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Written by
Ifeoma Isabella Okeke

Princess DRIANNA

The journey was long and silent. Dezla was
a remote, secluded village in the southern
swamplands- a week’s travel from the
palace and so we had to stay over in many
towns on the way.
Never in all my eight years had I seen sech
a diversity of people and species. Indeed,
I’d never ventured beyong the palace
grounds and the things I was now seeing
all around me were things I’d only read of
in books. With wide, eager eyes I observed
the creatures around me. I watched them
as they carried on their daily activities with
a fascination that amused my guardian.
“You have never seen a busy village
before?” he asked as we picked our way
through the crowded streets. I merely
nodded. The General chuckled at me.
“Come. I want to show you something I
think you’ll like.”
I clung to his weathered hand and allowed
him to lead me through the crowd. After
walking a few blocks, we rounded a corner
and I found myself in the midst of what I
learned was the heart of the village- the
liveliest part of the community- the market.
With quiet awe I watched the people- all
kinds, all species- shouting and bartering,
smiling and laughing, talking and buying.
There were as many different creatures as
there were different goods. Elves, nymphs,
dwarves, trolls, centaurs, and many others
that I couldn’t identify.
“Amulets! Get your authentic, witch-
blessed amulets here! Two for only twenty
mir!” cried a heavy man with a long, curly
black beard. His two, beady black eyes
settled on me. “Would the lovely young
lady like an amulet?” He held out a
necklace for me to behold. “It was blessed
by the high prietess herself and has the
power to bring you good fortune and
happiness for the rest of your days!”
“Not bad for ten mir.” I heard General
Akkad mumble under his breath.
I studied the sparkling red jewel carefully.
“That’s not real,” I proclaimed.
The merchant’s beaming smile immediately
vanished and he jerked the amulet back to
his chest. “Are you calling me a liar, little
“Perhaps you were tricked. That amulet
has no Power.”
“Let’s move along, shall we?” the General
urged, pushing me along the row of stalls.
He tossed a silver mir to the merchant who
merely glowered at us.
“General, those amulets were not real!”
“I know…and I think he does, too.”
“Why does he sell them then?”
“He needs the money, I suppose.”
I considered this. Needing money was a
new concept to me. I, who’d grown up in
the richest of wealth and splendor, found
it hard to comprehend want. The rest of
our trip to the market was spent in quiet
contemplation of this new concept.
When we returned to the inn, our carriage
was waiting. This was to be the last leg of
our journey. We’d reach Dezla before
nightfall and I would sleep in my new bed
for the first time. As the carriage rambled
over the rocky path through the swamps, I
posed a question that had been on my
mind since we’d left the market place.
“Are you poor, General?”
He did not look startled or offended by my
question. A kind look came over him and
he answered, “Not as poor as some. But
not as rich as others.”
Unsatisfied, I sat back in my seat and
looked out the window. It was dark and I
could see nothing but pieces of the white
moon through the treetops. I heard the
General chuckle. “You will not want for
anything, your highness. We might not live
in the lavishness you’re used to, but we
live comfortably.”
My curiosity sated, I allowed the rocking of
the carriage to lull me into a deep sleep. I
awoke the next morning in a strange bed,
in an unfamiliar room. Immediately I sat
up and peered at my surroundings. The
room was large with plain adobe walls,
sparse furnishings, a large fireplace, and a
single, small window.
My bare feet touched the wood floor and I
pattered across to the window to look out.
Below was a small vegetable garden and a
woman stood picking vegetables and
putting them in her gathered apron.
Beyond the garden was a house- short,
adobe walled, with a thatched roof. And
along the dirt street were identical cottages.
Horses clopped down the muddy road
pulling rickety wagons filled with hay,
their keepers walking beside them and
calling out to their neighbors as they
passed. I looked down again at the garden
but the woman was no longer there.
“Ah! The young one is up!” exclaimed a
jolly voice behind me. Upon turning, I
found the woman, wiping her large hands
on her apron and smiling down at me. I
decided immediately that I liked the looks
of her. She was large and very round in
the face with full, pink lips and shiny pink
cheeks. Her gray eyes were wide and
shining and her orange hair was piled on
stop of her head in a loose bun. “I’m
Timarina, the General’s housekeeper. You
just call me Timmy, though. Everybody
does. Are you hungry? I just baked a batch
of biscuits and we have fresh tomatoes in
from the garden.”
Suddenly I was very hungry. “Yes, thank
She turned to leave but another thought
stopped her in the doorway. “I left you
some clothes there on the chair. If you
need any help, just call me.”
“Oh, thank you, but I already have clothes.
They’re in my trunk…where is it?” I looked
around the room, finding no sign of my
“Oh, dearie, that’s still downstairs. You
can’t wear your finery around here. You’d
stick out like a soar thumb.” With that she
left, closing the door behind her. I heard
her heavy steps on the stairs and then the
sound of her bumping about in the kitchen
I looked warily at the clothes folded on the
chair in the corner. I’d never dressed
alone before. Always there were servants,
helping me choose my gowns and putting
me into the corsets I’d recently begun
wearing. How was I ever to get into my
corset without anyone to help?
I fingered through the garments, finding a
plain white blouse, a blue skirt, and brown
stockings. There was no corset. A little
relieved, I pulled the stockings on and then
the blouse and skirt over my shift. A pair
of brown slippers lay beside the chair and
I slipped them on, finding them to be quite
comfortable. After happily wiggling my
toes in them for a minute, I stood and
stepped to the washstand.
I splashed my face with cool water and
tried my best to smooth the unruly yellow
curls on my head. Without maids, I had no
one to plait the blonde locks and I thought
I looked like a wild tree fairy. But the
prospect of the biscuits was calling me so I
tied my hair back with ribbon and hurried
down the stairs.
Following the delictable scent, I found
myself in a large kitchen. Timmy was
leaned over a brick hearth, stirring a pot of
what smelled like stew. When she saw me,
she smiled and gestured to the little table
in the corner of the room. “You look
darling, dearie. Now here you go, I’ve
made you a big plate. Eat it all up. You’re
nothing but skin and bones.”
I stared with wide eyes at the plate she sat
before me. It was piled high with golden
biscuits, freshly sliced tomatoes, eggs, and
corn hash. It was more than I’d usually eat
in a week. To gorge oneself was not
becoming of a princess. But my stomach
growled and I abandoned my training on
this matter without another thought.
Everything was so delicious. The biscuits
were warm and fluffy, the eggs were
cooked to perfection, the tomatoes tasted as
fresh as they were, and the corn hash was
for once devoured in its entirety. When the
plate was almost clear, the General entered
the kitchen.
He was wearing plain brown trousers and
a white shirt that was smeared with dirt
and his face was damp with sweat. He
smiled at me and pulled up a chair at the
table. “We’ll be having a good harvest this
year,” he stated. Timmy nodded.
“I thought you were a general.”
“I was. I’m retired now.”
“But you farm? I thought my father paid
his generals well…”
“He does. But farming is more a hobby
than a job for me,” the General explained
patiently. “I see you’ve already sampled
some of Timmy’s famous tomatoes.”
“They were very good.”
“Yes. She grows them herself. And there’s
quite the demand for them. You should feel
honored to be getting some.”
Timmy swatted at him with her dishcloth.
“Of course she’d be getting some of my
tomatoes! She’s the crown princess and the
newest member of our little family.” She
looked at me kindly. It was clear she
wanted me to feel a part of the strange
“little family” the two of them had.
“Speaking of family, there’s something I
ought to discuss with you, your highness,”
General Akkad said tentatively.
“You’ve come here because it’s not safe for
you at home any longer. Now there’s no
telling what might happen in the future,
but I’m under strict orders to keep you
hidden and safe from harm. So we can’t be
addressing you as ‘your highness’ any
longer. We can’t even use your name. It’s
well known across the land.”
“What name would you call me?”
“Well, I’ll leave that up to you. But we’ve
got to start telling folks that you’re my
grandniece. We’ll say you’re my nephew’s
and you were recently orphanned. It’s very
important that no one know who you are.”
“I understand. Call me…” I sat thoughtfully
for a moment. “Havara.”
“Havara? That’s a pretty name, dearie,”
Timmy chimed. “Where’d you come up
with it?”
“It was my great-great-great grandmother’s
name. She was the last queen to rule
Danubae by birthright.”
“Ah, yes. It’s a fine name, a grand choice
Happily the three of us lived together in
the cottage. I gradually became accustomed
to the daily routine. I had chores around
the house and sometimes the General, or
Uncle as I called him, would let me help
him in the fields. Our neighbors were very
welcoming of me and soon I had a friends
in the village children. I was amazed by
how content all these people- and I- could
be with such a simple life.
It was pleasing not to be bothered with
training to be the next ruler of the land. I
did not have to worry about proprieties or
military strategies. I was allowed to be a
child. But I did miss my family horribly. I
longed to see them again- to play in the
fields with Shane, to train my magic with
mother, to hear Aliqua singing me to sleep.
It was on my ninth birthday that the news
came of Groithia’s invasion. It was a shock
to the villagers- who’d believed the
kingdom to be at peace. For days they
spoke of nothing else. I couldn’t go
anywhere in the village without hearing
my parents’ names. No one understood
how our peaceful land could now be at
war. But everyone eventually decided that
it was not our fault- whatever the cause.
Young men volunteered for service in
father’s military and soon there were
hardly any remaining in the town. This
frightened everyone left to no end. We
were a remote village. It took news three
weeks to reach us and many in the
community were frightened that we would
not know vital information in time.
Also, without the labor of the young men,
our crops began to fail. The women took to
the fields, leaving homes and children to
be tended by young girls like myself. It was
inadequet substitution. Homes remained
dirty and unkempt and the children were
unhappy. Families were hungry and the
village as a whole declined.
I consoled myself by singing. I would
recall songs I’d heard at court or that
Aliqua would sing to me. One day, Uncle
came in from the fields and heard me
singing. He proclaimed it beautiful and
after that, my voice was the source of
entertainment at night before we retired.
It was on one such night, after my tenth
birthday, that the most devasting and
possibly most blessed event of my life
occurred. I stood with my back to the great
fire in the hearth in the kitchen. Timmy
and Uncle sat at the table watching me
contently when my song was interrupted
by the pounding of horse’s hooves.
“They’ve taken Hagra! They’ve taken
Hagra! The Groithians have taken Hagra!”
the rider cried as he raced down the street.
Hagra! That was the largest city in the
south and only a few days ride away from
Dezla. All three of us raced to the door and
peered out into the darkness. We found
most of our neighbors doing the same and
the rider came to a halt in the center of the
street. People rushed to him, crowding his
horse and making it stamp and buck
“How many killed?”
“Have they taken prisoners?”
“How long ago?”
“Were any of our boys there?”
The questions came rapidly and the scene
was chaos until Uncle stepped in and
silenced the crowd with a raise of his hand.
As an ex-military commander, Uncle was
most respected by our neighbors and
everyone hushed at the sight of him. He
addressed the rider, “How long ago did
they take Hagra?”
“A week ago, sir.”
“Are they heading our way?”
“They are. A small company has dispatched
in this direction they’re but a few leagues
behind me. The rest of the army is moving
on the north.”
A panicked cry rose from the frightened
villagers. There was another moment of
chaos until someone shouted, “There!
They’re coming! Look there!” An eerie
silence fell over the crowd and everyone
looked at the lights moving down the road.
We heard racing horses and exulted war
cries and suddenly everyone had scattered.
There was a mad rush and I was lost in the
midst of it.
Terrified, I whirled around, being smashed
into by my neighbors, unable to find Uncle
or Timmy. The soldiers poured into the
streets, mounted of horseback and
carrying torches. Some dismounted and I
could hear orders being shouted over the
screams of my neighbors.
“Take all those who’re able for slaves!
Burn the rest!”
Soldiers swarmed the village and I watched
powerless as they grabbed the elderly and
the crippled and locked them in cottages
before tossing torches through the
windows. They set our fences and cottages
ablaze and our flower gardens and
vegetable patches squashed under their
boots. I cried out helplessly and suddenly a
hand grabbed mine and dragged me into
an alley between two cottages.
“Uncle!” I exclaimed in relief. I threw my
arms around his waist and he patted my
back reassuringly. But I could feel the
tautness of his muscles and the shake of
his hands. When he spoke, there was
something erratic and frightening in his
“Listen to me, Havara. You must run. Run
as fast as you can. Try to make it to the
next town. Don’t stop. Don’t look back.”
“But Uncle-”
“Go!” With a mighty shove, he propelled
me to the mouth of the alley. I looked back
uncertainly at him and my hesitation was
long enough for two soldiers to appear at
my back. A heavy hand clutched my
shoulder and I shrieked in surprise.
“What do you think, Jokil?” the soldier
holding me asked the other. He turned me
around and looked down at me. “Would
she be of any use?”
The soldier laughed. “Maybe in a few
years. Put her with the others.”
“What about the old man?”
They appraised Uncle with cold eyes. “He
won’t last the trip back to Suraad. Put him
in a cottage.”
My heart sank into my stomach. I screamed
and clawed as one soldier carried me
effortlessly under his arm and the other
moved towards Uncle. He gazed at me
reassuringly and smiled, even as the
soldier pushed him roughly into our
I never saw him again.


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