The Brave Princess
“You must be brave,” Sal Amanda, the giant, magical mackerel said gravely.
“I don’t feel very brave,” Princess Katrina said.
Sal Amanda rose up from the edge of the lake and took the princess’ face in her fins; her own face so close that the princess could see only the fish’s bulbous eyes and could smell the salt on her breath. “You can do this.” She slapped the princess gently with a fin and then splashed backward into the lake.
The princess lifted her chin. “I can do this,” she said, and almost believed it. “Can’t you come with me?” she asked the fish plaintively.
“I can’t,” Sal Amanda said firmly. “You have to do this on your own. Besides, I’m a fish.”
“Right, right,” the princess said. “Sorry.”
“That’s okay. You can take this with you.” Sal Amanda splashed at the water until bubbles formed. One bubble grew bigger as the others subsided, growing until it was about the size of a regular human’s fist, and then it rose out of the water and toward the princess, solidifying into a heavy crystal ball.
The orb was large, cool, and comforting in her hand. The princess held it to her ear and heard Sal Amanda say, “This will guide your path to your enemy and then safely back to me. It heats up if you’re in danger and –”
“Oh, I can hear you through the bubble!” the princess exclaimed. “Does this mean that you will be able to advise me, even when we are far from each other?”
“No,” Sal Amanda said. “Take the orb away from your ear. You can hear me because I’m right in front of you.”
“Ah-ha,” the princess chuckled. “Yes, of course.”
Sal Amanda shook her head. “It’s okay. Hold onto the orb and when it warms, it means that you are closer to the enemy, and when it cools, it means you are farther away.”
“Oh, like the child’s game!”
“This is no game, Princess!” the fish shouted. She ducked down into the water and swam back and forth a few times, before resurfacing. “I apologize for that,” Sal Amanda said, her voice calmer. “I worry about you, I really do.”
The warmth of friendship spread through the princess’ body, even as the glass orb in her dainty hand stayed cool. “Thank you,” she said, gratefully. She bent down to kiss Sal Amanda between the eyes.
She stood, adjusted the pack on her back with her equally dainty free hand, and then started off through the forest, her steps firm and confident.
The path to her enemy’s lair was long and crooked, just like his heart.
The orb warmed steadily as she walked, and then heated up suddenly. The princess stopped and a moment later, an arrow flashed by her face. “Nice try, Sorcerer!” she said out loud.
A hundred yards later, the princess tripped over a vine that was lying across the path and the orb heated up again. She stopped just in time to avoid walking into a pit that opened up in front of her. She took an illogically long leap and landed safely on the other side of the pit.
The princess sighed. “This is going to be exhausting,” she said. “I’m going to put on my Cloak of Oblivion and that will save me from these attacks.” She set the orb down and shrugged her backpack off. She rummaged through it, looking for the cloak, only to realize that she was already wearing it. She pulled the hood up and settled it onto her head, and instantly felt invincible and invisible. She spied an apple in the pack and pulled it out. It was huge. She held it in her teeth long enough to tie up the pack and settle it onto her back. She picked up the orb and started back down the path, crystal in one hand, apple in the other.
As she walked, she stepped over any vines that seemed to have fallen across the path. Aside from the intermittent heating of the orb, she was, thanks to the cloak, largely unaware of any of the dangers of the path that she was on.
The orb continued to heat up incrementally, and by the time she noticed the tiny, unkempt cottage, she was almost at the front door. The orb was almost hot enough to burn and she tossed it aside, before kicking down the already battered door.
“Ah-ha!” she shouted, as her nemesis turned away from the cauldron in the fireplace, and toward the princess.
The princess didn’t notice the watery bowl of soup in his hands or the hungry children at the table. She didn’t notice the shabbiness of his clothes or the tattered rug on the floor. All she saw was her enemy, a man who had set the path to his home with nefarious traps, traps that could have killed her if not for her quick thinking, ingenuity, supreme intelligence, and the magical accessories that had been given to her.
She drew her sword. “What do you want from me, you fiend?!” she shouted.
The sorcerer sighed wearily and shuffled slowly over to the kitchen table. He placed the bowl of soup gently on the table and then picked up a petition. He held it out to her. “Equal pay for men?” he asked feebly.
“NEVER!” roared the princess. She sliced off the sorcerer’s head in one clean motion, spattering blood across the horrified faces of his children and then returned the sword to its scabbard. She picked up the bowl of soup and sipped. “Not enough salt,” she muttered, and tossed it over her shoulder, as she left.
She stepped over the broken door and sauntered back into the forest. Without her orb, she had no idea where she was going, but wherever it was, it would be somewhere victorious.
Back in the lake, Sal Amanda swam lazily, close to the shoreline, awaiting her princess’ return. “She’s an idiot,” she gurgled to herself. “But when she’s queen, I will be her advisor, and that’s all that matters.”