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The Princess Who Thought She Was a Monster


malign

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Yet another Fairy Godfather story, this one dedicated especially to my girls, with all my love.

The Princess Who Thought She Was a Monster

Once upon a time, there was a princess who thought she was a monster.

She looked like an ordinary princess, with long wavy red hair and a complexion to match. No, not a wavy red complexion; the clear pale skin of a natural redhead. But whenever she looked in a mirror, what she saw was something hideous and evil.

The princess's name was Rosebud, but most people called her Rose. Only her evil step-mother, the queen, called her Rosebug, or "milady Bug". The king was a busy man, and rarely had time to hug his daughter, much less defend her from the queen. So, gradually, over time, thanks to the queen's continuous degradation, Rose was convinced that she was, in fact, a monster.

At night, she would spend hours on her balcony, staring into the starlit darkness. For one thing, the queen was an early sleeper, so this was the only time Rose had to herself. Out of loneliness, she would talk to the night, to the stars who shared their beauty with her.

She had one star that was her favorite. It was tiny, and off by itself in a darker patch of sky, but it shone with a crisp twinkling. She liked its color; sometimes it almost looked to be a royal purple. It cheered Rose up every time she talked to the little star. She almost felt as if it listened to her.

She had never wished on a star, before. It seemed to her that stars must be very busy, shining, and granting wishes to other people who weren't monsters. She was afraid that if she made a wish, she would find out that she wasn't worthy enough for it to be granted.

But one night, when she was feeling especially lonely and afraid, she couldn't help herself. "Oh, little star, I'm so lonely! I really wish I had a friend like you."

Well, something about the princess's wish must have melted the star's heart, because suddenly there was a bright light on the balcony next to her. As the blinding radiance gradually subsided, Rose could see that there was a tall girl in a long flowing purple robe at the center of it. Rose stood with her mouth open, amazed. Silently the girl took Rose's hand, and they flew effortlessly together over the railing towards the Enchanted Forest.

_______________________________________

Now, many people think an Enchanted Forest is a scary thing, but that's because they don't understand the way places get named. A scary forest would have been called the Scary Forest, or FearWood, or the Forest of Doom, or something like that. This was the Enchanted Forest, and it was, just as the name suggests, enchanted. The trees grew thick and happy, the starlight danced among the leaves, and the squirrels raced each other up the trunks.

"Where are you taking me?" asked Rose, though she was unafraid. The star-girl seemed gentle, but not very talkative. "Well, you need a name. I know! I'll call you 'Star'." the girl nodded and smiled, but said nothing.

The girls flew together over the forest in the night. Star seemed to know where she was going, perhaps from having looked down on this countryside from a great height, all her life. Soon, they came to a clearing in the woods, with a small comfortable cabin in it. The cabin was dark, but Star must have known something of the habits of its occupant, because the girls had only just landed on the front steps, when a man flew into view over the trees, trailing glittering dust. They turned to watch him land on the path, twist his ankle and fall on his face. Grumbling, he stood up carefully and removed a pair of bright ruby pumps. Carrying these, he approached the girls in some surprise.

"Never will get the trick of walking in these things ... Well, this is quite a surprise! I don't get many visitors, especially not human size, and this late. I was out late myself, on an urgent call, but you know, 'No rest for the wanded.'" He was a short balding man, but he had a twinkle in his sharp blue eyes.

The princess stepped forward. "Good evening, sir. My name is Princess Rosebud, and this is my friend Star." The man gave no sign of recognition at either name, but simply bowed low and invited the girls inside.

"Please, your highness, come sit in whatever comfort I may offer you, and tell me what brings you here. You may call me the Fairy Godfather, if you like. My given name would mean nothing to you."

Tossing the shoes into the corner and a long wand of gold tipped with a star into the umbrella stand, the man closed the door behind him. Beckoning his guests to comfortable chairs, he bustled about making some tea. He finally sagged into an old leather armchair which had itself sagged some decades earlier. He looked at the princess expectantly.

"Well, er, Sir Godfather, my friend Star brought me to your door, so she must know what she's doing. I don't know what you might able to do about it, but, I'm afraid I'm a monster and not a princess."

"Ah." The godfather didn't laugh at this, like most people did when Rose told them her fears. Instead, he sprang lightly from his chair and examined the princess from various angles. He asked her to stick out her tongue, said "Hmm", and looked into her eyes, one at a time. Then he sat back down and sighed.

"I think I can state categorically that you're not a monster. What you are, isn't clear, but you're definitely not a monster."

"Yes, sir, that is what everybody tells me. I'm afraid I don't believe what they say, though," Rose said somewhat defiantly.

Unexpectedly, the godfather sat back in his chair with a smile. "What do you know about what is called 'innate nature', my child?" Seeing Rose's look of confusion, he continued. "Each thing has an innate nature, qualities that make it what it is, and that make it different from what it isn't. That nature comes from the Universe when that thing, or person, comes into being, and it changes as they interact with the Universe. Now, it is possible for a monster to appear to be a princess, but the strain of holding such a different form would be clearly visible to someone like me; to most people, in fact."

"Would you help me discover my innate nature, then, sir? I beg of you!" Rose sobbed.

"Of course, of course. Let me see here ..." The godfather got up again, and extracted his wand from the tangle of umbrellas in the stand. One of them fell on the floor, but he ignored it. He concentrated for a moment, then passed the wand back and forth over the princess a few times, finally tapping her gently on the head with the star tip. Everybody held their breath for a moment.

"Nothing, eh? Perhaps it needs your help: concentrate, for me, on what your innate nature would be ... Ooh, that's worse; now you're trying to become a monster instead of whatever you really are. Okay, okay, maybe it's the wand." He swished it around the room for a second, but the giggling of the furniture convinced him the wand still worked. "No? Okay, then. Perhaps it's just not time yet. I'm sorry; your true nature may not reveal itself until it's needed. It sometimes happens that way."

Disappointed, Rose thanked him as graciously as she could.

"One thing, though," the godfather added, suddenly. "This is the Enchanted Forest, and any midnight quest such as yours could hardly be denied by the spirits of the wood. I suggest you travel back to the castle on foot, and see what adventures the Forest might bring you."

Not entirely sure she liked the idea of nighttime adventure in a forest, even the Enchanted one, but trusting the godfather implicitly, the princess agreed. She and her friend took their leave of the godfather and walked down the path across the clearing. As they entered the forest, they turned to wave farewell to the godfather standing in the light from his open doorway. Then they set off down the path back to the castle.

_______________________________________

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The girls walked hand in hand, not out of fear, but simply to avoid getting separated in the night.

There was, actually, quite a bit of light filtering in through the leaves, and they could see some distance ahead. After walking for less than an hour, they came across a man on horseback. They hesitated for a moment, but then decided to approach him, knowing that they had the godfather's blessing.

As he came closer, Rose could see that he was a tall handsome young man, but there was something wrong with his head. No hair grew on the sides of it, leaving his ears dramatically exposed, and there was a ridge of multi-colored spikes arranged down the middle of his skull like some kind of helmet weapon. Even with that deformity, though, Rose was conscious that he looked lovely.

The man scrambled off his horse and bowed low to the women. They stepped back a pace to ensure that he didn't gore them with the spikes.

"Sir Reginald of Montescue, at your service. Or, at least, it will be 'Sir' when I have killed the ogre I seek! For now, you can just call me Reggie," the young man continued breathlessly, forgetting in his eagerness to ask them their names. "I was hot on his trail, he can't have got far."

The girls moved a bit closer together when they heard that there was an ogre nearby. "Oh, sir, would you protect us from the o- ..."

"Grrrr!" A huge body of stone rose from a thicket behind Reggie, spooking his horse and snatching him in a giant fist. "So that's where the name comes from," Rose thought in the brief seconds before the ogre swept past her on the forest path, knocking her and Star to the ground, unconscious.

_______________________________________

Rose awoke with a pounding in her head, with Star crouched over her looking worried. She sat up, but there was no sign of the ogre or the man she already thought of as Reggie. "Oh no, where can they have gone?" Star only looked blank; the ogre had knocked her out, too. "We must find a way to save him!" Rose declared. But she could think of no way to do that, and she became more and more panicked, by the second.

Suddenly, she felt something change inside of her. She would find Reggie and save him, if it was the last thing she did! It didn't matter how big an ogre it was, or how far it had taken him, she would do it! And now the change was not just inside her. She could feel herself drop to her hands and knees, only they weren't hands or knees, any more, but clawed feet covered in red fur. She was turning into a huge red dog!

Sniffing the air, she suddenly knew which direction the ogre had gone. She turned and ran, following the scent, but it was difficult to run, unaccustomed as she was to having four legs. She couldn't help it; she tripped. But she didn't fall, just kept flying along the ground, even after she opened her eyes again. "I can fly!" she told herself, just to reinforce what her eyes were telling her. Then she shook her head and accelerated. "Time to find that ogre!"

Turning her head, she saw her friend Star flying along beside her, looking surprised at the change in Rose, but just as determined as she herself felt. Together they sped along the moonlit track in pursuit of the ogre.

It did not take them long to find it; ogres are big but not exactly speedy. This one had set up camp under a rock overhang just off the path, and seemed to be preparing its dinner. Then it held up Sir Reginald the Hopeful by his ankles, as he screamed at it to let him go.

Rose saw what it intended to do: divide its dinner into two equal strips. She rocketed forward, leaving even Star behind. Flying as fast as she could, she swooped down and slammed into the ogre's enormous eye.

Now, ogres, being made of stone, are pretty much impervious to any attack short of nuclear, but one weakness they do have is their eyes. The lens shattered under the impact of the angry dog-princess, and the ogre screamed. Dropping Reggie, it clutched blindly at its face. Despite the damage she had inflicted, Rose might have been in trouble from the massive questing hands had Star not caught up to her and joined the fight. Flaring into blinding brilliance, she flew into its empty eyesocket, burning out the tiny brain. As Rose jumped off its stony face, the ogre took a couple of steps and then fell on its face, dead. Rose saw Star crawl from the ogre's empty eye and stand up. She found Reggie lying unconscious but apparently unharmed some distance away.

With the emergency past, Rose felt herself return to the form of a young girl. As she drew herself upright, she realized that she would always have the ability to transform herself in time of need. She had found her true nature: whenever there was trouble, she would be a big brave dog and face it.

Waking Reggie, and supporting him between them, the girls set off down the track to find his horse.

_______________________________________

It did not take the little group very long to find their way back to the castle. In fact, now that their little adventure was over, they felt almost as if the Forest was sending them home as fast as it could. That's exactly what the Forest was doing: enchanted as it was, the Forest knew that its magic would fade in the light of the approaching day.

So it was that, as the sky brightened and lit the castle with color, the three young people emerged from under the trees to see it. Rose had not yet told Reggie anything but her name. She was afraid that her royalty would distract the young man from his success at slaying the ogre, not to mention his attempts to figure out how he had done it while unconscious. Of course, the girls had given him the credit, Rose murmuring indistinctly about his bravery while Star nodded vigorously. Not only would no one in the castle believe the truth, but neither girl wanted to deprive Reggie of his knighthood.

But at the edge of the woods, they stopped, knowing that Reggie would have to enter the castle gates alone. Rose had to hurry back to her bedroom balcony, before the queen arrived to begin the day's malicious nagging. And Star needed to rejoin her friends before sunrise. So, with Rose holding tightly to Star's hand, the girls flew up to the window in the castle keep. Bidding a silent farewell to Star, who hurried up into the sky, Rose slipped into bed just in time. The door burst open, and standing in the doorway was the most hideous monster Rose had ever seen! She blinked, and it was gone, replaced by her step-mother's snarling face.

"You're late! You were supposed to be downstairs half an hour ago. Such a lazy, no-good ..."

Listening to the queen's usual nastiness, Rose suddenly realized whose true nature she had been seeing in the mirror. Now she knew which of them was brave, and which hideous. Suddenly, she smiled. She would have to tell Daddy about this. But she wanted to be introduced to Sir Reginald, first.

_______________________________________

Well, Rose's father hadn't become a king by being a fool. Once he saw his wife's true nature, he sent her from his kingdom in disgrace. He made sure his daughter was safe in the company of Sir Reginald, and made no objection when Reggie asked for her hand in marriage, the next year. Rose's friend Star paid her occasional visits, at night on the balcony. The two of them spent their time flying over the countryside, the red dog and the purple star, keeping the peace and defending the kingdom. And they lived happily ever after.

THE END

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