BLACKFEATHER LORE: RUFFIANS!
“Beware, Princess! Ruffians are about!” Blackfeather posed in a deep lunge, his hand on his sword hilt, as a trio of cagey foes in tattered black cloaks emerged from the dead-end shadows of the thorny maze.
“Thanks for doing the climbing and grabbing part,” said the largest of the hooligan trio with a gap-toothed smile. He gestured toward the princess with a spiked mace. “We’ll take it from here.”
“I guess they’ll get the bounty, then,” said Phinn.
“Ludicrous!” cried Blackfeather. “I will make ribbons of these scruffy barbarians.”
“Outnumbered, aren’t we?” mused Phinn, though no fear edged his voice.
“They are no match for me. Look at them. It is as if they have never heard of a tailor,” scoffed Blackfeather.
The princess crossed her arms and drummed her fingers. “Could whoever is kidnapping me please put a rush on it? The maze guards should be on their way.”
“Yer guards aren’t feeling well.” The second-largest enemy spat on the ground, then jabbed a thumb over his shoulder. “We bopped their heads together and now they’re napping. We’ll do the same to you if you can’t otherwise keep quiet.”
“I shall acquaint you with my blade for threatening royalty in that fashion, you boor.” Blackfeather drew his sword with a satisfying shhhiinnnggg. “Uncouth louts, meet my sword, Blackfeather.”
The Princess paused her dramatic despair. “You named your sword after yourself? Of all the egomaniacal …”
“I have much in common with my sword,” smouldered Blackfeather.
“I don’t even want to know.”
“Not sure which of these fussy chickens is the princess,” quipped the smallest of the thieves, cutting short the quarrel. He yanked a sabre free of his belt.
“Shame to muss the boy’s hair,” hooted the largest.
“You s’pose he’ll be offended if the blade that kills him ain’t clean?” The second-largest produced two knives from his vest.
“Leave these imbeciles to me, Phinneas,” commanded Blackfeather. “I will take them all together!”
“Alright,” said Phinn, who amused himself by catching fireflies for Susie’s supper.
The mace had not completed its first arc before Blackfeather dashed straight into the foes, his blade leaving a blooming crimson kiss in the torso, arm and face of each in turn. Quick lunges kept him out of reach; his flashing sword seemed to extend to twice its length. The slice of the sabre, the flash of knives, the swings of the mace caught only air and earned the hoodlums stinging lacerations. Down the dangerous pathways Blackfeather dueled, blocking, feinting, ducking and slashing with grace and pithy insults. “You strike with the speed of a tortoise! Tell me the name of your blademaster so that I may blame him for your untimely demise! I will plant a rosebush on your grave, fiend!”
But while Blackfeather chased the bigger two down a blind dead-end, the smallest tough guy ducked round the fray and grabbed the princess.
“He’s made off with your bounty,” called Phinn.
Blackfeather sprinted after the abductor, but lost him in the dark labyrinthine passageways. He returned to find the other two had squirreled off as well.
“Help, Phinneas!” cried Blackfeather.
“Thought I was to leave the imbeciles to you.”
“We cannot allow these ingrates to steal what we have rightfully seized!”
“Fair enough.” Phinn hoisted up the anchor by its chain and threw it forward into the darkness. When he yanked it back, its hooks had dug into the jackets, belts, and thighs of the three blubbering, thorn-raked goons, not to mention a tumbleweed of prickly thorns. Princess Malene toppled off the shoulder of her captor and into Blackfeather’s embrace, a single thorn scratch weeping blood onto her pale cheek.
“Well done, Phinneas!” whooped Blackfeather.
“You fools,” whimpered the princess. “Don’t you know … the Hardy Orange thorn… is poisonous… to princesses?”
Her eyes closed as she went limp in Blackfeather’s arms.
Royal guards rushed out in a absurd tumble to the balcony above. “They escaped this way!” cried one.
Blackfeather whirled in a panic. “Never fear! I memorized the way… left, left, right… no, it’s backward on the way out…”
“No time for puzzles, I’d say,” said Phinn, and he lumbered straight into the Hardy Orange maze wall, stomping it down into a crumble-squish of finger-long thorns and half-ripe fruits.
To be continued…