"Why are you calling me a princess?" Kate asked. "I'm nobody special. I don't know how I got here. I don't even know where 'here' is."
Again the man - wait, an elf- she corrected herself - spoke in his strange language. Kate realized that she only began to understand him when part of the tree was touching him. She willed the tree to reach out to the stranger again.
His eyes went wide as he saw the bough lowering towards him, but he remained on his knees. A sigh escaped his lips when it gently touched his shoulder.
"Can you understand me know?" Kate asked him.
"Yes, my lady," the elf replied. "It is as it was prophesied. You have returned to us."
"I don't understand. Returned? I've never been here," she said. "Where is here, anyway? Do you know how I can get back home?"
"You are in Zanor, my lady. In the woodland province of Fawla. I know not from where you have come nor how you would return," he answered. "You have been gone for hundreds of years. The prophesies said you would return in our darkest hour. And our darkest hour is indeed now." He shifted under the heavy branch. “My lady, if I may be so bold, I believe there is a better way for us to communicate.”
“Oh, I’m sorry. I’m so new at this,” Kate apologized. “What can I do?”
“If you pick a blossom from one of the trees, your power will keep it alive. If I wear the flower in my hair, it will do the same thing, so the legends tell us.”
Kate plucked a purple bloom from a tree that otherwise looked like an oak. “Stay alive,” she thought at the flower in her hand. The half open petals extended to their maximum glory and appeared to shine ever so slightly. She took the flower and wove the stem through the elf’s blonde locks. The tree branch returned to its normal position.
“Did that work?”
“Yes, my lady,” he said, standing. “This will work much better.”
“Stop calling me that, please,” she said. “My name is Kate. I’m nobody special.”
“I am Kreelan. And you are indeed our lost princess.”
"If your princess has been gone for hundreds of years, how do you know that I'm who you are looking for? You don't live that long, do you?"
"No, we do not, my lady." He shook his head. "My kind live for now more than 200 years. The goblins that threaten us are said to live for over a thousand years, however. But you must be our lost princess, because the legends told of her power to have green plants do her bidding."
"I've never been able to do that before. I fell through a book and landed here. When I arrived, my cat had grown in size and my eyes and hair had changed color. I don't know what happened."
"Maybe a witch had cursed you to make you think you were another and you just broke her spell," he offered.
"I'm pretty sure I lived a normal life of thirty-t-- err, twenty-nine years. Besides, have you ever seen a cat that looked like that?" She pointed at Trippy who was grooming herself nearby.
"We have not cats in this part of the world. I would not know if your companion was unusual or not."
Kate was running out of arguments. She still found the idea of her being some lost princess for hundreds of years ago to be ludicrous. But maybe she should just go with it. There could be worse things than being waited on hand and foot until she could figure out how to get back home. Something Kreelan had mentioned earlier tickled at the back of her mind.
“Now what was this about your darkest hour?”
“We have been overrun by goblins,” he explained. “They have enslaved my people. We need you to free us from our oppressors.”
“I don’t know anything about goblins,” she complained. “How would my control over plants help? They won’t all meet me here in the woods, would they?”
“Alas, they would not, your majesty. Goblins abhor nature,” he answered. “I don’t know what you would need to do. I’m not a fighter or a scribe. I am but a poor hunter trying to feed my family. But come with me. I will introduce you to Regkor, the scribe for my village. He should be able to answer your questions better.”
Kreelan pointed in a direction away from the water. Trippy bounded off into the woods in the direction he pointed. Kate looked at Kreelan and shrugged. “Well, after you, I guess.”