The reluctant trio stared at the dark tower on the edge of the glen. Purple moss covered the aged wood, letting off a pungent odor, while blue-gray willow trees grew haphazardly around the structure.
"Are we really doing this?" Nico asked, as Princess Sonny and Nate pushed away the branches blocking their path.
"Of course we are."
"At this point, the apothecary if the least of our worries, Nico. "
"But it's just so… creepy." His orange tunic rippled visibly as he shuddered.
Nate pounded on the tower door, dust puffing into the air the woods reverberation.
Finally an old woman in a dark cloak answered. She ran a hand over her extremely large nose. "Come in," she croaked.
Nico made a face suggesting he'd rather not, but with a shove from Nate, he entered with the rest of them.
Sonny looked around, mentally cataloging the jars of liquids and piles of herbs. The room smelled like rotting bananas, but maybe that was typical for the house of a chemist.
"You've come to purchase something, children? Some gold-spun shampoo perchance?" The Old Crone reached up and held a section of Princess Sonny's hair, "It'll transform those drab looks into a hue even Rapunzel would envy." She raised her gray brows exaggeratedly, as if to encourage such a sale.
Sonny just frowned. "What we need is something to help us infiltrate a villain's lair."
"Well isn't that special. Unfortunately not really my specialty." The Old Crone approached Nate. "Are you sure I can't interest you in some lemon verbena hand crème? It'll really help with those calluses. Or maybe some youth-in-a-jar. The way you scrunch your face so much is bound to cause wrinkles-"
Nate shoved her crooked finger away from his face, scrunching it even more. "No thanks."
Nico was surprisingly quiet as the Old Crone gave them a rundown of her services. Something about the way her cloak fit bothered him. He was an excellent judge of fabric and found it odd that a scientist would chose a poly-cotton blend, which offered little to no warmth and risked being lit aflame when in contact with chemicals. It was also clear to him, from the symmetrical pattern of scuff marks on the cloth, that she must've intentionally depressed the material to make it look older than it was. Curious! Nico held his chin with one hand, contemplating what could possibly motivate the her to do that while Sonny tried to reason with the woman.
"We're not interested in miracle beauty products! All we want is something stealth that can give us an edge against the Emperor and his minions."
Nico blinked, the word ringing a bell in his mind. Stealth? He grinned as it started to make sense. With a quick step, he held one foot on the Old Crone's cloak and watched as she tripped forward. With the cloak in a pile on the floor, her disguise was in shambles. And standing in the old woman's place was a young girl in a wig. A child, no older than twelve.
Mouth agape, Princess Sonny managed a "Who are you?"
"Isn't it obvious?" The girl looked petulant, upset at the uncovering of her ruse. With a pout, she removed the wart-covered nose and gray eyebrows.
"Why the disguise?"
Nate crossed his arms over his chest. "Do you get some kind of kick out of fooling people? Because that's pretty twisted considering they're coming to you for help."
"Don't be so quick to judge, Archer-boy. It doesn't matter if you're the resident genius, most people don't want to buy anything but cookies and wrapping paper from you if you're not an adult. It doesn't matter that I'm smarter and my products are more effective. People expect a certain image of their potionists and it's not about to change." She paused for a moment before adding one last thought, "Plus, I like to stay under the radar of certain legal entities and disguises help me do that."
Princess Sonny twitched her nose, "Disguises? As in you have more?" She smiled. "I think I know just how you can be of service to us, Zora."
Nate looked on sourly as Nico smeared the finishing touches of ivory paint on Princess Sonny's face.
When he finished, Nico stepped back and held out his hand in a flourish, "Voici mon chef-d'œuvre!"
"It is a masterpiece," Sonny agreed, admiring her face in the mirror. "You can't even tell it's me." The bright red spheres for cheeks were maybe a little much, but overall she definitely didn't look like a princess. Not that she was ever the prime example of one to begin with.
"I don't understand why you have to be the one to go undercover, your highness. You should let me or Nico do it."
Nico didn't look thrilled at that suggestion, but he swallowed his hesitance. "Nate's right. It's very dangerous. You don't know what you're up against."
"My family is on the line, not to mention the well-fare of the whole kingdom. That's all I need to know. Besides," she added with a smirk, "somehow I don't think either of you would have fun fitting into this costume." The checkered court-jester garb was snug even on Sonny's thin frame. Getting it on had required more than a little assistance and a lot of sucking in. But once on, it appeared to fit like a glove.
"You sure this is gonna work?"
"I wouldn't say sure. But reasonably confident."
An hour later they'd found his camp. The knight stood a few meters from the massive fire the rest of the soldiers had lit, choosing instead to build a small one under an old oak. The knight was studying a scroll on his arch nemesis, Zacharias Effronicus of Glitzandglam, when he heard a branch snap nearby.
"Who's there?" Sir Chad Dylan Copper said, unsheathing his sword from its hilt.
A young girl in a strange hat (a strange outfit all-together really; these commoners really have no fashion sense) approached from behind the tree. "It is I," the girl said, with an exaggerated bow. "Chic-y Vicky." She had an accent of sorts, one the knight couldn't identify.
"Fantastic," he said, dryly. "And who are you, exactly? Better make it good. I'm not thrilled about being snuck up on by little girls."
"I'm not a little girl!" She insisted, crossing her arms. With sudden spunk she leaped into the air with a somersault, landing inches away from his frame. He jumped back a foot.
With a grin exaggerated by the clown makeup, she pushed one finger into his chest and rested a rose stem horizontally in his open mouth. "I'm the emperor's new court jester. But you're not to worry-I rarely bite."
Nate and Nico watched from a distance as Princess Sonny's silhouette was swallowed up by the enemy's carriage.
"I sure hope she knows what she's doing."
"You and me both."
AN: It's been ages. Let me if you're still invested in this story at all, because I understand if it's been too long.