Of Peasants and Patakis, by DoofusPrime

Notes - Basically, this is a story in which I put the characters of Hey Arnold into a fantasy setting to try something new. I was going less for dungeons and dragons style fantasy and more for a romantic fairy tale kind of feel, although perhaps with a little more realism and humor. So read on and enjoy!


Clods and Class

XX

Once upon a time, in a small hamlet by the name of Hill's Wood, there lived a young clod farmer named Arnold. This clod farmer named Arnold spent most of his time with his fellow peasants, tending the fields under the shadow of a distant castle. More a figurative shadow than a literal one, of course – the castle would have to be ridiculously large to cast its shadow over the many fields that surrounded it – but, in a tale such as this, certain creative liberties must be taken.

Regardless of the nature of the shadow, Arnold and his peasant friends farmed their clods under the watchful eyes of this castle and its owners, Lady Rhonda and Lord Thaddeus, who occasionally toured their lands to make sure their subjects were hard at work but otherwise disdained any contact with lowly peasants such as Arnold. The castle perched nobly on top of a gently sloping hill.

A small neighborhood of houses, belonging to merchants and a handful of nobles, was clustered not far from the castle, forming a sort of semicircle on the edges of the hillside. In the center of the town, larger than the other buildings, a monastery stood watch like a sentinel. The hill that supported the castle and town was surrounded by fields after it tapered off to level ground, which were worked by peasants but owned by the Lord and Lady. The fields surrounding the castle were, in turn, surrounded by a thick forest.

Far away from the castle – past the patchwork of fields and near the edge of the great forest – lay the aforementioned small hamlet of Hill's Wood in which our peasant Arnold lived. The hamlet was a collection of ramshackle huts and houses crouching uncomfortably together, huddled for warmth, looking for all the world like they had been cast aside by a gigantic child to fall randomly in a pile. Other than a town square in the center of the hamlet, there was no recognizable arrangement to the place at all.

The land in which Arnold lived could be seen as an ever expanding group of circles. In the inner circle, the center of which was Lady Rhonda and Lord Thaddeus's castle, lived the haves. Around them, in the town of nobles and merchants, lived the have-not-muches. Finally, on the outermost edges of the largest circle, the have-nothings lived in Hill's Wood.

Arnold lived there amongst his fellow have-nothings in a house passed down to him by his recently passed grandparents. It was a house with only a few rooms, but it was one of the largest in the village, and several of his fellow villagers lived in it with him. At the start of this tale, however, we find Arnold not in Hill's Wood but in a nearby dirt field, toiling with his fellow peasants and hacking at dirt clods with a crude hoe.

XX

Another day, another clod, Arnold told himself as he brought the hoe down again.

He wiped sweat from his brow and looked up from his work, squinting through the harsh afternoon sunlight at the dark hulk of the castle in the distance. It was a few miles away, but still in plain view of anyone working the fields or living in Hill's Wood. Besides the castle, the top of the nearby monastery could also been seen, as well as a scattering of rooftops belonging to nobles and merchants like Helga G. Pataki's family. Arnold wondered what people like Lady Rhonda and Lord Thaddeus did all day instead of working. Most likely, he would never know. He already knew one thing Helga did all day – stop by in Hill's Wood and bother him and his fellow peasants.

"Hey dude, what's up?" quoth Gerald.

Arnold looked at his best friend, who was breaking apart clods in the same field, along with a number of other peasants from Hill's Wood. Stinky and Lila were both toiling nearby as well; clod harvesting time was approaching and all able-bodied villagers were out in the fields. Arnold's gaze passed from Gerald to Lila as he sighed wistfully.

Lila was no ordinary girl. Arnold thought she had a certain grace even when she was stooped over and hacking at the ground. It was just a shame that she didn't like him the way he liked her. He had known for a long time that she did not return his feelings, and he was trying to get over her, but his feelings still lingered. Arnold didn't know if it was love, but he must have liked her with double the intensity she felt for him. It was as if he liked her twice over. He struggled to find some way to phrase his feelings...

"Arnold! Dude!"

Gerald's shout caused Arnold to look back at his friend a second time.

"You're totally out of it today, man. What's with the daydreaming?"

A little embarrassed that he had been caught staring at Lila, Arnold glanced over at the castle again instead. "I was just thinking about Lady Rhonda and Lord Thaddeus, wondering what they're up to in there."

Gerald looked over at the object of Arnold's attention. Forbidding walls of stone. Black, sightless slit-eyes set into the walls. Crenellations, fluttering flags. The sight of the castle was majestic, but Gerald did not like to waste much time thinking about it. Lady Rhonda and Lord Thaddeus lived in a different world, and Gerald's world had more pressing clod-related concerns.

"I heard they were having a festival at the castle soon," Arnold continued as he peered at the distant flags fluttering on towers framed by the sky. "Some kind of high society event with dancing and socializing and feasting and all that."

"Really?" said Lila, looking up from her labor. "That just sounds delightful!"

Arnold had to agree. He always had a certain soft spot for dancing, and sometimes the townspeople would make fun of him when they caught him twirling with an invisible partner in the midst of their hovels, but Arnold didn't mind. In his youth, his grandmother Pookie – as he affectionately called her – taught him a number of fancy dance styles. Where she had learned to dance the way she did, Arnold did not know, since her answers were always tall tales and fantasy.

Both of his grandparents had been fond of telling him wild stories about their past, always changing, and about the fantastic lands that his parents were visiting in their long absence. Pookie's stories were even worse than those of his Grandpa Phil, though. Pookie had been a bit on the crazy side, and trying to talk to her had annoyed Arnold sometimes as a child. But now that she was gone, Arnold found that he missed her quirks and strange comments.

"Where'd you hear about that fancy festival?" asked Stinky.

"Some of the townspeople were talking about it the other day. Tailor Kokoshka says he has a rich uncle who will be attending the festival because he's close friends with Lady Rhonda."

"Yeah, I bet," laughed Gerald.

Arnold joined his best friend's laughter. Tailor Kokoshka was known for his tall tales, almost as much as Arnold's late grandparents, although Kokoshka was always more insistent that his were true.

"Either way," Gerald said as the laughter died down, "There's no point in thinking about that stuff. It's got nothing to do with us, and these clods ain't gonna break themselves."

Arnold sighed as he returned to his work.

"Yeah, I suppose so."

XX

The clod farmer Arnold had a hard lot in life, as did his friends and fellow townspeople in Hill's Wood. They found opportunities for merriment in the evening sometimes, trading tales and relaxing in the town square if they had enough energy to stay awake after a long day of work, but their lot in life was largely one of toil and trouble. That was the way of things.

But do not let this picture give you the impression, dear reader, that peasants were the only people with a hard lot in life under the (figurative) shadow of Lady Rhonda and Lord Thaddeus's castle. In fact, some of the nobles had hard lives as well. Being a noble was certainly better than hacking at chunks of dirt all day. In the distant time in which this tale is set, however, anyone who did not live in a castle tended to have a life which – in the words of a peasant named Stinky – really bites.

And so we come to a young merchant's daughter named Helga, who is feeling better than Arnold but certainly not happy.

XX

"Ol- er, Helga - I just don't know why you can't be more like your sister," Portly Bob Pataki told his daughter. "Your mother and I were a little worried when she took so long to find a suitor," - Bob blanched a little at the thought of his favorite daughter reaching her late 20's, practically near death, without her charms being recognized - "but when she did, lemme tell ya, what a catch!"

"I don't see how he was a catch," Helga complained. "Heck, I got the impression maybe he was lying about that huge estate he owned. He seemed like a real shyster to me. And we hear from Olga now, what, twice a year?"

"Your sister married up," Bob admonished his daughter. "Don't get me wrong, Portly Bob's Breeches does well, but she won the lottery with Duke Doug! Instead of taking this jealous attitude, you should man up and act a little more feminine like your sister! Just tone down the back talking, quit loitering around in that dump of a village with the peasants, wear what the other girls wear, and maybe you can pluck your eyebrows a little – I'm sure some guy might notice you at that point."

"That's it!"

"What's it?"

"It's always Olga, Olga, Olga! I can't take it anymore. Let me spell something out for you, Bob," she said as she spat out her father's name. "I'm never going to change who I am. If I have to act like a girly girl to get someone to notice me, then I guess I'll just to become an old maid instead. It's not like any of the noblemen in this town have anything interesting to say anyway! And neither do the merchant's sons!"

Portly Bob gasped at this last comment.

Helga slammed her fist down on the table and kicked her chair back as she stood up and glared at her parents, feeling like she had scored a triumphant victory over her father. As she began to storm out of the room, Miriam called out to her daughter, distressed at her family's implosion.

"Helga, sweetie, where are you going?"

"Outside, mom. I need some air."

"What about breakfast? I'm sure Inga is almost done out in the kitchen – she should be bringing in the food soon."

"I'm not hungry."

Helga left the living quarters and passed through the small store that her father ran in the front of the house. Just before Helga slammed the door and walked into the street, the sound of her father's voice reached her from inside.

"If you're not interested in anyone with money and a good family, who are you going to marry?"

XX

"Arnold!"

Helga spoke the name reverently as she twirled through a small path that wound its way through her garden, dancing an imaginary dance with her unknowing lover. She stopped at various flowers and vegetables, sniffing their fragrant scent or squeezing them to see if they were ready to pick yet. Portly Bob thought that tending to a garden was unladylike – Olga had certainly never spent her time rooting around in the dirt – but it did provide some food for the family, so Bob never complained about it as much as Helga's other pastimes.

"Oh Arnold," she cried, heedless of who might overhear, "if only I could break free of the bonds that tie me down and declare my undying love for you! That gorgeous bow-shaped head, that shining cornflower hair, those sultry half-lidded eyes that pierce through my rough exterior and plumb the depths of my fluttery girlish soul! Arnold, my love, my heart's desire!"

Helga paused in mid-twirl and got down on her hands and knees to sniff a dandelion, indifferent to the dirt and dust that soiled her bright pink kirtle and leggings. The dandelion was her favorite flower. It was unappreciated by her wealthy acquaintances as a garish weed, but Helga knew that it had a number of uses: medicinal, culinary, and it was a good plant to make the soil more fertile for other plants to grow. Not only that, but it was beautiful. Perhaps it was not as flashy as some other flowers, true, but Helga liked its plain and sunny disposition. It matched the color of her hair, but it also matched Arnold's hair. It even matched his personality.

Heedless of her surroundings and lost in her reverence for the boy with the cornflower hair, Helga pulled a rock from the white smock beneath her pink kirtle, staring down at it in admiration, cradling it in her cupped hands. It was a rock she had found years ago, shaped exactly like Arnold's head. Or so Helga thought. Other observers might have said it just looked like a rock, but who would they be to question the good judgment that comes with true love?

"Arnold, my sweet – why am I so cruel to you? Why do I treat you like a common peasant? Well, okay, you are one, but that shouldn't make a difference – your bonds hold you down as much as mine. If only you could notice who I truly am, see how I truly feel, and then your love for me could bloom like these tiny dand-"

"Helga?"

Helga twitched in surprise at the address coming from behind her, which set her off her balance and sent her flailing into her garden flower patch. She turned herself over, picking up the Arnold-shaped rock as surreptitiously as she could, placing it in the pocket she had woven into her smock, and dusting the dirt off as she got back up from the ground. In front of her stood her best friend, a fellow merchant's daughter named Phoebe.

"Hey Pheebs, what's up?"

"What were you doing down there?"

"Oh, not much," said Helga. "Just smelling some flowers." Phoebe was aware of Helga's little secret, but it wasn't like Helga wanted to let her best friend to catch her acting like a ninny. "Want to take a little walk?"

Phoebe nodded and took her friend's side as the two of them left the garden. They passed through the collection of buildings gathered at the foot of the hill on which Lady Rhonda and Lord Thaddeus's castle towered.

In the case of Helga's neighborhood, the shadow of the castle really was almost close enough to fall over them. Most of the houses in the small town belonged to merchants profiting off of the position of the castle on a well-worn trade route, but a handful of wealthy nobles also lived in the town, probably wanting to benefit from close proximity to their Lord. A few of the houses were even made of stone, with glazed windows set into the walls. Portly Bob's business did not take in enough money for that kind of snazziness.

Near the center of the town, Helga and Phoebe passed the monastery that imposed itself over the rest of the houses, as if it was judging them for whatever sins houses committed. The monastery was a beautiful building, stained glass windows looking out imperiously from its heights, but Helga always thought there was something threatening about it. Only on a few occasions had she ever seen the nuns who lived and prayed inside. She wondered if the stained glass windows let in much sunlight.

"So, Helga," said Phoebe, "it sounded like you were reciting a little poetry there in the garden."

"Yeah, so?"

Helga glanced at her friend as they walked past the monastery and through the rest of the town. Phoebe was very perceptive, and while she was more quiet and studious than Helga, she was also different than the usual wealthy girls that Helga came across. Phoebe had a great interest in literature and academics, her parents having amassed an unusually large library for merchants, and she spent much of her time buried in books. She did venture outside to walk with Helga or spend time with her in her garden, however, and sometimes Phoebe would even accompany her friend to Hill's Wood. She thought some of the peasants there could be very interesting.

Phoebe spoke up tentatively. "I was just wondering if maybe you were reciting some poetry about, you know – sweet custard?"

"No, I was not. Just waxing poetic over the fall flowers, okay? That's it."

"Understood."

Phoebe and Helga began to turn back to her house, their walk having reached its limit. Unfortunately, Phoebe seemed to be more persistent than unusual in ferreting out her best friend's secrets. "Will you be going to Hill's Wood later?" she asked.

"Yeah," said Helga reluctantly.

She didn't really have anything to hide from her best friend, seeing as Phoebe knew Helga's secret even if they never really talked about it too explicitly, but the way Phoebe was pressing Helga about it made her feel a little defensive. Phoebe's inquisitiveness, trailing right on the tail of Portly Bob's rant, was prodding her sensitivities into a seething boil.

"Why, are you coming too?"

"No, I was just wondering. I need to do some work inside this afternoon."

"You heard about that festival that Rhonda and Thaddy are hosting at the castle?" Helga asked, trying to change the subject.

Phoebe nodded.

"Think we'll be invited?"

Helga's question was asked in jest, but Phoebe took it literally.

"I don't think so, Helga. I hear that a couple of the nobles here in town have been invited, and a number of other nobles will be traveling from afar to attend. I believe that I once heard Lady Rhonda say that she holds the best festivals – I'm sure merchant's daughters are not included."

"Probably not," agreed Helga.

The truth was that Helga did not have any interest in such an event in the first place. Lady Rhonda and Lord Thaddeus did not stop by to chat for very long when they came out of the castle, but Helga had talked to them enough to know that she did not like them. Rhonda in particular. Helga knew she would not fit in if the people at the festival were friends of Rhonda and Thaddeus. Not that she fit in anywhere.

Not to mention that, other than Phoebe, the only person with whom Helga wanted to go to a festival was a person who would never be invited in the first place.

XX

A myriad of tiny shadows lengthened and twisted along the dirt clod fields. Dusty brown hues were drenched in orange as the sun sank deeper into the sky. With an hour or two left in the day until darkness fell, it was time to go back to Hill's Wood and retire for the evening. As far as Arnold was concerned, it was about time. The last of the dirt clods harvested that day were piled into a wooden ox cart along with the peasant's tools. Arnold, Gerald, Stinky, and Lila were about to pile into the front when they saw a horse and rider approaching them from across the field, trampling their well-cultivated dirt clods still unharvested.

The horse came to a stop, and the pink outfit visible even in the late afternoon light identified its rider unquestionably as Helga G. Pataki. Gerald looked momentarily pleased at her appearance, but when it became apparent that Helga was the only one arriving, he groaned a little.

"What's up, peasants?"

"Hello Helga," said Arnold. "We just finished working the fields, and we're going back to our village now."

"Is that right, bow-head. I was getting a little bored over in my rich people neighborhood and thought I'd hang out with you clod-hoppers for a little while, so I borrowed Phoebe's dad's horse and came over here. I was feeling charitable, so you all get to enjoy my presence for a while. How's that sound?"

Sleep sounded better to Arnold, but he did not feel like arguing with Helga, seeing as she just ended up arguing back and making things even more unpleasant when that happened. "That sounds fine," he said.

"Alright, I'll just follow you guys to your hovels."

The ox cart shifted as the oxen began to trundle on their way toward the small village of Hill's Wood, Helga's horse trotting beside it. It wasn't long before they arrived in the village. Hill's Wood was not the friendliest place for ox cart traffic, or any kind of traffic for that matter. Pigs and chickens tended to race through the streets, and the roads were rough even on the best of days. When it rained, the entire village seemed to be built on top of a mud slick, and one could almost see the houses sinking deeper into the mire.

Arnold and his fellow villagers got off the cart and stored the day's dirt clod harvest in a barn while Helga waited for them to entertain her in the village square. The villagers began to gather in the square with her so they could celebrate the completion of a hard day's work. Not only that, but since the harvest was drawing to a close, Hill's Wood was feeling particularly festive.

"Gather round, friends," announced a villager named Sid as people began to accumulate in the village square, "and listen with fear as Gerald tells the story of the castle troll!"

"The castle troll?" asked Helga. "What, you're saying a troll lives over in the castle?"

The villagers groaned at the question; by now, they were used to Helga interrupting their evening story time. Gerald stepped onto a flattened log podium as he got ready to tell the tale.

"No, Helga. It lives underneath the castle, guarding the sewer tunnels that come out past the walls. But that's part of the story, if you'd be quiet and listen."

"Okay, fine. Don't get all worked up there, Geraldo."

Gerald gave her one last glare as Sid stepped aside theatrically. He cleared his throat, ready to begin, and the village drew closer in excitement. The tale began, and Arnold almost immediately started losing himself in his vivid imagination. The ravenous troll lurked in the dark corners of his mind, sniffing the ooze and muck in the pitch black tunnels he called home, waiting for someone foolish enough to get close to the entrance so he could grab them and drag them into the darkness. His friend was very good at telling stories.

The terrifying images were cut short as a clod of dirt hit the side of his head. He turned to see Helga, whistling nonchalantly and trying hard not to meet his gaze. It was not a surprise; Arnold had long since gotten used to having dirt clods thrown at his head.

"Come on Helga, that one had a little rock in it."

"Man up, bow-head!"

Arnold grumbled as he returned his attention to the story his best friend was weaving, but he and his fellow villagers jumped at the sound of horses whinnying nearby. Gerald paused in mid-sentence, and the villagers turned to see a carriage coming towards the village from the direction of the castle. They left the square and approached the outskirts of the village as the carriage slowed down; the peasants had seen it before on occasion, but it was always a stunning sight. Four horses pulled the carriage, and a veil embroidered with gold and silver hung over the passenger compartment. Brainy was the coachman, and he nodded to Arnold and his friends as he reined in the horses and brought the carriage to a stop.

Uh, hi," he wheezed.

The veil was pulled aside as Lady Rhonda poked her head out to look disdainfully at the peasants and clod farmers. Lord Thaddeus sat beside her in the carriage, looking more at ease with his surroundings.

"Behold, it is I, Lady Rhonda," she announced, although her words were almost cut off as she jerked her head in surprise at the sight of Helga standing in the crowd.

Rhonda looked over the girl, grimacing at her horrific attire. Helga was certainly leagues below Rhonda in terms of birth and breeding, to be sure, but it was still surprising to see a merchant's daughter in the middle of a clod field wearing a bright pink kirtle.

Rhonda nodded curtly. "Um, it's like, quite fortuitous that I should find you here, Helga. I wanted to invite you to the festival I will be hosting at the castle in half a fortnight's time." Rhonda gave this offer with an air of great pain and reluctance.

"For real?" Helga asked incredulously.

"Mind you, knave, I would not have invited you if it weren't for my dear husband, who wanted to repay Portly Bob for the breeches he bought from him when he went into town last week." Rhonda looked back at her husband with a withering glance, implying that there was no need for him to go into town and buy breeches from lowly merchants, ever. "And apparently he found your conversation to be quite scintillating while he was shopping at the store. Just try to wear something a little less scandalous, will you?"

Helga shrugged as she looked down at her outfit.

"Excuse me," said Lord Thaddeus as he leaned over his wife and peered out of the carriage car, "but are you the peasant known as Arnold?"

"That's right."

"You know, if I'm not mistaken, you have a noble cousin who will be attending the festival. Count Arnie, I believe. Do you know him?"

The other peasants looked shocked as Arnold shook his head in reply.

"Why don't you give us the pleasure of your company at the festival, then?"

"Curly!" protested Rhonda. "Are you insane? He's dressed in sackcloth!"

"Come on sweetie, it shall be quite an interesting gathering. I'm tired of those dandies you always invite to our social gatherings. Something a little different this time, please?"

Rhonda sighed in disgust at the way her festival preparations were going. At this rate, they would be opening the castle dungeon and letting everyone up to mingle. But her husband had a certain bizarre charm that, she hated to admit, usually ended up making her give in to his completely inappropriate whims.

"Alright, Arnold, you come along as well," said Rhonda, forcing the words out of her mouth with great difficulty. "But seriously, sackcloth? Find something else to wear."

"It's a tunic, Lady Rhonda," Arnold dared to point out.

"Um, like I doth care."

Rhonda turned back to Helga and again wondered why she was hanging out with a bunch of peasants. "What are you doing here, anyway?" she asked.

"Who me?"

"Yes you. Who do you think I was asking? What's a not-so-horribly-off-compared-to-these-peasants lady like yourself doing out here in the fields?"

"Nothing. Why would I be doing anything out here? I just – I mean, I -"

Helga began to stammer incoherently, feeling trapped by Lady Rhonda's questions. Not only that, but the fact that she could be attending the festival with Arnold was only just beginning to sink into her mind, which was having about the same effect as a large tankard of mead on a hot day.

"Look, I was just out here to make fun of Arnoldo here and laugh at his dumb village, that's all! Like I'd have anything else to do in clod-ville!"

With this, Helga ran to where her horse had been reigned beside the ox cart, leaped onto it, whipped the reins, and sent it racing off into the rapidly dimming light, back towards her town near the castle. The crowd of peasants, along with Lady Rhonda and Lord Thaddeus in their carriage, watched Helga recede in the distance. It was not often that people of such different circumstances found something to relate to, but they all had to agree that Helga's outburst was on the strange side of things.

"Well," said Rhonda after she recollected her thoughts, "Curly – I mean, uh, Lord Thaddeus and I, just wanted to come out here and make sure you all are meeting your daily quotas of clods." She eyed the barn where the clods were held, but Lady Rhonda would not stoop to counting the harvest herself; she believed that her very presence was enough to cow the peasants into honesty and hard work. "We all know the harvest will be finished soon, and I want a good return this season. Don't be shirking us now!"

"Never, milady," said Arnold.

"Good, good. And by the way, what's with the roads coming out here? It be nigh impossible to get this carriage out to your hovels, much less if it was raining. Can't somebody like, I don't know, fix that?"

The peasants shrugged haplessly.

"Well, whatever. It's back to the castle for us now. I bid you good night, peons!"

The veil pulled back over the darkened forms of Lady Rhonda and Lord Thaddeus, and Brainy waved to Arnold and his friends just before the carriage sped off towards the castle. The crowd of peasants began to make their way back to the village square. Gerald knew he would have to restart his story. He shook his head as he took one last look behind them.

"Man, did you just get invited to mix with the rich people at the castle?" he asked.

Arnold was shocked himself. "That's what it sounded like."

"I tell you what Arnold," said Stinky, "I figure you must be livin' a charmed life, what with you invited on account of that cousin of yours. How come you never mentioned him before?"

"I didn't know I had a cousin."

There was still some light left in the sky, but soon a bonfire would need to be lit in the village square. As Gerald began his story again, Arnold thought about the visit from Lady Rhonda and Lord Thaddeus. A visit from the two of them was unusual enough, but even stranger had been Helga's reaction to their arrival. Why had she sped off so quickly after wanting to hang out with them? Was she just concerned about Lady Rhonda looking down on her for hanging out with peasants? Arnold figured it probably didn't look good to Helga's family either, especially based on the stories and complaints about them which she told Arnold and whoever else would listen, but Helga didn't seem to care about that.

"That Helga's a strange one," said Gerald, almost as if he had read his friend's mind. "Why's she always hanging around with us peasants anyway? You'd think she'd have better things to do."

"Who knows," said Arnold. He certainly didn't.

XX

Helga was back home, but she had to take one last walk through her garden before she went inside, taking in the scents that wafted up from the flowers, breathing in the crisp evening air. A million thoughts raced through her mind as she looked up at the moon's smiling white face, bathing her in a glow that brought poetry from the depths of her heart.

Arnold would be at the festival. She would be at the festival. They would dance, and Arnold would fall madly in love with her, unable to resist her sultry gaze, and – wait, wait. No. That wasn't it.

Helga's emotions were flying back and forth faster than a whip held by Lady Rhonda at the head of a carriage. Which, incidentally, was why Lord Thaddeus was glad Brainy was their coachman and not his wife. But back to Helga's emotions – they were all over the place. She had seen the fact that she and Arnold were both invited to the festival as a sign, but who said it was a good sign?

The moon hung in the sky like a baleful eye, pinning Helga down in its milky glow. She caught the scent of manure and rotten vegetables coming from a nearby cesspit, slithering through the evening air. Arnold would be at the festival. She would be at the festival. They would dance, Helga would step on Arnold's toes – probably deliberately – and make fun of his peasant outfit. Arnold would hate her, because why would he not? She was almost always rude to him, and she never gave him any reason to like her. This would be a disaster.

And yet... would it?

Helga found herself torn between hope and despair when she opened the back door to the living quarters of her house, flitting about as wildly as the bats in her attic. The sun had already gone down, and the rest of the town was asleep. Helga had expected her parents to be in bed as well, but she found her mother and father sitting inside at the table, a single tallow candle flickering in the darkness. Helga stopped in the entryway with the door still hanging open. Bob's face was hidden in shadow, but she could tell he was frowning.

"Where have you been, missy?"

"Out, Bob. If you must know, I was invited to a festival earlier this evening."

"A festival?"

"That's right. A festival, at Lady Rhonda and Lord Thaddeus's castle, half a fortnight from now."

Bob nodded, his brow sinking lower over his already dark eyes.

"A festival? I remember Lord Thaddeus mentioning something about what when he stopped by the store last week. Sold him a great pair of breeches, let me tell you." Portly Bob tapped the table with his finger, deep in thought. "Maybe he invited you to give you a chance to mingle with some eligible bachelors, Helga. It might be a good opportunity for you, because while you were gone tonight I decided I just can't deal with you anymore. If you can't find a husband at that festival, I'm gonna put you in that monastery where you can learn some piety and discipline when you become a nun."

The candle sputtered out as a gust of wind slammed the door shut.

XX


Notes - I'm making no guarantees in terms of historical accuracy seeing as, while I like history, I've been reading a lot more ancient history and haven't hit the medieval stuff much yet. That, and seeing as I want it to come off a bit like a fairy tale, I can't stick to extreme historical accuracy in the first place. :) However, I have been looking things up and trying to add tidbits here and there because I at least wanted the story to have a medieval feel.

The character's ages may not exactly match how old they are in the show (they're older, and Rhonda and Curly in particular are a bit older than the rest of the characters) but in terms of personality I wanted to make them the same even if I play around with them a little.

Reviews are appreciated!