Chapter 3:

Xena

The Stray Princess


 The big hairy shadow comes closer walking slowly, Princess doesn’t understand what she sees and a groups of different smells come to her nose.Bookmark here

“Easy there little buddy” Says the figure.Bookmark here

Princess is totally shocked with those words, not in a way that she understands them but in a way that it was not a sound of a creature.Bookmark here

The figure comes closer and now is fully visible by the sunlight, it is a man around thirty years old with a big black beard and really long hair, his height is almost 170 centimeters, he also wears a black furry cape that goes from shoulders to ankles and makes him look really big.Bookmark here

“A tall dog!” Princess thinks, her tails starts waging from pure joy “I haven’t seen one in a very long time”Bookmark here

“Some people can be really cruel, huh?” The man says taking a better look at the dog. He unbuttons his cape, revealing a really thin body for his height, he wears some dirty pants, shoes and a shirt that are at least 2 sizes bigger for him. Under the cape he also carries a big backpack with clear signs of being used, that explains why he looks so big with the cape on.Bookmark here

After taking off the backpack and leaving it on the floor the hairy man approaches Princess very carefully. He extends his left arm and she sniffs it still waging her tail.Bookmark here

“I’m going to take it off, OK?” The hairy man puts his hands around Princess’ neck and starts opening the buckle, after a couple of movements the collar finally comes off.Bookmark here

The pain around Princess’ neck vanishes, she can’t believe it and starts moving in circles.Bookmark here

“Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!” She yells… But dogs can’t communicate with humans by words coming from their mouths, instead the hairy man only hears:

BARK BARK BARKBookmark here

And sees a dog spinning and waging its tail.Bookmark here

“Poor little thing, who could do something like this?” The hairy man unties the leash and puts it inside his bag. Then turns back facing Princess while crouching “How are you feeling buddy?”Bookmark here

Princess has stopped spinning and barking and decides to come walking directly to the hairy man, her tail doesn’t move from one side to another anymore and instead is facing down almost entering between her legs. When she is close, she presses her head against the hairy man’s chest and stays a while in that position. Bookmark here

“Oh, what?” The hairy man doesn’t understands what happens and stays in silence. Some dogs express their sadness by cuddling in this way and this is exactly what Princess is trying to say.Bookmark here

In a human equivalent, Princess would be hugging the hairy man and crying while doing it. But dogs show their feelings in other ways so they don’t cry (Well, dogs do cry but not when feeling sad).Bookmark here

The hairy man starts patting Princess’ head.Bookmark here

“It’s been so long, I missed this” Princess keeps her head against the hairy man while her tails starts slowly waging again.Bookmark here

“What luck you just had little dog, I was passing by when a noise caught my attention”Bookmark here

Slowly reaches the lower part of his shirt and uses it to clean the blood under Princess’ eye with slow and gentle moves, the cleaning progressively turns into patting and Princess closes her eyes with relaxation feeling all the fingers on her face. Bookmark here

He keeps patting her in a kindly way without moving for a couple of minutes, feeling the soft fur in her head and then comes to a realization. Bookmark here

“Oh dear, you weren’t able to eat a thing while tied up”Bookmark here

The hairy man stops patting Princess and uses his hands to open the backpack, he takes out some steel pots of various sizes, each one dirty and some with rust on them, then he takes out a couple of bags one of them having a bitten loaf of bread inside.Bookmark here

“You are a lucky little one, is not everyday that I get a whole… well… almost whole loaf of bread after a day of begging for food”Bookmark here

He grabs the bread with his bare hands and breaks it in small little pieces, then offers one with his hand open to Princess but she doesn’t move.Bookmark here

“What is he doing?” She wonders. Never before she have tasted bread.Bookmark here

“Look, like this” The hairy man puts the piece of bread in his mouth and starts chewing “Come on buddy, have a bite, it’s almost fresh” He grabs another piece and shows it to her with the hand fully open.Bookmark here

“Should I eat that?” There is confusion in her eyes as she examines the strange food.Bookmark here

But decides to move forward and eat it, its soft texture makes it easy to chew and the flavor is something totally new, something tasty.Bookmark here

When she finishes, her eyes move searching a visual contact with the hairy man.Bookmark here

“Oh, did you liked it?” He smiles while seeing her brown eyes “Here, have another one” A new piece of bread appears in his hand.Bookmark here

“Tasty! So Tasty! Thank you!” She thinks while eating the next piece of bread, and the next one, and the next one… The total count of pieces that she ate where superior to half of the complete loaf of bread, the hairy guy also ate some of it but not as much.Bookmark here

“Eat all you want little guy, you need it… huh… I wonder if dogs can eat bread, well, not that it matters now, right?”Bookmark here

Princess wags her tail looking at him and then sits on the grass.Bookmark here

“Sorry, it was all I had. Unless I cook something later… But for now, us homeless must take care of each other and it’s getting dark” From his backpack he pulls a big black plastic and a rope.Bookmark here

He ties the rope using the nearby trees, and then extends the plastic over it creating a tent.Bookmark here

“Well, this is not the best place to stay honestly… But there’s not much to do about it”Bookmark here

While he moved from right to left collecting pieces of wood, dry leaves, rocks and sticks, Princess stayed on the same place always following with her eyes.Bookmark here

“Come on, come on… I can still make it” He says using a lighter “There it goes!” a tiny flame appears in the union of ticks he put on the floor surrounded by rocks.Bookmark here

While he moves blocking the wind, the flame grows and the darkness of the night that is growing across the forest stops around the light of the campfire.Bookmark here

“What is that? How can there still be light?” Princess is surprised but stays in her place.Bookmark here

For Princess there was something weird in this light, it was more than just a shining thing… it was warm, so far all the nights at the forest have been cold so this made no sense at all.Bookmark here

“First food, and now a warm light… is this tall dog an all powerful one?” She thinks amazed.Bookmark here

“What’s the matter? Never seen fire before?” He says “Well, now that I think of it. You look pretty young. And you stayed all the time on the same place like a really good dog, siting in that elegant way” The hairy man smiles “You look like a lion, king of the jungle. Huh, maybe you are a king that lost his kingdom, nah, too young to be a king… maybe you are an exiled prince” the smile disappears and he turns the sight to the fire “… we are not so different”Bookmark here

From the backpack now he takes out a plastic bottle almost full of water and a small bag of rice.Bookmark here

“You are lucky again, your majesty. This is all the food I have left, a whole buffet, just let me cook it” He bows to Princess and starts cooking in the campfire “I honestly can’t believe it, I almost never have food to cook… maybe there was fate who brought me here to meet you” The hairy man looks at the dog who is still siting in the same place “Come here, boy, come here”Bookmark here

She gets up and comes closer, he pats her head while keeping an eye on the pot in the fire. The sensation of being patted mixes with the warm feeling that comes from the light, almost without noticing she falls asleep in the grass near the fire, after laying the only sounds that appear to exist this night are the boiling water inside the pot and the spontaneous cracking of the wood when the fire destroys it.Bookmark here

She had a dream, maybe she had many, but the most clear one was a dream were she was alone in a forest without trees, except that one where she was tied and then a figure made of fire walks and touches the leash, the fire extends through all the leash going to the collar and then all disappears. She opens her eyes and sees the hairy man blowing the contents of the pot.Bookmark here

“Oh your highness, you are finally awake. Your dinner is almost ready, hope it tastes fine because I don’t have any salt for it”Bookmark here

Princess looks at the fire and inside of it is her collar and her leash burning, then looks again at the hairy man.Bookmark here

“What? That? It was trash right? Burns pretty well” He tells her like if she could understand him.Bookmark here

Somehow it feels good deep inside her that little by little the leash and collar that had her prisoner for days are disappearing forever. She lays again on the grass and puts her back against it, leaving her stomach up and opens her back legs in a relaxing way.Bookmark here

“OK! I think that its not so hot anymore...” The hairy man turns around facing her “Woah King! What are you… … … wait… hold it right there… ARE YOU A GIRL!?” He stares for some seconds, there is a little line like a scar in her abdomen “I wonder if you hurt yourself or that vulture did this to you”Bookmark here

He uses the only spoon he has and pushes part of the rice inside the pot out of it and directly to the grass.Bookmark here

“Come here boy… girl, your dinner is served”Bookmark here

She gets up and comes to his call, but it was again hard to understand that this white stuff was also food. Bookmark here

He continues pointing with no result, but after telling her to eat a couple of times and then crawling like a baby and eating a bit from the rice on the floor, she finally understood and starts eating.Bookmark here

“Another new flavor! Its soft again, but now it is warm… I had no idea food could be warm” She thinks totally amazed while eating.Bookmark here

“So, your highness is a girl, huh?” The hairy man says “I guess you are not a king but a queen or a Princess”Bookmark here

The dog reacts when hearing the last word, so it moves her head looking at the hairy man and starts waging the tails slowly.Bookmark here

“What? Sorry, I already gave you your rice. This is mine” Says the man guarding the pot with both arms. “But I can give you the remaining water”Bookmark here

She is very happy drinking the water that is served in a cup, and only thinks how tasty and less muddy it is.Bookmark here

When they finish the food, the man goes to the tent and extends the cape on the floor, then starts making sounds moving the tongue.Bookmark here

“Come girl, come” Says opening his arms.Bookmark here

Princess looks at him, then at the fire for a while but at the end decides to walk and enter the tent.Bookmark here

“That’s it, let’s be together” He starts patting her.Bookmark here

While his hand travels from her head to the back, he starts humming a soft and relaxing song. She thinks that this night is one of the best she had in a long time and her eyes concentrate in her savior but he is looking at the sky while still producing a song that doesn’t exist anywhere else.Bookmark here

A weak and short hiss sounds, and then is followed by other similar ones. Little drops are falling from the sky and crashing in the wood fire.Bookmark here

“Well, looks that is time to go to sleep” His eyes are now looking at her “This rainy season sure is hard. Maybe you had some difficult nights your majesty… Well maybe you aren’t from royalty anymore” With her head in his hand the light of the fire uncovers from the shadows the scar that was left under her eye “But what you are is a brave warrior, just like the main character from a show I loved when I was small and still had a home… I know, I’ll give you her name. A pleasure to meet you, XENABookmark here

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