Nobody heard the Vicar’s call except the young girl who sat calmly in the front pew, watching him.
“They won’t hear you,” Princess Victoria said primly as she got to her feet. “They’re too frightened.”
“Are you not?”
“It’s only a little shaking.” But she too looked up to the ceiling and watched the chandelier swing. “What was it?”
The Vicar opened his mouth, only to shut it again a few seconds later. Then he shrugged. “Earthquake? I can only hazard a guess.”
“I suppose I shouldn’t be afraid of a little seismic activity.”
The church was empty now—except for the unlikely pair. The Vicar was a thin rake of a man at seventy, with a sharp face and short, thinning white hair. Princess Victoria was just seventeen, with a happy, round face and thick violet hair that hung past her shoulders. She held out a hand and he took it, leaning slightly on her as they walked down the aisle to the door. She could still feel slight tremors, and she looked at the Vicar.
“Aftershocks are perfectly normal,” he said, stumbling a little at the unsteady ground.
Princess Victoria nodded.
“That, however, is not quite normal.” The Vicar stopped walking.
She turned to look in front of her again, her eyes widening in surprise at the sight of a large dog with three heads. “Oh!”
“Stay back, Your Highness,” the Vicar said, pushing himself in front of her.
The dog growled.
Behind the old man, the princess moved. “Be careful!” he shouted. “He may hurt you.”
“Oh, don’t be silly, dear Vicar. Cerby won’t hurt me.” She held out a hand to the dog. “Come here, boy. What are you doing up here? Did you cause that shaking?”
The dog whined and wagged its tail. Then it nuzzled one of its heads into Princess Victoria’s hand, astonishing her companion.
“You know him?”
“Belongs to a cousin of mine.”
“A very distant cousin,” she added, seeing the look on the Vicar’s face.
“It’s a myth—”
Princess Victoria smiled. The Vicar wasn’t sure if it was intentional, but the smile didn’t exactly seem pleasant. “I’m sorry to have shaken up your view of the world, Vicar.”
“Oh, no, no, my dear princess. I know Hell is real. I just don’t understand what you have to do with it.”
“You want me to what?”
They were sitting in the Vicar’s study. Princess Victoria had a hand on Cerby’s middle head. The Vicar was pacing.
“Oh, just take care of Cerby for a few days while I find out where my cousin went. He’s in trouble.”
“You want me to dog sit while you walk into Hell.”
“Hades, Vicar dear.”
The old man was silent for a long time. “I will go with you.”
The Princess looked surprised. “You? But you belong in Heaven!”
“As do you.”
“You don’t know that.”
“I know it in my heart,” he insisted. “And it’s not safe for you to go alone! You can’t face all the powers of darkness on your own.”
“I’m quite well equipped, Vicar.”
“I must insist that you let me protect you.”
She smiled. “I don’t think anything you can offer will protect me. At any rate, they wouldn’t let you in. You’re very definitely His.”
“And you’re not?”
She sighed. “It’s complicated.”
He sat down opposite her. “So tell me about it.”
It was a strange thing to be sitting alone in his parish, stroking a three-headed dog from He—no, Hades. It was not something the Vicar had ever thought he’d find himself doing ever since dedicating his life to God and the church. Princess Victoria had been very convincing though.
“You’re the most valiant vicar I’ve ever seen,” she’d said. “No one else would be able to take care of Cerby, or even look at him without freaking out.”
“You’re just saying this so that I’ll give in to you.”
“Look, you’re even valiant enough to want to come with me.”
“It’s not about being valiant—”
“But believe me, Vicar, this is not a place you can go. So be a darling and take care of Cerby, please?”
He’d given in, after giving her reams of advice.
Both the Vicar and Cerby looked up when the place shook. Cerby whined a little and got to his feet, prompting the Vicar to stand as well.
“I guess we should see what’s happening, eh?” the man said as they headed towards the front door.
Princess Victoria stood in the doorway, a triumphant grin on her face, and an injured young man leaning on her for support. She gripped him around the waist with her left hand.
“Found him. Now we can go,” she said, clicking the fingers of her free hand at the dog. “Thank you so much Vicar.”
“You’re… you’re very welcome,” he replied.
They turned to go.
“I’ll see you both in church next Sunday?” the Vicar called as they approached the gates.
“Oh definitely,” Princess Victoria replied, turning her head to flash a cheeky grin at him. “Wouldn’t miss it for the world.”
Head over to Yuin-Y's for today's illustration.