Once upon a time, in the kingdom of Marsh, walked the Whisperer. The Whisperer was well-known throughout the kingdom as a bounty hunter capable of capturing any creature who could be caught. Bugs feared him, birds revered him. The peasants wished only to live in peace with him. He often found himself in conflict with the nobles. In all the kingdom, only the bandits were equals to the Whisperer. They alone could evade him. Though he invested hour upon hour to apprehend even just one, not a single bandit had ever been caught.
Lady Gem, a noble, lead a group of nearly twenty peasants beyond the farms into the village square, for they had worked hard and were to be rewarded with leisure time. Among them, was the Whisperer. When not on a hunt, he liked to live among the other people in kingdom, however displeased they were by his presence. Lady Gem, in her wisdom, both loved and hated the Whisperer, for she understood his gifts, but hated how he chose to use them. On this day, to the shock of all, the Whisperer found a young maiden, abandoned by her family, tied to a bush in the village square. The peasants scattered, searching for others of her ilk, but could find sign of none.
Lady Gem untied the girl. “Who are you?” she demanded. “Where is your kin?”
Shy and afraid, the girl did not answer.
“Be gone, Whisperer!” Lady Gem cried. She knew the Whisperer wished to profit from those he caught and she did not want him around the frightened girl a moment longer. He thought it best to listen and disappeared, though he knew the gift of gaining trust was one he possessed in greater measure than his lady. She demanded answers. He could lure the cautious.
Soon, another noble appeared. “Lady Gem,” cried Lady Stone, “why do you hold that girl so?”
“This maid,” Lady Gem replied, “was found by the Whisperer, tied in a bush.”
The reputation of the Whisperer was known throughout the kingdom. Yet, to the best of Lady Stone’s knowledge, he caught only those who needed to be found, dangerous people with a bounty, or the disappeared. “Where is her family?” asked Lady Stone.
“We do not know,” Lady Gem answered. “The peasants have been searching, but they have found nothing.”
“What does she say?” Lady Stone asked.
“She is afraid. She speaks not.”
“What can be done?”
Lady Gem considered. “I suppose I must provide her with food and roof over her head, if I cannot find her kin.”
Lady Stone wondered if Lady Gem was prepared to take on the mysterious girl, but said nothing.
When the peasants needed to return to their farms, Lady Gem (who had many ideas about the noblesse oblige) intended to walk with them back to the fields. The girl had sparked the interest of many, and gossip about her abounded. The prevailing theory was that she was a member of the bandit group that terrorized the kingdom. They claimed, with greater authority at each telling, that she was the daughter of the Bandit leader. Though none believed the Bandit Queen herself had tied the girl to the bush, none thought the child safe among her own people. For, if it was indeed not her mother who tied her to the bush, it must be her mother’s enemies, and they were great in number.
(Though, it must be recalled that none was so great an enemy to the Bandit Queen as the Whisperer himself, and he attended to the comfort of the girl with greater interest than Lady Gem herself, once his lady permitted him to do so.)
“We can not send her back now,” Lady Gem insisted to Lady Stone. The girl had become bolder under an hour’s tutelage of the Whisperer, though she was still silent. “Even if we knew where the bandits were, for her own good, we should not return her.”
“So you shall take her on?” Lady Stone asked.
“Yes,” replied Lady Gem. “I shall find a place in my household, and she shall do honest work.”
Lady Stone knew Lady Gem had already taken on many responsibilities. She wondered if her estate could support another mouth to feed or find room for another bed. But, she thought it best to let Lady Gem judge for herself what her household could support.
“Very well,” Lady Stone replied.
“It is only…” Lady Gem mused, “she has not eaten in all the hours we have been with her, though we offered bread and water.”
“How troubling,” Lady Stone answered, not really finding the fastidiousness of a bandit princess was beyond what might be expected. Should Lady Gem offer candy, she was sure the girl would find her appetite.
“And,” Lady Gem answered, “I cannot take her into the village to procure suitable clothes.”
“She cannot stay in those rags,” Lady Stone said with disapproval. “If you cannot take her into the village, I shall.”
“Thank you,” Lady Gem said. “I shall send a servant to retrieve her when a place has been prepared.”
So, Lady Stone took the girl and she brought her to the village and bought her clothes and nutritious food and wondered when Lady Gem would send a man to retrieve her. It is not the purpose of this tale to expound on those adventures, but to explain how it was the bandit princess came to her home. Rest assured, gentle reader, those adventures were fraught with peril.
The next morning, when the post came, there was a note from Lady Gem:
‘My nephew does not want the girl in my house, and he stays here often. I will send a servant if you wish, but I do not know where he will take her.’
Lady Stone did not think leaving the girl’s fate to the whimsy of the servant was acceptable. There was a childless couple in her own employ. Though the disdainful woman would not thank her for it, Lady Stone thought the amiable man would be pleased to have the girl join his family circle. And so, the Bandit Princess joined the household, and all thought her better for it.
(Except a wicked orc, who also lived in the house. He was not pleased, but he is pleased by nothing and for all his wicked ways, is not truly dangerous. He makes an appearance in this tale at his own request.)