Chapter 6:

The Journey Ahead

ZAUBER: the thread that binds us

"This is wonderful!" Nanna beamed as she jumped up and down on Paltar's legs. "Oh, and it's just my size!"

Paltar groaned and instinctively pushed her away.

"It's too early," he complained.


For a moment, Nanna was silent, as if she regretted waking him up like that.

"Will you help me put it on?" she asked, then.

Paltar put his arm over his eyes. It was already too bright outside, when he just wanted to go back to sleep.

"Let me wake up first, yeah?" he managed to get out as she jumped over to his side.

"Sure, sure," she said, "Wake up, then."

For a moment, he was speechless.

"That's not how it works," he grumbled and rolled onto his side. The straw around him tickled his nose and he sneezed, startling Nanna.

"That sounds pretty awake to me," she commented.

"Shut up," he groaned.

Slowly, he began to piece their conversation together. He blinked and got up.

"You like it?" he confirmed.

"Ah... yes..."

She shuffled closer to the dress.

"I mean!” She jumped up and down. "I think you shouldn't have ruined the original dress! But..."

If she could, Paltar was sure she would have blushed.

"... I like it," she added in a hushed tone.

He felt his heart skip a beat.

"I'm so glad to hear that," he finally said.

When was the last time someone had appreciated his dresses? His mother had encouraged his passion, sure, but only as long as he used his skills for useful things, like mending their clothes. When he had shown her his first designs, she had been scandalized. And then, during his apprenticeship, the others had constantly looked down on his work, especially Meister Folderich. And in his last life... He had a few friends back then, faceless Internet strangers that he chatted with, but no one in his immediate circle understood his passion. Even Satsuki had only put up with his dresses to appease him. She never wore them for herself.

That still hurt.

"What are you staring at? Come on, help me put it on."

Nanna's complaints snapped him right out of his thoughts.

"If I had hands, I would do it myself," she grumbled. "But since I'm cursed..."

"Oh please," Paltar grumbled right back as he helped her into the first layer of the dress, "as if you don't enjoy being pampered."

"Pampered?" She let out a dramatic sigh. "I am cursed, and only suffering this existence."

"Sure, Your Highness. Now turn around."

Whatever Nanna was doing, it immediately made Paltar feel better. As if the princess could read his mind, she pulled him out of his dark thoughts and lifted his spirits in her own, special way.

"Is it comfortable?" he asked.

"It's good enough," she replied.

Then, she hesitated, and looked at him.

"It makes me look cute, right?" she said, her voice trembling.

"Sweet as sugar," he replied, and he meant it.

"G-good," she turned around quickly. "Then, hurry up!"

He let out a snort, and went ahead to put on the overskirt.

"All done," he announced. "Turn around, please?"

Nanna did as he asked, looking everywhere but into his eyes. Paltar didn't care, pride swelling in his chest as he watched the sway of the ruffles, and the perfect bounce of the ribbons.

"Perfect," he whispered.

Then, he shook his head. How could he forget the most important detail?

"No, wait..."

He searched through the hay. It had to be hiding somewhere... Then, his hands touched the small piece of metal, and he showed Nanna the big, blue bow on a simple wire headband.

"Tell me if it's too tight," he said and gently put the bow on Nanna's head.

"It's..." She fluffed herself up, "-perfect!"

Then, she tilted her head.

"At least, I think so," she added. "I can't see myself, after all."

Paltar smiled at her.

"I'm glad you're happy with it," he said. "Maybe we can find a mirror, or a lake, so you can see for yourself."

She nodded.

"But first, we should have breakfast."

He watched her excitedly jump down the hayloft. She had a little bounce in her step where there had been none before. He couldn't stop smiling even as they entered the inn.

"You're awake," Leothulf beamed as soon as they opened the door. "What can I get for you two?"

Paltar took out his purse while Nanna already went over to an empty table and made herself comfortable.

"We also need some provisions for our journey," he explained. "Whatever I can get for another Pfennig."

Leothulf nodded, and took the coin from Paltar with a smile.

"Don't worry. We'll get you something nice and filling."

Then, he looked at Nanna.

"She’s not going to hike in that beautiful dress, is she? It would be a shame if it got dirty."

Paltar shrugged.

"It's a gift," he explained. "She can do whatever she wants with it."

"Oh? You made it for her?" Leothulf laughed. "Then I wish you'd stay a little longer, then. I'd like to surprise my love with such a beautiful dress."

Paltar laughed, and took a step back.

"Uh, sure. Perhaps another time? When we're back."

With that and a quick wave, he left for the table. Nanna looked at him, her head tilted.

"What did he want?" she asked before he even had the chance to sit down.

"He complimented your dress." Paltar shrugged. "And maybe he wants me to make something like it for his wife."

"Of course he would," Nanna grumbled, "Lovestruck idiot."

Paltar smiled.

"Hey, maybe you can be a walking advertisement for my designs," he said. "Who knows, maybe more people will understand my vision. Or when I'm your Royal Tailor, at least."

"Suuuure," Nanna said. "So, when is breakfast coming?"

"Already here," Leothulf laughed behind them.

He presented them with a wooden plate even larger than the one from yesterday, with bread rolls almost toppling over. There were all kinds of different toppings, ranging from dark pine honey to delicious fried eggs. They had even garnished it with lettuce and fruit, and a side of small sausages.

Nanna didn't even say so much thank you, but dug right in.

"Oh, and here," Leothulf said, politely ignoring Nanna, "we packed you something for lunch and dinner."

He handed a small fabric-wrapped bag to Paltar.

"Thank you," he replied, and opened it to look inside.

Paltar saw some dried meat and ripe apples, along with a small loaf of freshly baked bread. It would certainly come in handy on their journey today. But before he got any hungrier, he would fill up on breakfast.

"Leave some for me," he said while Nanna was already devouring her second fried egg.

"Then hurry up," she replied. "I can't let this go to waste."

"I'm trying," he said, taking the third egg before she had a chance to eat it. "You didn't even ask if I wanted this."

"Sorry..." she mumbled.

But that didn't stop her from eating as much as she could, only waiting for him to prepare the bread rolls for her.

"I wish I had hands again," she muttered.

"Soon," he replied.

Though she looked like a goose, she was so very human that he sometimes forgot her curse. But whatever manners she had learned as a princess, she had forgotten a long time ago.

"Can you speak with animals?" he wondered.

Nanna looked up, with a few breadcrumbs hanging from her beak.


"I was just wondering..." he shrugged.

"Maybe," she interrupted him. "If I focus enough."

"Oh." He blinked. "So, is it interesting?"

"It's... different." Then, she shook her head. "No, it's just hard to explain."

Paltar nodded slowly. She probably hadn’t had human company for a while before they met.

"Sounds difficult," he finally said.

There was still so much he didn't know about her, and much that she didn't tell him. But he could see her threads, reaching out into the world. She was still connected. And her strongest thread bound him to her. She must have been very lonely.

But Paltar didn't say that. It was not something to discuss right now, not here.

"Well, if you're done, we should go." He said and stood up. "We have a long journey ahead of us, right?"

"Don't say it like that," she grumbled, and hopped on the floor. "We're only this slow because you can't fly."

"And we want to change that for you too, right?" He playfully rolled his eyes. "So don't complain, Your Highness."

"I can complain all I want," she shot right back.

"Hey, that's no way to talk to your future Royal Tailor, okay?" He grinned at her. "Or I'll sew every ribbon on crooked."

"You wouldn't dare!"

As they left the inn, he heard the cheerful words of Leothulf and Irmina: "Have a safe journey!"

He waved to them, before they went back out into the world.