chapter three of the lost princess of merope >> princess zoila of taygete
When people think of Princess Zoila of Taygete, they think of her father first. Her father was a fair king for most of his rule- until Zoila’s mother the queen died in childbirth with Zoila’s younger sister. Then the king went mad with grief. He began slaughtering innocent countrymen, women, and children. Zoila was only sixteen at the time. She recruited some of her father’s more rational advisors and trained, secretly, for two years with daggers and her animal companions.
On Zoila’s 18th birthday, she eschewed the gala in favor of overthrowing her vicious father. She, with the help of her chosen cabinet and her animals, forcibly took the throne from her father. Snakes, inspired by Zoila and the only thing her father truly feared, helped to imprison her father in the dungeon. He remains there to this day, where snakes line the floors and keep him at bay.
In the four years since, Zoila has rarely had visitors. She asks her valet to repeat it twice when she is told that not one, but two princesses from the neighboring southern kingdoms had arrived to see her. Zoila knows her reputation- hard and power-hungry- and hasn’t had many companions besides her animals. Her days are spent helping rebuild her kingdom and, recently, attempting to take down the dragon at the edge of the wood.
“What brings you to Taygete?” Zoila asks the other princesses after formalities have been exchanged.
Princess Calla, ever the talker, explains. Zoila is moderately surprised- she had no idea that her fellow princesses considered the Lost Princess of Merope a serious option. She’d always assumed it was a fairy tale. The enchantress had surely simply killed everyone in Merope. There was no one left to create a lost heir. Zoila expresses this and Helene, the sad one, looks momentarily devastated.
“I don’t believe that,” Calla says. “You don’t either.” Zoila is affronted, but Calla continues. “Not really. If you truly believed we were all destined to die this year, you wouldn’t have taken the throne from your father.” Zoila suddenly found it difficult to swallow. “You’re a fighter, Zoila. You didn’t let your kingdom burn then, and you won’t now.”
Zoila looked at one of the animals loitering in the salon, the redbird perched on her knee. It looked up at her pointedly. “I cannot communicate with the dragon. It is a creature made of mostly teeth and jaw. It has not hurt any of my people yet. Instead it…” The redbird bobbed its head at her, encouraging. “It eats the animals of the wood.”
“Oh Zoila!” Helene cries. They have forgotten all formality. It seems all are family in the face of dragons. Zoila finds she doesn’t mind.
It takes another hour for them to convince her. She does not want to leave her kingdom- not while they are rebuilding, not while there is a new threat. But they remind her- the only way to break the curse is for all seven to be together. When Zoila leaves, the redbird whispers in her ear, “8-5 9-19 14-15-20 20-8-5 6-9-18-5 25-15-21 1-18-5.”
Your turn: Crack the redbird’s code. The last two words of the redbird’s code can be placed after my URL to find a page, like this: wormwoodandhoney.tumblr.com/wordshere. No spaces between the words necessary. Go to the page and follow the instructions there.