There was a girl named Malina Serafina Anastazja Dominika Naveed Jeleń nic Cecília O Alexandre, for several reasons, including the fact that her ancestor Dominika had, it seemed, built a castle, along with, or so she was learning, the Malina Concordat, the Dominika Accord, and the Treaty of the Alexandres.
She – we will call her Malina – had been lost in the desert, and not she was not so much lost as unsure of where she was.
She had a castle in front of her; she had a mustang under her.
She had a cat next to her, & that was what she knew.
The building coming into view was not quite what she’d consider a palace. It had no tall spindling towers; no beautiful white stucco painted with all the colors people could dream of; no gold.
She could see a thick, squat tower above the horizon, flanked, of course, by cacti (her whole life was devolving into nothing but cacti). From it fluttered 2 banners, as tattered as any she had seen on border trees in this journey & more so.
“Home.” The cat purred it, with a release of tension along his whole small body. Malina looked down at the sand-cat & wondered: *this* place, this caused this reaction?
“It will need some work,” the cat admitted. “But much of that will be helped by having a Dominika in residence, by having a Malina, by having an Alexandre.” The cat shot her a look, unreadable. “Convenient we needed only one mustang to carry all of that and more.”
“Convenient.” She was beginning to doubt the stories she’d been told.
“Convenient indeed, or lucky, or none of those, since the Dominika who made this place, she was wise and far-seeing, and the Alexandre who wrote the Final Treaty, they were clever and tricky.” The cat lept down from the saddle. “Come. There is much to do, but first, your rooms and your food, your bed and your new clothing.”
Malina dismounted gingerly. She was used to riding, of course, but not to also wandering the desert for hours beforehand. Her feet, in their sensible sandals, still ached.
The mustang nosed at her. “Should I – won’t she need to be brushed down?”
“The stable will take care of that today. This way, come on. You’d think you’d be in a hurry to have a rest, to clean up, to refresh yourself.”
Malina slowed. “When someone else is rushing, the first thought should be not ‘I should rush too’ but ‘what am I missing’?”
“You think yourself clever, is that it? I will tell you one thing, you are not IN the home yet. Until you are…” The cat shook himself. “Until then…”
“Until then, what?” she persisted.
“Until then,” the cat hissed, “until *then*, Princess, everything in the desert that is a danger is a danger; the home is not home. Until then, not-nearly-clever-enough-descendant-and-name-holder, *I* cannot be home. Until then, the banner is not yours. Until then, the Final Treaty has a hole in it. Until then, I will tell you nothing else. Is that enough of an ‘until’, Princess?”
Malina had naught but more questions, but the sandcat’s fur all stood on end.
She relented, albeit reluctantly. “Where is the entrance, then?”
“This way, oh most difficult of all your family.” The cat, its fur still not smoothed, stalked off past the tower. Uncertain, worried, Malina followed.
The sand slid down to a small dirt section, the tower revealing itself to be, while still not tall, of a respectable height. To its left, a wooden door hung open & half off its hinges in an ornate arched doorframe.
“Welcome home, Malina, Dominika, O Alexandre. This place awaits.”Want more?