Rosamonde: The Real Story of Sleeping Beauty

Rosamonde: The Real Story of Sleeping Beauty by Christopher Bunn Read Free Book Online

Book: Rosamonde: The Real Story of Sleeping Beauty by Christopher Bunn Read Free Book Online
Authors: Christopher Bunn
talent. It’s much better than mine.”
    “Or mine,” said Henri. His talent was being able to turn tomatoes into zucchini.
    “Oh, very well,” mumbled Jean-Luc.
    Several of the other footmen opened three wicker baskets. Three pigs emerged. They were on the smaller side, but they seemed energetic and inclined to move quickly, which was perfect for our purposes. Jean-Luc got down on his hands and knees and made an oinking sound. The three pigs looked intrigued. He oinked again. They trotted over to him and began a discussion conducted mostly in oinks, with a few snuffles and grunts thrown in for good measure. After a few more encouraging oinks from Jean-Luc, the three pigs hurried off across the lawn. They made straight for the three Delmanian soldiers. Due to the darkness of the night, the soldiers did not see the pigs until it was too late. Three screams split the air.
    “That was well synchronized,” said Uncle Milo admiringly.
    “I told them to bite the ankles,” said Jean-Luc, “but not to crunch, like you told me.”
    “Not to crunch , ou i ,” said Celeste, nodding. “The lack of crunch i s trè s important, otherwise we cannot have the running and the chasing. The ankles must still work.”
    “Pigs are so quick,” I said.
    And they were. The three pigs were practically galloping across the lawn, heading in a southerly direction toward the water garden and the fruit groves just beyond that. The three unfortunate Delmanian soldiers were in hot pursuit. Being bitten on the ankle by a pig in the middle of the night is an upsetting thing—at least, I assumed it was upsetting—and the soldiers obviously wanted to exact justice from the pigs.
    “Well done, Jean-Luc,” I said.
    “It was nothing, Your Highness,” he said, blushing and bowing.
    “Quickly now!” said Henri nervously.
    Henri was always nervous. It was one of his better qualities, I suppose. We all hurried across the lawn toward the hulking shape of the balloon. It smelled of leather and wax and cold ash.
    “You’re sure you know how to fly this?” said Henri.
    “But of course,” said Uncle Milo. “It goes up, it comes down, it floats on the wind. What can be simpler?”
    Celeste shot a few sparks from the tip of her finger and the cast iron stove inside the wicker basket soon had a roaring fire inside. Half the basket was stacked with neatly cut lengths of wood. The other half contained some chests, several armchairs, a couch and a mysterious-looking metal cylinder that was attached to the stove with a narrow iron pipe.
    “This must be the container filled with the helium gas,” mumbled Uncle Milo. “Aha. It has a valve. I suppose turning it will do something.”
    And it did. The pipe sticking up from the wood stove belched out a gout of flame, dirty with smoke. The balloon above the wicker basket creaked and groaned as the leather siding slowly inflated. I stifled an exclamation as the floor shifted beneath my feet.
    “Everyone off!” said Henri sharply. “And for the last time, Rosamonde, you aren’t coming. There’s no use hiding behind the couch.”
    “Oh, very well,” I said. He was not within kicking reach, nor were there any vases handy, so I contented myself with flouncing out of the wicker basket in an insulting fashion. I tripped as I stepped over the sill, but thankfully it was dark enough for the footmen to pretend that they had not seen my mishap.
    The balloon tugged at its ropes, creaking and straining to be free. A sudden wash of moonlight gleamed on the stretching curve of leather. The footmen yanked the ropes free from their anchors, and the balloon shot up into the night. Uncle Milo and Henri waved furiously down at us. Then the moon slid behind a cloud and they were gone.
    “Quickly!” hissed Celeste. “Before the soldiers return. We must be gone . Vite, vit e !”
     
    ***
     
    Prince Fenris behaved like a spoiled child when he discovered his balloon was missing the next morning.
    “Where is my

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