I wasn’t sure I was going to do this one, but changed my mind. Another long fairy story.
The door was closed but the hind rapped on it with her fore hooves until someone came to open it.
“A deer!” said the girl in consternation.
“Hind” said the cat. “I told you the hunt was close.”
The hind, without waiting for the end of the discussion, pushed into the chapel and hid behind the altar. The girl closed the door tight again and sat down on the altar steps to wait. It was not long before there was a loud hammering on the door.
“Better open it,” said the cat, so the girl took the bar from the door. On the threshold, a noble company sat horses that were all brightly caparisoned and champing at the bit. Their breath made clouds of mist in the frosty air. Hounds waited silently, their tongues lolling. Two young men were to the fore, one on a white horse, the other on a black. The young man on the black horse wore a silver circlet set with a blue stone to hold back his yellow hair. “We have lost our quarry, a white hind. Have you given her shelter?”
The young man on the white horse said in a loud, imperious voice, “If you have, you must hand her over. She is my betrothed and thought to escape her marriage by changing herself into a hind.”
The young man on the white horse had black hair held back with a circlet of gold and the stone on his brow was a ruby. The girl considered the two of them.
“Why didn’t she want to marry you?” she asked finally.
The young man with black hair said, “Because she is stupid and ignorant. She thinks more of her books, her walks in the forest, her cats and her doves than she does of marriage to the most powerful prince in the land.”
“So why don’t you choose someone else?” asked the girl. “Someone who will value what you value.”
“Exactly what I’ve been telling you, Florian,” said the young man with yellow hair. “Find a princess who likes hunting and…hunting. You’d be happier in the long run.”
“I like hunting,” said the girl. “I have a goshawk in the mews at home, but she’s in moult at present so I can’t fly her.”
“Really? I would have said you were more of a merlin myself.” The prince, Florian looked at the girl with a professional eye.
The girl snorted. “A merlin is useless for serious hunting. Father has promised me a peregrine for my next name day.”
“And who might your father be?” asked Florian.
“King Amaury,” she replied with a sly smile. “I’m Princess Adele, by the way.”
The other young man, the one with yellow hair and a black horse and whose name was Rollo, sighed with relief.
“Does this mean we can stop chasing that poor girl over hill and down dale and go home?”
“Perhaps,” said Florian, with a smile as sly as the princess’s, “if the Princess Adele will accompany us.”
“With pleasure,” said Adele. “As long as you have a decent horse. Something with a bit of spirit. I can’t abide placid animals.”
“Nor can I,” Florian said with a broad grin, and clapped his hands for a fiery bay gelding to be brought up for the princess.
She was about to mount when the cat slipped out of the chapel and whispered to her, “What about the hind, the enchanted princess?”
Adele frowned. “What about her?”
“She’s stuck in the form of a hind until someone she is kissed by someone who truly loves her.”
Adele looked questioningly at Prince Rollo. “Well?”
Rollo looked from Adele to Florian and wrinkled his nose. “Kiss a deer? Are you kidding?”
The cat whisked her tail in annoyance. Adele shrugged. “She’ll just have to wait a bit longer, won’t she? Come on boys. I’m looking forward to putting this beauty through his paces.”
Florian laughed. “Race you!”
The cat watched them go. When all was quiet, the white hind peeped timidly round the door.
“You’re best out of it,” the cat said.
“I know,” said the hind and wandered off to look for a nice bit of grass.