Woot! I'm back in action! Welcome to my second story, Cave of Wonders. It is (as you can probably guess) a story based loosely off Aladdin. It is set in the same world as my previous story Beau and the Witch but either story can be read on its own as a whole. However, if you would like to feed my ever hungry ego, you could go read Beau and the Witch and make me a super duper happy camper.

As I started writing this story, I realized that while my story is primarily based of Aladdin, Aladdin seems to be sort of based on Cinderella. So, for those of you who are like, 'Yo! What are yoo, stoopid? This is like, totally Cinderella,' (said in a really bad New York accent) it was not meant to sound like Cinderella, but might end up sort of resembling it. But then, as I say, there are only so many stories in the world. Eventually, something must be repeated. (MacBeth and the Lion King, for example. Think about it.)

But, enough of my babble. Please, if you have any questions or comments or just wanna say 'Yo!', I love to respond to my reviewers!

Party on!

-Lulai

Chapter One: First Meetings

"Why couldn't I have been born a princess?" Danni huffed as she pulled a large bale of hay over to where a large white horse stood, waiting to be fed.

"Heaven forbid I be born into wealth," she said irritably to the animal. "No, I had to be born poor and thus have to lug around your dinner."

The horse whinnied softly, having heard this particular rant before, many times.

Danni laughed and dropped the bale in front of the horse. "I guess you're right," she admitted. "Only one of us should be named Princess." She went over to the tack wall and retrieved a large brush.

"But I can't help but dream can I?" Danni said to the happily munching Princess.

"Who are ye talkin' too?" bellowed the stable master.

"No one. Ye must be hearin' things," Danni yelled back, automatically adopting the commoner slur that she spoke to everyone but the horses with.

"Ye'd better be gettin' back ta work," said the man, blearing at her with red rimmed eyes, "or ye'll be getting no suppa, ye lazy git."

"I hope your liver bursts, you old goat," she muttered under her breath. She slowly brushed Princess' hindquarters, trying to calm her temper and her tears. Gorner, the Stable master, was mean when he was drunk, and he was almost never sober.

"If I were a princess," she said to the horse, "I wouldn't have to take such crap from him."

Princess snorted which made Danni grin.

"I'd boot him out on his hindquarters." She brushed the horse's white mane, the thought of Gorner out on his rear putting a smile to her lips.

"There," she said, tying a purple ribbon into Princess' mane. "You are beautiful, highness."

She couldn't say as much for herself. It had been days since she had last bathed and her clothes were dirty and stuck all over with little pieces of hay. She thought briefly of taking a bath in the stream over in the woods west of the castle.

"Ye done? Good. Now ye can muck out tha stables," Gorner said, stepping back inside. He was staggering more than usual, and his breath was quite evil smelling.

Danni sighed. Mucking out the stables was the dirtiest job, one that Gorner usually reserved for her. So much for her bath. She grabbed a shovel.

"Honestly, I don't care what my parent's think," Prince Aiden Fer Drewery said as he trotted along beside his cousin. He had left his castle in the Capital for a few weeks and was staying at his father's brother's castle, Castle Fer Barrish. His parents had told him it was so he could have a few quiet weeks with his cousin-by-marriage (and best friend), but he knew that it was really so that they could plan a big ball without him.

"I'm not going to marry any random girl just so that I'm 'properly settled down'," he continued. "Besides, I don't see them bothering Lynn about marriage, and she's only four years younger than me." Princess Krysalyn Fer Drewery was his younger sister, and the two siblings were closer than most.

Aiden's cousin, Theodore Par Barrish sighed. "It's not just the prospect of you settling down that they are worried about. They want to make sure of your future."

"What does that mean?" Aiden asked irritably, slowing Thomas down to a walk. Theo slowed his own horse accordingly.

"It means, Aiden," Theo said, "that your parents want you to have not only a wife, but a queen for when you ascend the throne."

"Why would I need a queen to ascend the throne?" he asked.

Theo sighed. "They just want you to be taken care of."

"I can take care of myself," Aiden growled as they approached the stable. He hopped off of Thomas' back. "I don't need some woman to take care of me."

Theo shook his head and swung down from his gelding and together the friends lead their horses into the stable.

Danni did not hear the two men enter, instead concentrating on the pile in front of her and busy inventing nasty ways as to torture Gorner.

"Excuse me, lad," came a voice behind her accompanied by a tap on her shoulder. Danni didn't think, but whirled around and whacked the man in the shoulder with her shovel.

The man went flying into the wheelbarrow of dung which tipped over, spilling its contents all over him.

"Oh, milord," Danni gasped, the shovel dropping from her numb fingers. The brown haired man was laughing as the man who had tapped her shoulder tried to wipe the majority of the dung off of him.

"A towel, maybe?" asked the man on the floor peevishly.

"Oh, o' course," Danni said, frantically searching for something, anything to help this poor man. He smelt worse than Gorner, and she didn't even think that was possible.

"I'm so, so sorry, milord," Danni stammered, handing him the only thing she could find, her own sleeping blanket. "Ye see, I thought ye were, uh, someone else."

The man wiped his face with her blanket then looked up at Danni with angry green eyes.

"You aren't totally at fault," the brown haired man laughed. "After all, he did surprise you. What's your name, lad?"

"Danni," Danni answered quietly.

"Well met, Danni," the brown haired man said with a slight bow that made Danni nervous. What was he doing bowing to her? "I am Theodore Par Barrish and the man lying in what I can only assume to be horse dung, is the Prince-"

"-'s valet, Cameron," Aiden interjected smoothly. Theo gave him a strange look, but continued.

"And we hope that we have not inconvenienced you in any way."

"Inconvenienced him?" Aiden asked incredulously. "I'm the one covered in manure!"

A realization was dawning on Danni and with it a growing horror. Theodore Par Barrish. Wasn't that… the duke's son?!

Oh, crap, crap, crap! cursed Danni silently. She fell to her knees.

"I'm sorry, yer highness," she said, her face into the floor. "I dinna mean ta-"

"Now, see here," Theodore said with a frown. "Stand up."

Danni did so slowly, keeping her head bowed.

The man smiled. "It's alright. Cameron's bark is worse than his bite. He can wash up, and he'll be fine."

The man with the emerald eyes stood up, and Danni took an involuntary step back. The man was huge! At least six feet tall, if not taller! At a mere five feet five inches, Danni felt positively tiny.

"Come along, Cam," Theo laughed, but then paused and wrinkled his nose. "Actually, how about you follow me? I don't really want to be downwind from you."

"Fine," the man called Cam growled, and the two left the stable.

Danni pursed her lips in dismay. The man took her only blanket. Not that she would really have wanted it anyway, smelling as it did. Still, a thin smelly blanket was better than none.

She sighed as she surveyed the room. The two horses stood in their stalls, ready to be fed. And there was dung all over the floor.

"Danni!" Gorner bellowed drunkenly. "What happened? Ye stupid nothin'! Why do I even keep ye aroun'?"

"Because I'm the one who does all the work," Danni muttered under her breath.

"Wha' was tha'?" Gorner advanced on her menacingly.

"Nothin'," Danni said, not looking him in the eye. One day she was going to have the courage to say what she wanted to say to him. But not today, it seemed.

"Tha's right, sass-mouth. Jus' fer tha', no supper!" The stable door slammed shut with the finality of a coffin lid.

Danni sighed, and picked the shovel back up. This would not be the first night without something to eat, and it probably wouldn't be the last either. Righting the wheelbarrow, she began to work, hoping the physical labour would keep her mind off of the rumbling in her stomach.

Her lips quirked slightly at the thought of the man covered in manure. Sure, it was horrific when it happened, but now that it was over, it was actually pretty funny. She'll still have to make it up to him somehow.

She pulled off her dark billed cap to try and cool herself off. She wiped her forehead with the back of her hand, probably just smearing the dirt all over her face. No wonder the two men had thought her a boy! Her hair was always the first thing to get dirty, being the colour it was, a light, almost white blonde, so she mostly just kept it up in a tight knot on the top of her head, covered with a kerchief and her cap on top of that.

Danni frowned as she wheeled the barrow out of the stable to the designated dumping spot. Even without her hair, she had kind of hoped that they would have recognized her as being female. She wasn't Vicky, the inkeeper's wife with bosoms the size of soup tureens, but she wasn't completely flat-chested. She couldn't help but admit that her pride had been pricked ever-so-slightly.

Her stomach gave an irritated growl.

Danni sighed. It was going to be a cold, hungry night.