. He panicked’, Amorphophallus said while sitting beside Lia.
A faint smile appeared on Lia’s lips.
‘Oops! I have made someone smile just now’, Amorphophallus said, holding a casual tone in her voice.
‘Yeah, whatever.’ Lia stood up, ready to go back to the palace.
‘You know she would have wanted you to be our next chief,’ Amorphophallus said.
‘You don’t know that. Rose is dead. She is not here.’ Lia’s voice sounded like she was hurt.
‘Her death is not your fault, and you know that,’ this time she said the words strongly.
‘Are you consoling me right now? I DON’T NEED YOUR PITY!’ Lia snapped.
‘I am not! She was also like a sister to me. DON’T ACT LIKE YOU ARE THE ONLY ONE WHO FEELS RESPONSIBLE FOR HER DEATH! YOU ARE NOT THE ONLY ONE WHO FEELS PAIN!’ Amorphophallus almost roared with anger.
They stared at each other for a moment and both looked away. The silence of the forest seemed too noisy in their ears. Nobody moved or said anything for a while. When the silence became too unbearable, Lia decided to break the ice.
‘I like it in here. It is peaceful. When I come here, I feel like I am with her. I am sorry for all the trouble.’ She said softly.
‘Drop the act. I know it’s her grave. I also know that you come here whenever you are troubled’, she said angrily.
Lia was taken aback, ‘How do you…?’
‘It doesn’t take a genius to put the puzzle together. Also, I am you big sister, I know you!’ she replied hotly.
‘YOU DON’T KNOW ME! AND YOU ARE NOT MY SISTER! I AM AN OPHAN! REMEMBER?’ Lia shouted back.
‘Which is why I AM YOUR BIG SISTER!’ Amorphophallus stood up while shouting at her.
They stared at each other for a moment again. Finally Lia looked away and said, ‘I think it’s best for you to keep a distance from me. Everyone dies mysteriously around me. I am cursed. Go to your duty and stay away from me.’
‘I am doing my job, and my job is to look after you, my little sister,’ Amorphophallus suddenly grabbed Lia and embraced her tightly. ‘You are not cursed. Believe in yourself,’ she whispered.
Lia hugged her back. ‘I don’t want to lose anyone else I love. I am scared.’
‘You won’t lose me. I will find you no matter where you go. I will always be with you.’ Amorphophallus said affectionately.
‘Okay, this is cliché and can we not use these words? Because the last person who told me the exact same words, ended up in a grave. I don’t want the history to repeat itself’, Lia said while breaking away from the hug.
‘I am not Rose. And we are always with you, in your heart – is that what you think I would say to you? Idiot! We are in your memories and we will live there until your last breath. If you remember the way we were, then we will always remain together. But if you forget us, then we are finally dead. Now you decide whether you want us to be dead or not,’ Amorphophallus replied.
Lia looked unconvinced. So Amorphophallus said, ‘You don’t have to decide right away. You will understand what I said one day. Can we please go back now? I may have forgotten to mention that Gus is here.’
Lia’s expression immediately looked disgusted. ‘That slimy guy is here?’
She nodded in reply.
‘No wonder why Chief panicked. Why didn’t you tell me before? Let’s go!’ Lia almost started to run.
‘I was doing my duty as a sister to…’
‘Save those clichés for later’, Lia interrupted and both vanished from the scene within a blink.
Chief was waiting for Captain Amorphophallus and Princess Lia in Lia’s room. He sent away all the dryads who were looking after Lia. He started to pace back and forth.
Lia’s room was huge with a queen-size bed at the centre. On the right hand side there was a huge window with several flower pots with fresh roses, and an archway leading to her dressing room on the left hand side. The room is quite ordinary except for the size to be a princess’ room.
It was almost lunch time. They had not got back yet. ‘If Lia doesn’t appear in the lunch…’, he could not think anymore and shuddered at the thought of thinking what Gus would do to everyone. Suddenly there was a knock at the door.
‘Come in’, said the Chief.
‘What now?’ The chief asked impatiently.
‘It is lunch time, sire. He is about to enter in the banquet hall,’ he replied taking his bow.
‘Oh, I am coming. Tell him that I might be a bit late. Tell him anything. Tell Minister Cypress to keep him busy at any cost. I will accompany my daughter to the banquet hall. Now leave!’said the chief. Reak bowed him and left the room.
‘It is getting late. What are they all doing? I thought Captain Lus will be able to find her fast at least,’ The chief thought impatiently.
Before he could finish thinking what could horribly go wrong and what not, Princess Lia and Captain Amorphophallus suddenly appeared in the archway.
Looking at them, the chief felt like he could finally breathe again.
‘I told you NOT TO LEAVE YOUR ROOM!’ he barked.
‘I was…’ Lia started mumbling, but Amorphophallus took over.
‘With due respect, sir, I think she needs to be ready as quickly as possible,’ Said Amorphophallus, bowing.
‘You are right. Five minutes, go!’ He yelled.
Lia opened her mouth in protest but shut it quickly and disappeared in the archway towards the dressing room.
Chief Yan made sure she was out of sight before asking Amorphophallus where she was.
‘She was at Rose’s grave, sir,’ she replied.
‘She was there…,’ a dark shadow fell on his tensed face. ‘Did she mention anything to you?’
‘No, sire. I do not think that she remembers. But I think she blames herself for her death’, said Amorphophallus.
‘She is strong, and different. She is not like us at all’, Chief Yan said gloomily.
‘Yes, that she is. I do not think that you should worry about her, sire.’
‘Oh, no I do. You see even the strongest person needs a shoulder to lean on and cry sometimes. I just want to be there when that time comes. You should look after her as well. You know her better than I do. It’s just … she seems distant after that incident. I can’t reach her. I … I do not understand her at all’, he sat down at the corner of the bed.
‘Well, you are sure worried about her.’ Amorphophallus walked towards the window and leaned on the wall.
‘Of course I am worried. What if she does something that goes against our law? She is different!’ The chief buried his face in his hands.
‘And yet you are making her the next chief. Sounds perfect.’
‘Mock me as much as you can. But she was destined to be the chief even before her birth.’
‘What do you mean?’ Amorphophallus stood up, trying to understand the blow of the last sentence.
‘I have said too much’, he stood up trying to avoid her looks.
‘With all due respect, I think we all deserve to know the truth. What exactly happened?’ she demanded.
‘Later, Lus. When the time is right.’ He avoided the topic.
‘But…’ she could not finish her sentence, as Reak burst opened the door. Before he could say anything, a tall slimy green figure appeared behind him.
‘Gus!’ the chief and Amorphophallus both gasped.
‘Your highness, please excuse my rude and sudden entrance into the Princess’ chamber. But you see…I was getting worried,’ Gus started to look around the room. ‘How can I have a banquet without the hosts?’ he said with an indication that the owner of this very room was not there.
‘She is getting ready’, Chief Yan said calmly and thought that what would go wrong if Gus entered the room a little bit earlier.
‘Hmm…I see. The little bird told me that she is not attending the banquet,’ a sly grin appeared on the end of Gus’s lips.
‘That bird must be blind’, no one noticed when Lia returned from the dressing room.
Looking at her, Gus’s grin faded and he looked ghastly. ‘I believe that the bird was indeed… blind. I will see you all in the banquet then.’ He left without any delay. Reak took a short bow and followed Gus.
‘Was he here to check on me?’ Lia asked.
‘Whatever he is after it is not a good sign. We should all go now. And YOU… BEHAVE!’The chief hissed at Princess Lia.
When he turned his back towards her, Lia mimicked him from behind and shrugged.
‘I hate eating with that slimy slug’, she thought.
Captain Amorphophallus giggled as if she knew what Lia was thinking. Lia rolled her eyes and followed Chief Yan.
Written by: Kazi Nabila