The Art of Happily Ever After
Once upon a time, a group of knights received a distress call. “It’s another princess in trouble,” the leader of the knights said. “Who wants to deal with this one?”
“I helped with the last one,” Sir Cadmium said. “The one who turned herself into a goldfish somehow. It took me forever to find the right fish in that fountain. It had fourteen basins, and every single one was filled with goldfish. I had to hold them up one at a time for the prince to kiss, and it made him really grumpy.”
“I helped with the princess stuck in a tree. Why on earth she wished for wings, I don’t know,” Sir Ultramarine said. “The wings were all tangled in the branches and they didn’t want me to snap a single twig of the tree because it was some rare ancient important tree. I was there for twenty hours, and she complained every minute.”
“Don’t look at me,” Sir Ochre said. “I just got back from rescuing those twin princesses last week. The ones lost in the cave looking for some sort of fairyland ball, you remember? They didn’t want to be rescued, not matter what their parents said. They kept ordering me to leave, and the king would order me right back in. In the end, they gave up, but by then my feet hurt from running back and forth and fetching them things so they wouldn’t starve to death out of stubbornness. I still have blisters on my blisters.”
The leader looked around the circle. “Sir Umber is still tracking down the princess who ran away with the unicorns, and Sir Viridian is rescuing the princess who wished to be a mermaid. That leaves you, Sir Sap.”
“Why do I have to be Sir Sap. Can’t I be Sir Thalo or Sir Payne?”
The leader shrugged. “It’s the King who knights us. He picks the names.”
“You’ll take the assignment? Great. Here’s the folder.”
Sir Sap jumped out of his seat. “That’s not what I meant. I helped the princess who got turned into a baby and crawled into a cupboard and fell asleep and no one could find her and…”
It was too late. Everyone had already left. Sir Sap sighed and picked up the folder. As always, the king had written the details in an awful scrawl that was nearly impossible to read. The hand painted map was lovely, but impractical. Sir Sap sighed. Was it too late to go back to dental school?
Hours later, he was following the map, hoping to rescue a princess who was maybe stuck in a well or writing a will. It was a little confusing. The woods he was passing through were dark and scary, and there wasn’t really much of a path.
But, Sir Sap was a brave knight who wasn’t scared of the dark at all. And if he was, he wouldn’t tell anyone. He pulled out his lunch and decided to eat while he walked. He always felt braver when he was eating. It was a good thing being a knight had so many opportunities for exercise, or he’d probably weigh a thousand pounds.
Just then, he heard growling off to his left. He looked down. Perhaps eating a roast beef sandwich in a forest filled with who-knows-what was a bad idea. Something started crashing though the bushes, and it sounded like it was getting closer.
A bear crashed onto the path. Sir Sap threw his sandwich as hard as he could to the right. After the bear ran past, chasing the sandwich, Sir Sap ran to the left. He stopped to catch his breath under a tree. “Is the bear gone?” a voice asked from above.
Sir Sap looked up. A lady dressed in black was sitting up in the branches of the tree. A witch? “It’s gone,” he said. “Couldn’t you have magicked it away?”
“I’m an herbalist,” she said. She began to climb down. “I make potions. It’s a different kind of magic. It doesn’t work right away. You have to be patient. But it works better because I tailor the potions to the individual, so it’s just what you need and works just right for you.” She jumped from the lowest branches.
“It is good to meet you, Madam Herbalist. I have great respecct for your craft. Could you tell me the way out of the forest? My map isn’t very clear.”
She pointed the way, and soon Sir Sap was able to rescue the princess stuck inside a rosebush on a hill. It was a massive, enchanted rosebush, and he ended up needing to find a prince to cut the whole thing down with tiny enchanted silver scissors. Organizing the witches and wizards and silversmiths and the very confused prince to find the solution took days.
Luckily, the princess and prince fell in love over the whole ordeal, and looked like they’d probably live happily ever after. This was always the best possible scenario, because it meant one less princess getting into trouble. Sir Sap went home, happy with the knowledge that all went well, and he wouldn’t have to rescue the next princess in trouble. It was probably Sir Ultramarine’s turn.
When he reached the forest, the herbalist was out picking leaves off of some harmless looking weeds. Suddenly, Sir Sap was struck by how normal it was. Here was someone who climbed a tree when she was chased by a bear, and didn’t ask her fairy godmother to change her into a bird or a dragon or a snowman in the middle of the summer.
Sir Sap realized he was tired of being a knight. He was tired of trying to help people who kept misusing powerful magic and never learning their lesson. He was tired of princesses. “Is it hard to learn to be an herbalist?” he asked.
“Well, it takes patience. You don’t learn everything all at once. But, if you like helping people and are good at figuring things out, it might be just right for you.” She smiled and picked up her basket. “I wouldn’t mind having an apprentice to help out at the shop. I have more business than I can deal with right now.”
“I’ll return within the week. I just need to hand paint a letter of resignation,” Sir Sap said. He was already mentally composing the letter. He was thinking of using one-point perspective to draw attention to the words “I quit” in the center of the page. He would sign it John, and be Sir Sap no more. And maybe, if things worked out just right, he’d find his own happily ever after.