Marianne wasn't sure which was more infuriating. The fact that she was locked up behind bars, or that those bars had solid doors on the other side of them. She couldn't even berate her guards properly. Oh, she was giving them her saltiest language, and at the top of her lungs, but the best impact was surely lost in the muffling wood.
At length, her throat dried out, and she flopped down on the (surprisingly cushy) bed in her (surprisingly spacious) cell, and simply glared at the door. She didn't expect this to have any real effect. But, since the Bog King had crashed the Elves celebration, stuffed her into a sack, and kidnapped her, she wasn't feeling anything but glare-y.
This never would have happened if Father would let me bring my sword when he forced me to go to parties, she thought.
A commotion outside her cell pulled her from her sulk, and she jumped to her feet, staying well out of reach of the door, but with her fists at the ready.
The outer doors opened, and she gaped. Standing there was, not the Bog King she had expected, but Roland. She had thought her day couldn't get any worse. His perfect, punchable face was framed in the bars as he beamed disingenuously at her. Around his stupid, fat head, she could see Dawn and Sunny, standing a little further back, holding hands. About time, Marianne thought. She might not be into love, anymore, but her sister really was. And Marianne had always know Sunny was really into Dawn.
“Sugar Pie!” Roland crowed, dragging her attention, reluctantly, back to him. “I've come to rescue you from the clutches of that evil, scheming, and seriously ugly Bog King!” He struck a pose.
“Trade!” came the rough voice of the aforementioned monarch. She hadn't noticed his spindly form looming in the doorway, behind her sister and her new beau. “You came to trade the love potion for the Princess. Now hand it over, and go away!”
“Love potion?” Marianne muttered. “Wait, what love potion?”
“Tha one he,” and the Bog King bopped Sunny, ungently, on the head, “snuck into my castle and had the Sugar Plum Fairy make for him. Tha one he's,” pointing at Roland, this time, “going to hand back. Now.” He opened his large, taloned hand, expectantly.
Sunny rubbed his head and looked sheepish. Dawn hovered over him, and swatted at the Bog King for hurting her “Sunny Wunny.” The Bog King stoically ignored her. Marianne began to like this situation less and less.
“You don't get this potion until I'm sure Marianne is safe and...unmolested!” Roland protested, with a leering insinuation dripping from the last word that made Marianne's stomach turn. “Open these bars!” he commanded.
“Hand over the potion!” the Bog King countered.
“I see her safe, first, creature!” Roland gestured furiously, and Marianne could finally see the glowing pink bottle clutched in one of his fists. It didn't seem to have a stopper on it.
“I'm perfectly safe in here, thanks!” she hastily interjected, backing away door.
“Oh, my Love, you're so brave! It brings a tear to my eye to see how strong you are even after that monster's depredations!” Roland simpered at her. “Come over here so I can assure myself that you really are safe.”
“Uh, no,” Marianne said, taking a few more steps back. “I'm not going anywhere near you. Not unless it means I get to punch you.” Behind Roland, Dawn had sighingly draped herself over an increasingly panicked looking Sunny, and the Bog King's expression of incredulity was rapidly growing.
“Huh,” The Bog King grunted. “He said he was your 'paramour.'” He made finger quotes with his talons.
“Not likely,” Marianne scoffed. “I've had more than enough of that nonsense. He can jump in a lake, and take all his 'Sugar Pies' with him.”
The Bog King smirked. “I think I see.” He approached Roland, skirting as far around the slowly collapsing, lovey-dovey pile of DawnandSunny, as he could. “Enough talk. Hand over the potion, and I'll release her once you've left." He appeared to think for a moment. "Maybe."
“Fiend! I knew you would never uphold an honorable bargain!” Roland drew his sword from its sheath and lunged.
Half a second later, he found himself staring at his empty and stinging palm. Marianne had never seen someone move so fast! The Bog King finished the sweep of his staff as Roland's sword clattered to the floor in a far corner. While Roland was still processing his rapid change in circumstance, the Bog King stepped close, yanked the bottle of Love Potion from his other hand and dumped it over Roland's head. Then he kicked him in the direction of a group of observing goblins, who scattered, shrieking like young children upon mention of the word “cooties.”
Marianne found herself watching in morbid fascination as a rather fishy looking specimen of Goblin couldn't get out of the way fast enough, and Roland fell instantly enamored of him...her...it? She found herself a little nauseous as she watched Roland turn on the slimy, insincere charm with which he'd once blinded her. Then she covered her mouth to stifle a giggle when another goblin, who rather resembled a gourd, tried to insert her-...it-...himself? between Roland and the new target of his affections. A tussle began, and the trio fought, tripped, and brawled their way out of the room.
The Bog King graced her with a satisfied smile that she couldn't help returning.
“Alright!” he roared. “Someone help those two,” Sunny had long ago failed to hold up Dawn's weight, and laid on the floor underneath her, looking miserable, “up and back to the border. Someone else help Stuff and Thang deal with that blond thug. The rest of you, DON'T YOU HAVE SOMETHING TO DO?!?”
Goblins scattered, a very large one simply scooping up the SunnyandDawn pile on his way out, and a few seconds later Marianne was alone with the Bog King. He approached her cell, and unlocked the bars. Opening them, he quickly stepped back, not eager for another taste of her temper, or her tiny but very hard, fists.
“You're free to go, Princess.” He gestured toward the stairs. “I presume, seeing you're the only one in this mess who seems to have any sense, that you can find your way home?” He kicked the empty Potion bottle into the shadows.
Marianne looked around cautiously as she exited her cell. Now that she was free, she could actually appreciate how peaceful the dungeon was. No one had scolded her for her clothes, or flirted with her (well, aside from Roland) or tried to MAKE her do anything, except stay in that cell, all day. And not a soul had tried to make her change who she was or what she thought.
“Actually,” she drawled, as she picked up Roland's sword and fastened it to her own belt, “can I stay a while?”
The Bog King's eyebrows shot into the stratosphere.
Marianne waved a hand in the direction everyone else had vanished. “You can see what I have to deal with out there! They're all crazy! It actually seems sort of peaceful in your castle.”
At that exact moment, a goblin, who had somehow set their hair on fire, ran shrieking through the room and out, again. They turned as one to watch it...him...her? pass, and neither moved or spoke until the last echoes of the screams had faded away. The Bog King turned to Marianne and wordlessly cocked his head and pointed a stiff hand in the direction the burning goblin had fled. The and I'm not dealing with crazy? implication was crystal clear.
After a moment's contemplation Marianne decided. “I can handle that.”
The Bog King rubbed a hand over the back of his head. “Well, er, then. Dinner?”