This story was originally posted on April 17, 2019. I think we all do great and terrible things now and then. And sometimes, the bad choices we make can cause us big problems down the road. In fairy tales, the effects are magnified, of course. I think that’s what makes them so much fun to read.
This story was originally posted on May 23, 2018. Sometimes bad things happen in life that we don’t understand. It is still possible to move forward and find happiness. It will probably take help and patience and hard work. If we’re lucky, we’ll also find brioche and jam along the way.
Aspen already knew what her costume would be. She was going to be the princess under the bed and champion the rights of monsters everywhere. Who else was as brave and strong and amazing?
Her mom helped her zip up the dress without catching any of her fur in the zipper. She put her crown on, settling it right behind her third eye. Aspen grinned at the mirror.
She was missing a baby fang, but otherwise she looked very princessy. It was perfect. She smoothed out her fur and jumped down from the stool.
Aspen was ready for a night of tricks and treats. She picked up her plastic pail and waited by the door. After taking far too many pictures, her mom finally took her out into the delightfully scary sunshine.
It was fun to be out so late in the day, when the sun was shining and casting odd spooky shadows everywhere. Tree branches cast shadows that looked like human hands reaching out to catch her. Aspen held her mom’s paws a little tighter and tried not to look at them.
Aspen rang her neighbor’s doorbell and waited. Even with her mom right next to her, she felt a little nervous. She could hear old Mr. Dragon shuffling to the door. His tail made a swishing sound when he walked.
“Hello?” he said, opening the door just a crack.
“Tricks or Treats.” Aspen smiled widely, showing all her fangs.
“Oh, how terrifying!” Mr. Dragon opened the door a little wider. “Is that the princess under the bed, visiting my old cave? I’d better show her my best tricks.”
Aspen giggled. “It’s me, Aspen. I want to see your best tricks, please.”
And so Mr. Dragon breathed fire in the shape of spiders and bats. He said a spell and one of the firebats was cool enough to sit on her hand for a few seconds before it flew off with the others, fading away into the bright sky. Aspen applauded until her paws hurt.
Mr. Dragon bowed and smiled, and then he shuffled back inside. His door clicked shut. Aspen didn’t feel nervous any longer. She raced to the next house with her mom following behind.
Hours later, her plastic pail was full of treats. She’d collected brussel sprouts and broccoli and cauliflower and cabbage and radishes and turnips. Even better, she’d seen so many amazing tricks.
The yetis built a snow maze that didn’t melt. The Scottish monsters could disappear and reappear and did a dance that seemed to take place in four dimensions. The vampires made the area around their house dark as night whenever someone knocked on their door. It was strange to stand on their front porch in the darkness and see daylight stretch like a curtain around the outside of their lawn.
The shadows were smaller and less scary by the time Aspen got home. She was so tired. She couldn’t remember ever staying up this late. Her dad took her pail and exclaimed over all the treasures.
“Daddy tax. I get all the brussel sprouts,” he declared.
Aspen gave him a stern princess glare. “That’s not fair. You can’t have all of them.”
“What a scary princess you are.” Dad grinned. “You win. We’ll share them.”
“And Mom too,” Aspen said. “Did you do tricks or treats this year?”
“Treats. We still have some peas left over. Maybe next year I’ll think of a good trick to do.” Dad gave her a hug. “It’s time to go to sleep. Do you need me to tuck you under the bed?”
Aspen hugged her mom and then stood up straight and tall. “I can brush my fangs and get to bed by myself. I’m the princess under the bed.” She started to walk away and then paused. “Could someone help me with my zipper?”
I want to be a vampire butterfly unicorn princess for Halloween.
I’m fine with that…if you’re making the costume.
Once there was a dragon who woke up to a a terrible crashing sound at the front of his cave. He rushed out of bed to find a princess chopping his furniture to pieces. “What are you doing?” he roared.
“Oh good, there you are. I need this to look convincing, you know?” She chopped his tail-rest in half, and then looked around. “All of this artsy mural stuff on the walls will have to go, too. Maybe I can cover it up with mud.”
“What are you talking about?”
The princess turned and raised her nose in the air. “I am trying to catch the eye of a brave knight, so I need to be rescued from a scary dragon. You aren’t scary enough.”
The dragon rolled his eyes and chased her out of his cave with a broom. Then he looked at his furniture and sighed. There wasn’t enough wood glue in the entire country to fix that mess. Maybe some of it was salvageable?
He ate breakfast in bed, as the bed was still in one piece. The eggs were half raw and half burnt. They tasted terrible. He spilled his orange juice all over the covers when there was another crash in the living room.
The crazy princess was back, and she had knocked down his front door with a battering ram. The dragon was feeling a little alarmed. “Can’t you arrange for the knight to rescue you from something else? There’s a volcano nearby,” the dragon helpfully pointed out.
“Too late,” the princess said. “I already sent the ransom note.”
“I’m being kidnapped?” the dragon squeaked. He cleared his throat. “I’ll have you know that none of my relatives hoard any gold. We’re allergic. Check my cave if you don’t believe me. You won’t get a single gold nugget in ransom.”
The princess scowled unattractively. “You are so stupid. I sent a ransom note from you, so the knight would know where to come to rescue me.”
“But why would I kidnap a princess?”
“Greed, of course. You want half the gold in the kingdom, or some such nonsense. Don’t worry about it. Let the knight chase you away, and it’s all good.”
“But this is my home!”
The princess sighed and shook her head. “My dad owns this kingdom so all the homes in it belong to my family. Now show me your most menacing face. Make it look like I’m really in danger here.”
“Wait a minute. Are you trying to get me hurt?”
“I’m sure you’ll be fine. Hey, did you fix the furniture? Stop it.” The princess stomped her foot.
“That’s it, I’m leaving.” The dragon packed up what he could gather in a hurry and hurried out of the cave before the knight could arrive.
As he flew away, he could hear the princess’s voice yelling, “Get back here! I command you to come back right now!”
He flew all day and all night, stopping only for a moment or two to rest his wings. He passed the volcano and the jungle and the desert and the snowy mountains. Finally, he reached a little island hidden in dense fog and flew to the top of the mountain at the island’s center.
His mother was out digging in the garden. She stood up when he returned, and brushed off her talons on her apron. “Why are you home so soon? I didn’t expect to see you for another century.”
“There was this crazy princesss…”
His mother sighed. “Say no more. We all know how that goes. Did you manage to finish some of your research before you had to leave?”
The dragon patted the briefcase he’d carried away with him. “It’s all here. The last cloaking field was entirely ineffective, but I was really pleased with the two that came before it.”
“Was the last one the one based on chameleon fields?”
The dragon nodded. “I knew it wouldn’t work on such a small scale, but they insisted I add it to the rotation.”
His mother breath-roasted some potatoes and passed them over. “Eat these. You’re all scale and bones. Let’s go over the paperwork inside at the kitchen table.”
Meanwhile, the princess waited for her knight in a muddy, smoky cave. Her trusty horse was wrapped in burlap painted green. The princess frowned and held out a flaming torch. “Just hold this stick in your mouth so I can see how it looks from a distance. Now! I’m commanding you to do it!”
It began the evening that the king and his family were standing on a balcony, smiling and waving to the knights who were preparing to battle in a tournament. “Maybe we could let the winner marry our youngest,” the king said to his wife.
“That’s a terrible idea,” the queen said.
“It might make it more interesting,” the king said.
The youngest princess calmly shoved him. The king stumbled and an arrow thwacked into the wall where he’d been standing. Everyone on the balcony crouched to hide behind the stone wall.
“Where did the arrow come from?” the queen asked. She turned to the youngest princess. “Did you see it coming?”
Outside the balcony, they could hear shouting. Another arrow hit the wall above their heads. The oldest princess started herding her husband and children inside. The others followed, all of them crawling to stay hidden.
Once inside, the doors closed, the family waited for word from the guards. The foolish archer was a knight from a nearby kingdom who believed he had some claim on the throne through a third cousin. He was quickly caught and thrown in the dungeons.
“I think you saved my life,” the king told his youngest daughter that evening at dinner.
“Does that mean you owe me a favor?” the princess clapped her hands. “Good! I want to marry my pen pal.”
“You’re still writing your pen pal?” the queen asked.
“Of course I am. We’re best friends.” The princess deliberately took the third fork in instead of the second. Her mother frowned.
The king looked confused. “What pen pal?” He absently picked up the third fork as well. Everyone at the table switched forks.
The queen leaned forward and patted his arm. “The one she’s been writing to since she was eleven.”
The king thought for a moment. “I thought we didn’t know who was sending those letters. They just started showing up one day.”
“That’s right.” The queen set aside her fork with a sigh.
The king leaned in and whispered. “I thought we decided it was an imaginary friend. I thought all the letters were in her handwriting.”
“I heard that.” The princess dropped her fork and narrowed her eyes. She picked up the second spoon in and started eating her potatoes.
The queen rolled her eyes. “You haven’t met your pen pal. He might be anybody at all. Why don’t you meet him first?”
“Invite him to the palace for a week,” the king said. He absently switched his fork for his second spoon. The queen sighed as everyone at the table switched from their fork to their spoon.
The princess grinned. “And if I like him, I can marry him, right? I did save your life, after all.”
“Very well,” the king said. He looked down as a piece of potato slipped off his spoon. “Why are we using spoons to eat potatoes?”
The next morning, the youngest princess brought her fountain pen to the breakfast table. When her older sister wanted to sit down next to her the youngest princess stopped her. “You can’t sit there, my pen pal is sitting in that chair.”
The queen leaned forward to look over the table. “That’s a pen.”
“He’s enchanted,” the princess said.
“Of course he is,” the queen said. She didn’t sound convinced.
The youngest princess took her fountain pen around with her everywhere that week. She introduced the pen to her friends and family as her fiance. The king and queen weren’t sure what to think.
At the end of the week, at dinner, the youngest princess turned to her father. “I still like him. I’d like to get married, just like you promised.”
“You want to marry your fountain pen?” The king looked over at the pen sitting on the chair next to his daughter.
“You promised,” the princess said.
“But it’s a pen. I’m not sure that’s legal,” the queen said.
“I saved the king,” the youngest princess said. “You promised.”
And so, two months later, the youngest princess walked down the aisle to meet the waiting fountain pen sitting on an embroidered pillow in front of the priest. As the priest started the ceremony, the pen started to glow.
Moments later, a handsome young man was sitting on the pillow. He was dressed in old-fashioned, but appropriately fancy clothes. He looked around for a moment, then grinned and stood. He grabbed the princess’s hands and they smiled at each other.
The priest had stopped speaking, and was staring at the young couple. The princess turned to look at him, still holding her unenchanted fiance’s hands. “Go on, then. We were just getting started.”
“I guess that explains why the letters were in her handwriting,” the king whispered to the queen. “I’m glad I won’t have a pen for a son-in-law.”
“Me too,” the queen whispered back. They all lived happily ever after.