He can scarcely register his own surprise when the ball of light within the trunk twitches and stirs. It glows like the early morning sun at the trunk’s bottom, and as Cang stares down disbelieving, it rises like the dawn up out of the trunk. The glowing ball makes a sound like a hummingbird’s wings, though Cang can make out no such appendages.
The glowing sphere zooms past Cang’s head, over his shoulder, to hover near the sleeping princess. Alarmed, Cang stalks over on the tips of his toes, ready to grab the sphere — though he’s a little afraid it might burn him. His grab is too slow, anyway. The sphere bobs and weaves out of his grasp and begins descending at speed, making straight for the princess’ face.
A rush of saliva floods Cang’s jaw, his mouth watering at the prospect of getting into the chest. His fingers play across the iron hide of the padlock, follow its loop to where the seal is cracked.
Silently, he draws the lock from its place in the trunk, sets it down on the wood floor with a soft thunk. He hears the guards moving around below, even hears the shift of the princess in her soft sheets.
Holding his breath, Cang lifts the lid of the trunk, praying to Old Ajralan — though he’d never admit it — that the hinges won’t squeak.
Cang gets his wish, but not entirely. The hinges are silent, but the trunk’s contents are softly luminous — and moving.
Cang steals over to the trunk. Its construction is tough, clearly constructed for a considerable fee by a skilled professional. Undetected, he runs his fingers over the planed wood, takes in the rivets holding tight the iron.
Of course, a heavy padlock hangs from the front. Its keyhole is clean, undisturbed, as though this trunk is not often used. Cang draws a couple lengths of wire from a pouch sewn into his vest, and expertly fans them out with his fingers. Squinting askance, he selects a wire and inserts it carefully into the lock. Twisting and turning, he chooses another, puts it in too.
As guards move about outside the princess’ chamber, Cang hears the soft click of the lock popping open.
The noise of the tumbling figure cannot be concealed, so as other guards approach to investigate, Cang heaves himself over a window sill and into the princess’ structure, a palace woven of branches and ivy suspended in the twin trees. The floors, walls, and ceilings, all are made of living material.
The interior is a single, wide open room. Against one wall, a wide, four-poster bed stands draped in drawn silks. Away from their posts about the chamber are several grey skinned guards, now looking out windows for the disturbance’s source.
Cang keeps to the shadows as a guard calls for light. When the torch is struck, Cang sees it: a sturdy trunk set with banded iron at the foot of the princess’ bed.
rugged emerald conifers
deep browns of earth and trunk
reaching for feet