It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves.
Quinn and Santana were wandering about the kingdom searching for merchants who sold the maps they needed for their nearing departure. Neither of them were in heavy armor due to the serenity of the kingdom and its villagers, but they both still took to obscuring a portion of their features with face masks that covered everything from their noses to their necks. Of course they had their swords strapped at their sides, but Santana was more than sure that they weren't going to need them.
Santana caught sight of a merchant who appeared to have the things they needed and went after him. While she was doing that, Quinn leaned up against a stone wall, waiting for her companion to get their much needed supplies. Unintentionally, the leader ended up overhearing a conversation between a few nearby commoners.
"Have you heard about the princess?"
"They say she ran away earlier this morning."
"I heard it was over an argument with Prince Finn."
"She's probably just throwing things out of proportion."
"I agree. It wouldn't be the first incident where she's behaved like this."
Quinn wasn't sure what they were talking about exactly; she hadn't heard anything about a princess running away, and to be quite honest, she didn't really care. In a few hours she and her Lady Warriors were heading out to sea and onto more important matters.
Just when the commoners ended their conversation, Santana appeared by Quinn's side, maps in hand. "Stop listening to other's conversations—it's rude."
Quinn snorted. Like rudeness had ever stopped them before. "Got the maps?"
Santana brought them to the air and waved them in front of Quinn's face. "Right here."
"Good," Quinn said. "Let's go back to the Inn. Hopefully Mercedes found the potions she needed so we can leave."
"Sick of this place already?" Santana smirked as she followed behind the blonde whilst sliding the maps into the pocket on the inside of her cloak. She knew Quinn wasn't a fan of quiet and calm areas that were simply too tranquil, but liked to ask her anyhow just for the reactions. Quinn rolled her eyes and ignored Santana's question, continuing to walk in the direction of the Inn they were residing in for the time being.
Right when Santana was digging in her pocket out of boredom to study one of the maps, the sound of extremely loud trumpets—trumpets Quinn was sure could be heard all throughout the kingdom—filled the air. Quinn and Santana both swiveled their heads to see the hoi polloi crowding around a young squire who was standing on a very high platform for all to see him.
Curiosity getting the best of them, Quinn and Santana huddled closer to the horde of people, waiting for whatever announcement that was about to be given.
"Attention everyone," the boy said in a surprisingly deep and clear voice, "For those of you who are unaware, Princess Rachel has run away from the castle. Her reasons are unclear at the time and we are investigating why exactly she left. She did not depart alone and took a male friend with her."
"She must be pregnant," Santana mumbled under her breath.
"We are sure that neither of them have gotten far, and, in the events that his knights do not find her, King William is offering anyone three times their weight in gold and twenty acres of land if they are able to return the princess safely and unscathed."
That managed to catch Santana's attention. Three times their weight in gold? That's more than three-hundred pounds of gold—six-hundred if they let Mercedes collect the reward. And the land would do them some good because they could actually have a set address and a place to stay whenever they were in town. The odds sounded pretty damn good. Santana turned to her leader only to see that Quinn had already turned around and was back to walking to the Inn.
The warrior furrowed her eyebrows and went after Quinn. "Where are you going?"
"Back to the Inn," Quinn answered simply.
Santana couldn't believe that was the reaction she got after they both heard the announcement. "Uh, did you not just hear that boy? They're offering three times our weight in gold and land just for a princess."
Quinn shrugged her off, not even attempting to slow her pace. "Yeah, so?"
"So?" Santana repeated incredulously. "Do you have any idea how much gold that is? We'll have enough money to not have to loot gangsters ever again. Tina could buy and make all the weapons she wanted, Mercedes could find a cure for every plague if she wanted to, Sugar would have access to so much food she wouldn't have to hunt another day in her life, and you and I could buy enough tobacco to last us the rest of our lives."
"You know how much I hate getting involved with royalty," Quinn sniped as she ducked under a low shoemaker sign hanging from a pole. "They promise you one thing and give you another. Once they get what they want, nothing else matters. I don't feel like dealing with that. Besides, we're leaving at sundown and don't even have time to go looking for some runaway princess."
Santana huffed and grabbed Quinn by the arm. Quinn actually stopped and turned to face her best friend. The dark-haired woman looked around for a more private area and settled for pulling them behind a large stack of hay. "Look, Q, I don't know about you but the rest of us could really use this money. We're nomads—food, weapons, shelter, and medicine are always our prime requirements. Now, unless we go around looting and pickpocketing—which is something I know you hate doing—we need currency."
"We don't need any of that stuff they're offering," Quinn replied with a sigh. "Money changes people, turns them into greedy monsters. We're better than that. Us Lady Warriors are doing fine with the jobs we're sent on by Sue."
"So you're saying you want to spend the rest of your days following Sue's orders?"
Quinn growled. "You know that's not what I meant."
Santana exhaled and took a step away from her friend. She gently tugged her mask down to reveal her nose and lips, something she did when she was around people she felt comfortable with. "Quinn, we're dealing with one measly princess and one of her little buddies—it's easy money. If we get can get to her before the King's men do, we can have her back in no time at all, collect our reward, claim our land, and be on our way."
Quinn hated when Santana put up a valid argument. The leader had no choice but to go with it even though she clearly wasn't up for tracking down a bratty princess who probably did things like this on a regular. She sighed. "Fine. Go to the docks and tell Smith that there's been a change of plans, I'll send a messenger bird to Sue so she'll know what's going on, then we'll meet back at the Inn to tell the girls."
Santana pulled her mask back over her satisfied grin. "Sounds like a plan."
Quinn pushed the wooden door open to see Sugar in the center of the room, twirling around in a circle like an energetic child. Lively behavior like that wasn't anything new when it came to the acrobat so Quinn walked right by her. "Listen up ladies, we have a new course of action."
Mercedes set down her potion book. "Where's Satan?"
"Most likely on her way from the docks," Quinn answered as she pulled down her mask and tossed her sword next to Tina on the bed. "It doesn't matter because she and I have already discussed this."
Sugar stopped twirling and looked at the blonde. "Discussed what?"
Quinn turned to her team and told them all about the princess and how they were going to search for her. Tina was down for anything as long as she could use any weapon she wanted. Mercedes seemed a bit irritated from the change of plans, but didn't say anything because getting into an argument was not something she was in the mood for. Sugar merely shrugged and slumped into the nearest chair, slightly disappointed that that was all her leader had to say.
"Why the change of plans?" Tina questioned.
"It was Santana's idea," Quinn answered, which earned an eye roll from Mercedes. "King William is offering three times a person's weight in gold and land for her safe return."
Suddenly, the three women became much more interested.
"Are you serious?" Tina squealed with abrupt delight. "Do you have any idea how many blades I can purchase?"
"I'll never go hungry again," Sugar hummed to herself.
"Hell, I'll have enough potions and medicine to give all five of us eternal life," Mercedes examined.
"Only if you're the one they choose to weigh," Santana quipped as she pushed her way through the door. "And I mean that in the kindest way possible."
Mercedes ignored the jest at her weight and went back to the topic at hand. "Let me get this straight: we go after the princess, find her, drag her back to the king and queen, collect our reward, then be on our merry way?"
Quinn nodded. "It's that simple."
"How long will this take?" Sugar asked.
"A week," Santana shrugged. "Two at the most."
"Is this going to be a tough job?" Tina questioned as she pulled out one of her pocket knives to clean her nails with.
"Only if we run into others who are searching for the princess as well," Quinn replied. "If that's not the case it should be an easy job."
Tina didn't even blink. "Hell, I don't need any more convincing. I'm for it."
Mercedes nodded. "I second that."
Sugar clapped her hands. "Count me in."
Santana smiled at her longtime companions and their enthusiasm. "Great. Now, all we have to do is head up to the castle for more information and then we can go princess hunting to our heart's content."
The five Lady Warriors packed their things and rounded up their horses. The moment they reached the bridge of the castle, they were approached by four guards and questioned on their reason for being there. Quinn explained that they were there to speak to the king on important matters. The guards were hesitant at first, but eventually allowed them access after the deadly look Santana gave them.
The ladies dismounted their horses and left them under the care of a marshal in the courtyard. Once they were actually inside of the castle, Sugar and Tina were in awe of how luxurious it was. The floors were made of fine wood and the walls were compiled of various bluestone. The room they were currently in—the ball room—was extremely lavish due to the marble floors and tasteful décor. Sugar was almost tempted to lick the walls.
Quinn, however, could've cared less about the castle's interior. Their main goal was to get the information they needed and head out.
Santana was the one who caught sight of the king first. "Hey," she bumped Quinn's side as the monarch moseyed down from the stairs, "There's the king."
The first thing Quinn noticed about the king was the unusual vest-like ensemble he was wearing, plus his hair was pushed back more than it should have been, which earned a snicker from Santana. He was talking with one of his servants, but sent them away when he saw five people standing in the middle of his ballroom.
Quinn was pleasantly surprised when the king actually flashed them a smile instead of the customary royal snarl she was used to receiving. All five of them did a little bow out of respect. "Good afternoon, Your Majesty," Mercedes greeted.
King William was taken aback by the sound of a woman's voice. From the armor they were wearing and their hidden faces, he was sure he was dealing with five men, each with decent amounts of hair. He was quick to regain his posture. "What can I do for you ladies?"
Sugar straightened up and even took the risk to pulling down her mask as to show more respect. "We're the Lady Warriors. We've come in hopes that you would give us more information on the princess, Rachel."
"No disrespect to you or your knights," Tina added quickly before the king got the wrong impression. "But there's always a chance that your men might not be able to find her, and, because of those reasons alone, we wish to search for her ourselves, just in case."
King William looked at the women a bit skeptically. They did appear well equipped, what with their thick leather armor, weapons, and intimidating masks—but in the end in they were still women. He rubbed his chin and bobbed his head a little. "Thank you, ladies, for your concern, but your help is not needed. My men are well capable of finding my daughter without the trouble of you getting in the way."
Instantly insulted, Santana had to bite back her tongue. It wasn't the first time they'd been referred to as nuisances, but still it angered her. Quinn spoke up, "Excuse me?"
The king put his hands up in lethargic defense. "Believe me ladies, I mean no disrespect. I'm only saying that you all shouldn't be running around doing a man's job. I appreciate your concern, but everything's handled here."
Santana leaned forward, but the arm Quinn placed in front of her stopped any regrettable action she was about to act out. "Believe me, Your Majesty, I mean no disrespect either, but if everything was handled like you say it is, then your princess wouldn't have run away to begin with," Santana snarled.
Sometimes Quinn really wished her friend knew how to hold her tongue. She didn't even have a right to get upset seeing as though capturing the princess was her idea in the first place. The king merely smirked at the upset woman and nodded towards the door. "Once again, your help is not needed. Please, see yourselves out," he said, finished with the conversation and not even taking the time to let them say their goodbyes before leaving.
"Rude," Mercedes said to herself. "Let's just leave before Santana gets us beheaded."
They all internally agreed, Santana the only one cursing in her native language under her breath. Quinn wasn't even surprised with the way King William reacted to them wanting to help, so she wasn't as upset as Santana was. Honestly, she wasn't even sure if she still wanted to go looking for the princess, because after being treated like that, a reward was not guaranteed. Even so, it was too late to turn back now.
The warriors were just about to exit out the entrance doors when someone called after them. "Wait!"
They turned to see none other than the prince, running up to them. Quinn rolled her eyes. She wasn't in the mood for dealing with any more royalty than obligatory. "We're already headed out, Your Highness-"
That wasn't why the prince called out to them, however. "No," he said once he reached them. "I don't want you to leave. I wish to speak with all of you, privately."
Quinn raised her brow suspiciously. "Your Highness-"
"Please," the prince interrupted again, "Call me Blaine."
They all were dumbfounded by the informal title from someone of such high caliber. Tina shook her head. "I don't think that's appropriate."
"It is if I want it to be," Blaine answered with a bit more vigor. "Now please, come with me so we can all talk."
"About what?" Sugar asked.
Blaine had already turned to leave and answered over his shoulder, "My sister."
The prince had the warriors follow him up the hallway stairs and into the library. There they were all able to sit and even admire the coziness of the large open room while Blaine internally fussed over what he wanted to say to them.
"I overheard the conversation you all had with my father," he started. "And I think he's wrong for sending you all away the way he did. I mean I understand that you cannot simply trust anyone with certain information, but still. I…I don't know why exactly, but there's something about you five that I feel that I can trust."
Quinn examined the prince as he spoke. He was a very handsome man though he did not look much like the king at all. His features were much sharper, regardless of the fact that he was younger than the king. He was short, much shorter than a man his age should have been, but his fit build made up for his height. What he and his father did have in common, however, were their slick back hairstyles. Eerily similar.
Blaine continued on. "For a few months now, my sister Rachel has been courted by Finn, a prince from a nearby kingdom, and ultimately the man everyone expected her to marry. Now, from what I've seen and the conversations I've had with him, Finn is a very arrogant and egotistical person, not to mention selfish, but he supposedly has his moments where Rachel adores him."
"Sounds like we got a hopeless romantic on our hands," Mercedes observed.
Blaine nodded. "I hate to say it but my sister is in love with the idea of being in love. There are times when she simply cannot see Finn for who he really is: a pompous jackass."
"Well if you can see who he really is, why haven't you encouraged her to break things off with him?" Tina questioned the noble.
"I have, many times," he replied with a deep sigh. "The main problem is our dad. He really likes Finn and normally overlooks the outlandish things he says and does. Our dad wants Rachel to marry Finn so our kingdoms will merge and gain more allies."
"And Rachel doesn't want to marry Finn?" Quinn examined.
Blaine shrugged. "I thought she did. She just doesn't want to have to leave her home to become the future queen of another kingdom, so I'm guessing that's the reason she left."
"I don't blame her," Santana peeped.
Quinn wasn't sure that was all there was to the story. "There's a rumor going around saying that Rachel and Finn got into an argument. Do you know anything about that?"
Blaine nodded. "That's what Finn claimed, but he has yet to go into detail. It might have something to do with...uh..."
"What?" Sugar said, wondering what caused him to trail off.
"Nothing, nothing," he lied, but in such a way that gave the impression that whatever he was about to say wasn't important. Quinn eyed him, but said nothing.
"So what about the male friend she left with?" Santana asked. "Who is he?"
Blaine's solemn frown quickly curled into a small grin from the change of topic. "That would be Kurt, Rachel's best friend. They've been side by side for as long as anyone can remember."
"Do you think anything is actually going on between them?" Mercedes asked. Hell, for all they knew the entire situation could have been due to some unplanned pregnancy or something of the sorts.
Blaine let his eyelids fall and he smiled a bit. "I'm more than sure that's not the issue here."
Santana caught his change of expression and found it suspicious, but chose not to address it openly. Quinn also wondered why the prince smiled when they brought up this Kurt fellow. It didn't seem right in either of their eyes.
"Is there anything else we should know?" Sugar questioned. "Anything that could help us?"
The prince stepped back and took a seat in one of the many lounge chairs in the area. He was thinking, thinking about anything that could have helped them bring his sister back. There were many things he could have told them—how she was a phenomenal singer, that grapes were her favorite fruit, how she can cry on demand—but none of it would have been very beneficial.
Blaine snapped his fingers, "I got it! The Land of the Stars."
Sugar scratched the back of her head and frowned. "The what?"
"The Land of the Stars," Blaine repeated. "When she was little, our mother used to tell her stories about this dreamlike island in the sky. I don't know much about it because I never cared for the stories, but Rachel treasured them. I'm not sure how to get there exactly, something about always heading north."
"Are you implying that there may be a chance your sister is trying to reach the Land of the Stars?" Quinn asked unbelievingly. If that were the case then she was sure they were dealing with one hell of a fantasist. She didn't know much about the Land of the Stars either, but she knew it was no easily reachable place.
Blaine nodded. "I hate to think that Rachel would go that far, but there is always that possibility."
Santana looked frustrated. "That's the most absurd thing I've ever heard."
"Well, my sister has always been an oblivious dreamer, very intense and dramatic," Blaine explained. "Don't be surprised if she gives you a run for your money."
"That shouldn't be a problem," Sugar declared smugly as she stood and stretched, ready to get on with their hunt. The others who were sitting stood as well.
Blaine followed their lead and extended his arm for Quinn to take. "You have the information you need?"
"More than enough," she answered as she shook his hand. "We'll do our best to find your sister."
Blaine let out a little relieved breath, as if what Quinn said was a guaranteed safe return for his sister. "Thank you…uh…"
"Quinn. My name is Quinn."
He smiled. "Thank you, Quinn." He turned to the others in the room, "And thank you, Lady Warriors."
Tina and Sugar curtsied in the most feminine way possible. Mercedes and Santana dipped their heads to show her respect while Quinn let go of Blaine's surprisingly soft hand. "It's no problem, Blaine. We'll send you a messenger bird to keep you up to date or if we need your assistance."
"Wait, before you go." Blaine pushed back the sleeve of his cotton lace-up shirt to reveal a thin, gold, cuff bracelet that featured a diamond-incrusted star in the middle with baby stars surrounding it. The item was admirable and even heightened Tina's kleptomaniac-senses. Mercedes put an arm in front of her friend to keep her from doing anything foolish while Quinn's eyes were focused on the bracelet.
"A good luck gift?" Tina insisted with wide eyes.
Blaine laughed and shook his head. "No, this is Rachel's. I gave it to her as a present when she turned fourteen. It was on my dresser this morning; she must have left it as she was leaving. Here," Blaine slipped it off and handed it over to the leader of the group. "Take it with you, so Rachel can know that it was me who sent you. She'll be able to trust you."
Quinn understood. It was a desperate move, trusting strangers with valuable jewelry in hopes that it would help their search. Luckily for him, Quinn wasn't the type to take advantage of others or allow her team to do so. "If we fail to bring her back, I'll return the bracelet myself."
"I would hope so," Blaine smiled. "If you don't, Rachel will slaughter me."
"Mercedes," Quinn called as she mounted her horse. "Take the bracelet; try to get a scent of the princess and go with it, maybe that'll help us track her down sooner."
The potion maker took the bracelet and brought it to her nose, immediately breathing in the aroma of lavender and, from what her nose could decipher, what jasmine flowers smelled like. "Do you want me to lead?"
"Of course," Quinn answered as she reclaimed the bracelet and tucked it safely into her hip pouch. Mercedes mounted her horse and trotted to the front of the herd, Tina and Sugar following behind her. Left in the back were Quinn and Santana—Santana not even bothering to grip the reins to steer her stallion; her attention was on the map she held in her hands.
"What have I told you about watching where you're going and controlling your steed?" Quinn nagged even though she knew what Santana was doing was never a problem. The warrior had eyes in the back of her head and her peripheral vision was astounding. She could close her eyes and know exactly where she was going without fumble.
"Snix knows where she's going," Santana answered, referring to her horse. "She just follows the other horses."
The bizarre name still gets Quinn, so she laughed.
"So what are your plans exactly?" Santana asked as she studied her map.
The leader shrugged. "We'll have Mercedes sniff the princess out and when we find her we'll tell her who we are and who sent us."
"And if she doesn't cooperate?"
"Then we drag her back kicking and screaming," Quinn quipped. "We'll take her back to her castle, collect our reward, and then go back to running jobs for Sue."
Santana nodded. That didn't sound like a terrible plan to her. It was so simple she was already planning on what she was going to with the gold once she got her share.
Mercedes took a quick turn that found the girls finally on the outskirts of the kingdom. Quinn didn't realized how glad she was to be back on the hunt until she looked back at the castle, high and affluent, cluttered with wealthy royals who did nothing but cause trouble. Good riddance.
"Mercedes," Quinn called to the front, "have you tracked her scent?"
"Straightaway," she hollered over her shoulder.
Perfect. They were going to find her in no time at all. "San?"
"Which way are we headed?"
Santana tore her eyes from her map and looked around, barely even making an effort to take in her surroundings.
"North," she answered. "We're heading north."