One day, Princess Matilda cut through a rarely used courtyard in the older part of the castle. She was late to archery practice, so she was taking the shortcut. Most people didn’t use the short cut, because there was a tall fence with spikes along the top at the end of the courtyard.
However, Princess Matilda wasn’t most people, and she knew the trick to climbing the fence. There were chips in a few of the stones in the wall of the castle next to the fence. If she ran straight at the wall and jumped, she could use the chipped spots as toeholds. If she climbed quickly enough and turned and jumped just right, she could sail right over the fence.
Of course this meant she had to tuck and roll to survive the fall without breaking anything, but that was part of the fun. As long as she shook the dust and bits of grass out of her hair, no one had to know.
Halfway through the courtyard, Matilda paused. There in a corner of the courtyard where some weeds had sprung up in cracks in the stonework, a little rosebush was growing. She would come back later. Matilda secretly loved roses. For now, she raced ahead, then turned and ran straight at the wall.
The next day she returned with tools she’d borrowed from a gardener. She cleared away the weeds and then sat by it. It looked so lonely standing by itself in the corner. She told it a little about her day, and placed some pebbles around it in a ring. When she left, she promised to come back.
She came back often to clear away weeds or water the rosebush when it hadn’t rained in a while. She brought pretty pebbles or bits of wood that caught her eye and added them to the ring around the bush. Every time she came, she stopped to talk to the rose bush for a little while.
The rose bush grew and branched out. After several weeks, it sprouted a single bud. Matilda began visiting more often, hoping to see what the blossom would look like once it bloomed. One day, she came to the courtyard early for archery class so that she had time to check in with her rosebush.
The flower had bloomed. It was a simple rose, but the fragrance filled the courtyard. It was lovely. Matilda leaned in closer and smelled the rose. It was wonderful. “You’re perfect!” she said. Then she kissed the soft petals.
The rosebush began to sparkle. It grew brighter and brighter until Matilda had to squint to look at it. Then there was a flash of light. Matilda blinked the stars from her vision, while holding her bow at the ready.
There was a young man standing where the rosebush had been. He was wearing glasses and his clothes were well made but practical. He was smiling. Princess Matilda frowned. “Who are you?” she asked.
He opened his mouth to speak, when there was another flash of light from the opposite side of the courtyard. Matilda turned, bow up and arrow notched, while stepping back so that the strange man was at her side rather than her back.
A young woman dressed in black was pointing a stick at her. Matilda’s eyes narrowed. That was no ordinary stick. The woman raised her eyebrows and scowled. “You broke my enchantment. You had no right to do that. I shall turn you both into frogs and let my cat chase you.”
Matilda shot an arrow through the top of the woman’s tall black hat. “Put your stick down,” she said. “Or next time I wont miss.” She notched her arrow. The woman lowered her wand.
“Hide here all you want, little prince,” the woman said. “If you ever come back home, I’ll get you.” There was another flash of light and she was gone.
“So, you’re a prince who was turned into a rose bush?” Matilda asked.
“Well, I was turned into a seed that grew into a rosebush,” the prince said. “But otherwise, yes.”
“Why did she do it? Did she steal your kingdom or something?” Matilda asked.
“I have three older brothers. As far as I know, the kingdom is fine,” the prince said. “However, that woman was responsible for killing thousands of striped gilkie birds. She used their tongues in a hair removal potion. When I submitted a proposal to the court that the birds should be protected so that they didn’t all disappear, she got angry.”
“Hair removal potion? Do people like the bald look where you’re from?” the princess asked.
“No, they don’t like leg hair,” he said.
“I know, right? Besides, if she hunted until the birds were all gone, she wouldn’t be able to make her potion anyway,” the prince said.
“That makes sense,” the princess said. “Did you explain it to her?”
“Sometimes people don’t want to listen. I tried to explain how everything is interconnected and everything relies on other things for survival. If you take out a link in the chain, you could have dangerous consequences. She muttered something about how the strong survive and that I’d see that nature wasn’t gentle.”
“Then she turned you into a seed?” Matilda asked.
“And tossed me into the wind,” the prince said.
“So, what’s your name,” Matilda asked.
“Frank. I’m sorry I hadn’t introduced myself, I feel like I know you so well after all your visits,” Frank said.
“Then I guess it’s my turn to get to know you better,” Matilda said. She smiled. “I know something already.”
“You still smell like roses. It’s nice.” She laughed as Frank tried sniffing his arm.
“I do?” he asked.
“Yes. Would you like to come in for sandwiches?” Matilda asked.
“Don’t you have archery class?” Frank asked.
“Oh, you’re right. Sandwiches can wait. Come cheer me on,” Matilda said. She stooped to pick up the black hat and pulled the arrow out of it. “Do you think she’ll come back for this?”
“I guess it depends on whether she needs it back or not,” Frank said.
“You’re probably right,” Matilda said. She stuffed it into her quiver. “Well, let’s go. I hate being late.”