Felicie ran until she was well out of sight of the cottage. Finding herself alone, overwhelmed, and exhausted, she threw herself down on the ground next to a tree, and cried herself out. How could her brothers think about leaving her? How could they put themselves in such danger? How could they do this to her? To Mother and Father? What if they didn’t come back?
That final thought filled her with guilt when she remembered what she shouted before she ran away. Now, instead of thinking of her brothers’ actions, she thought of hers. How could she say such a thing? What if that was the last thing she ever said to them? She couldn’t let that happen.
Drying her eyes on her dress, Felicie stood up and began to walk back toward the cottage. She was sure her brothers were out looking for her, which means she’d have plenty of time to do something to show them how sorry she was. First, she’d make their favorite venison stew, flavored with some of the smoked bacon and precious black pepper their parents had brought on their last visit. Next she would make each brother their own bread roll, instead of just cutting slices from communal loaves like they usually did. Finally, she would bake them a delicious apple cake! The princess grew more excited as she thought about how to treat her brothers. She would make sure that when they left in the morning, they’d know how much their little sister loved them.
As she predicted, her brothers were all out of the cottage when she arrived home. She saw a few of them on her way back, but carefully concealed herself behind trees until they moved on. She wanted her farewell dinner to be a surprise, so having them home before the preparations were complete wouldn’t do. This also meant that she’d have to work quickly.
Bread dough had already been set to rise that morning, so she only needed to portion it off to bake. The stew would need extra time to cook if the meant were to come out tender, so she needed to start there. Since coming to live with her brothers, she had learned many skills, and quick cooking for a large family was one of the quickest lessons she learned. In less than an hour, the stew was boiling merrily, and the cake was browning nicely. Felicie set the table with the nicest dishes they had (that is, the only ones they had that didn’t have chips or cracks), and even placed a linen napkin at each setting (a luxury they usually avoided as it meant extra laundry). She stood back to examine her handiwork as the cake cooled.
“The table looks nice, but it’s missing something” She thought to herself. “What it really needs is a pop of fresh color. Flowers would do nicely” she decided. She could hear her brother’s shouting to one another nearby. She would have to be quick! Taking a spare pitcher, she ran out into the garden in search of something pretty to use as a center piece.
“I don’t have time to search for wild-flowers, but there’s some pretty lilies near the border.” She thought, hurting to add a little water to the pitcher. She could see flashes of her brothers between the trees as they neared the cottage. She was almost out of time!
“Perfect!” She said as she crouched down next to the blossoms. The lilies were tall, bright, and flawless. “There are exactly 12 lilies, that’s one for each of my brothers!” She thought to herself as she gently picked each bloom.
When the final flower was plucked, a violent gust of wind ripped through the trees, carrying with it a dark, bone chilling laughter. She heard the surprised shouts of her brothers as the dark air washed over them.
“Thank you for your help, Princess.” She heard the laughing voice mock before fading away.
Felicie looked at the flowers in the pitcher with horror.
What had she done?