--This is an EDIT of the previous post, after some reflection, moving things around so that this particular quest comes earlier in the 7 (there are 7 quests - it's a Magic number, really) This whole "quests of Roop" thing is part of a MUCH larger WIP that I've been working on since last August. (Actually it's the least developed part...which conversly is why I'm able to write it.)--
On his second journey into the forest, Roop felt much more prepared. He had kept quite busy over the year, much to the disappointment of his mother and her ladies who had very specific ideas on appropriate pastimes for a young prince. He had eluded the garden parties, balls, afternoon teas and weekend visits through a carefully acquired ability to be consistently unavaliable with a series of equally creative, plausible and irreproachable excuses. Shortly after he'd returned from his barely successful venture into the Green Forest last year, Roop had realized how important it was that he gain this knowledge, and quickly. Not so very long after this realization, Roop was sure it would be impossible to escape from his loving mother's attentions. He had been sitting in the garden, wondering what he was to do when he was approached by one of his godfathers, Baron Brandek. Brandek had a reputation for mad brilliance which earned him both the respect and fear of the younger generations.
"I say, my boy, I say. You look positively down in the dumps? How long has it been? Two weeks? Well, you're ahead of schedule, but then you always were a bright lad. Let me see what I can do."
And, with that, the old man turned and galumphed back the way he'd come. Roop had not given it much thought, Brandek was an eccentric old gentleman, but he meant well. Two days later, he got his first invitation to the Brandek estate. He would spend much of the next year hunting in its wild mountain forests, studying in the cool, dry library and learning to respect the odd meanderings of the Baron Brandek as he taught Roop the lore and legends of the Green Lady.
So it was that, as he strode down the forest path for a second time, prince Roop felt cautiously optimistic. Brandek explained that the task of training kings to be had fallen to his family for generations. He had trained Roop's father for these tasks, as his father had trained Roop's father's father. Surely even the Green Lady would respect the ages old traditions, there was no way he would get lost this time.
Two hours, three advice giving hedgehogs, a hedge maze, a hedge witch and several hundred identical fir trees later, Roop finally found his way through to the cliff base. He looked up, this was most certainly not the place he'd been last year. In fact, he could see nothing familiar in any direction. However, somehow, he knew this was the place. He looked up, sure enough, about half way up the cliff face was the sigil. He'd been warned about this. The Green Lady had ways of perceiving a prince's fears and making him face them. Fortunately for him, so had the Baron Brandek. He pulled out climbing ropes and stakes, gathered his nerve and began a slow climb.
"Huzzah! Three cheers for the kingling! A masterful climb!" As he pulled himself over the lip and into the cool darkness of the cavern a figure of leaves, bark, moss and sunlight pranced towards him, doing a credible impression of a dirty little girl. The image curtsied, "Why hello little prince! And what can I do for you today?"
"It is not you who can do for me, but I who do for you, and well you know it. Set me your task, oh Lady Green, and I shall go forth with my best vim & vigour." He smiled, bowed to the leafy girl. Lesson one: it was best to play along and keep the Green Lady amused.
"Always straight to business with you ever hopeful kinglings, isn't it? Well, at least you are courteous. Your father was ever so boring!" The leaf girl flitted here and there, in and out of shadow and sun. "You boys are my only distraction in these long seasons, you could at least try to be amusing."
"I suppose I had not thought of it quite that way." And actually, he hadn't. All the training he'd received had described the Green Lady as full of mischief and fun. No-one had mentioned the possibility of lonely. "Perhaps I could come again some other time of the year, just to visit?"
"Well, aren't you the sweetheart! You're the first prince to ever offer to visit and I just might appreciate the company. What an exciting prospect." The leafy girl whirled about, all her pieces and parts flying hither and yon, reminding Roop of nothing so much as one of his father's older counsellors who was fond of pacing back and forth. Her muttering was like the rustle of leaves in wind. "Would you come in the winter? I'm ever so lonely in the winter. Or maybe the spring...then I'll feel like showing off though and that might be too much too soon. I'll think on it, arrangements could be made, arrangements could be made." Then, just as suddenly, the Green Lady seemed to remember his presence in the here and now. She turned, the acorn that currently served as an ear still spinning round and round. "So kind of you to offer, young Prince, you shall have my reply posthaste!"
"Thank you, kind Lady." He bowed again, this was a very different Green Lady than he had seen last year. He wondered what had effected this change in temperment, perhaps a result of the weather? "Perhaps now, you could speak to me of my quest?"
"Of course the quest! The Quest!" The sunlight, until that moment shadowed and green, burst out brightly, spangling the room with little spots of yellow light and suddenly her voice was much less that of a little girl and much more like the ancient and austere persona he'd met a year ago.
"You shall be tested both night and day,
seek the potter who works in black clay.
Turn the wheel that shapes us all.
But be wary of a fall.
He who tries to turn his own.
May leave behind an empty throne."
And then, before he could even bend down and pick up his climbing rope, he was on a road, on the edge of the forest, looking out into darkness. A branch...blown by the wind?...pushed at his shoulders. Hours had passed in what seemed like minutes and the moon was almost directly overhead. It would be midnight soon.