This story is copyrighted by Rosemary Lake. All Rights Reserved.
The Once Upon a Time When the Princess(tm) series

 

The Three Magic Arrows

Once upon a time in a little cottage in the forest, there was a little girl named Andrea who lived with her father, who was very good to her, and her two older brothers, who were, well, you know. One day the father went on a long journey, and told the children to stay at home, and the brothers to look after their sister.

Now, this forest was in the heart of the kingdom, and in the midst of the forest there was a mountain, and in the center of the mountain was a cave, and in the center of the cave was a well. In that well lived an evil Waterdragon, and one day the Waterdragon sent the King a message saying: "It has been seven years since my last human meal. Send me the Royal Prince, sealed alive into a golden cask, for my dinner on the next Midsummer Day, or I will open my floodgates and destroy the whole kingdom."

The King had no choice but to obey the Waterdragon. But before sending the Prince to the dragon's cave, he put out a proclamation to the whole kingdom, which said: "Anyone who can rescue the Prince and deliver the country from this Waterdragon may have half the kingdom as a reward."

"So," Andrea said to her brothers as soon as she heard the news, "what are we going to do about it?"

"About what?" said her oldest brother.

"About rescuing the Prince and saving the kingdom."

They laughed at her. "Nobody can do anything. Forget it. Dragons happen."

"But that's not right," Andrea said. "We have got to at least try to do something. Or want to try to think of something. Or try to want to. Or something."

They just laughed and gave her an old toy bow and arrow, saying, "Well, then, go and rescue him yourself."

So Andrea packed a lunch and set out to the mountain.

On the way she heard sobbing: first in a deep voice, then in a medium voice, then in a shrill voice; then again in a deep voice; and so on, over and over. Following the sound, she peered into a clearing. There sat a baby firebird sobbing. As she watched, the firebird grew smaller, and smaller, till it was the size of a wren. Then it began growing larger, and larger, till it was the size of a barn; then it began to shrink again. As its size changed, so did its voice; but always it kept crying sadly.

Choosing a time when the firebird was about her own size, and shrinking, Andrea approached it and said, "Good bird, what is the matter?"

The firebird sighed, "I am under a curse. I must find a Waterdragon, and carry it to the King of the Rocs. But if I get my feathers wet, it will put out my fire. What can I do?"

"I am going to fight a Waterdragon," said Andrea. "Would you like to come along? You can have it when I'm finished."

"Thank you," said the firebird. "What size would you like me to be?"

"Whatever you like," Andrea said politely. "But if you stayed wren-size, you could ride on my shoulder."

"Very well." So, when it had shrunk to wren-size, the firebird turned down his fires to a pleasant glow and hopped to Andrea's shoulder, and she continued on her way.

When she got to the mountain, Andrea hid in a thicket and watched the king's soldiers carry into the mountain the golden cask containing the Prince. Then they sadly locked the enormous bronze door to the cave and began marching back to the city, as the Dragon's message had instructed them.

"Excuse me," Andrea said. "Would you please let me in the cave?"

"What for?"

"To fight the dragon."

The soliders just laughed at her and marched away. After they were gone, Andrea tried and tried to open the door, but it would not budge. She knocked and yelled, but got no answer, so she sat down and ate her lunch. Then she noticed a path leading into a big hollow tree. Inside she found a deep, dark passage twisting straight down among the roots of the tree.

Andrea climbed down and down, and the passage got darker and wetter, and the bird, damping his flames altogether, left her shoulder to hide in her pocket. The roots got bigger and bigger. Finally the way leveled off on a rocky floor under giant roots, but there the passage split into many branches and became very twisty. It was like wandering in a curly maze built of giant wood burls.

She went along through the twisty passages.

Finally she came to a round room in a giant knothole of ash wood. Inside was a workroom all stacked full of little arrows, and a little elf busy carving more, from splinters he cut out from the wall.

"Good day, good elf," she said. "Which way is the Waterdragon from here?"

The elf pointed down a twisty passage. "That way. But he is very dangerous. Why do you want to find him?"

"I'm going to fight him."

"It's about time somebody did!" said the elf. "Here, let me give you one of my magic arrows."

"Thank you," said Andrea. "What does it do?"

"It can be shot from any bow, it will grow to any size, it always hits its target, and it will stick exactly where you tell it."

"That sounds useful. Thank you."

She went along through the twisty passages, and came to a round room in a giant knothole of oak wood. Inside was a workroom all stacked full of little arrows, and a little dwarf busy carving more.

"Good day, good dwarf," she said. "Which way is the Waterdragon from here?"

The dwarf pointed down a twisty passage. "That way. But he is very dangerous. Why do you want to find him?"

"I'm going to fight him."

"It's about time somebody did!" said the dwarf. "Here, let me give you one of my magic arrows."

"Thank you," said Andrea. "What does it do?"

"It can be shot from any bow, it will grow to any size, it always hits its target, and it will stick exactly when you tell it."

"When I tell it?"

"Wherever it sticks, it will stay stuck there till you tell it to fall out."

"That sounds useful. Thank you."

She went along through the twisty passages, and soon came to a round room in a giant knothole of yew wood. Inside was a workroom all stacked full of little arrows, and a little gnome busy carving more.

"Good day, good gnome," she said. "Which way is the Waterdragon from here?"

The gnome pointed down a twisty passage. "That way. But he is very dangerous. Why do you want to find him?"

"I'm going to fight him."

"It's about time somebody did!" said the gnome. "Here, let me give you one of my magic arrows."

"Thank you," said Andrea. "What does it do?"

"It can be shot from any bow. It will fetch the other two arrows."

"That sounds useful. Thank you."

She went along through the twisty passage and found a narrow stone stair leading upward, which became wider as it went up. Finally the stair opened out into an enormous cave, so tall and shadowy she couldn't even see the roof. Hanging from the wall, high up, from a strong chain, was the golden cask in which the Prince was imprisoned.

"Don't worry, Prince!" Andrea shouted. "I've come to rescue you!" But she doubted that he could hear anything inside the cask.

The floor of the cave was marble, and in the center of the floor was a big circular well lined with smooth, polished abalone shell. Dark bubbling water came nearly to the top of the well. Andrea leaned over the well and shouted: "Waterdragon, I'm here!"

Suddenly the dragon's head and neck slid up out of the well. He ignored her and snapped at the cask. He was long and smooth and slender, like a snake, with just a few small fins on his back. He was so big that he could barely fit through the well. He made one snap at the cask, missed, and fell back into the well, splashing water all over the cave.

The firebird hid as deep as he could in Andrea's pocket.

"Waterdragon, I challenge you!" Andrea shouted.

Ignoring her, the powerful Waterdragon rose up again. He snapped again at the cask, closer this time.

"Very well," said Andrea. She fitted the ash-wood arrow to her bow and shot it straight up at his head. "Arrow, stick between his teeth and grow big!"

The arrow flew straight up, curved, flew in the dragon's open mouth, stuck between his upper and lower teeth, and grew big. Now he could not close his mouth.

Shaking his head, the dragon sank back into the well, making a great splashing. But he could not get the arrow out of his teeth, so he came back up again with his mouth still wedged open.

"Dragon, now is your chance!" Andrea shouted.

Ignoring her, the dragon rose again toward the cask, and knocked it down from the wall.

Andrea shot the oak-wood arrow at the fin on his back, right where it joined his body. "Arrow, stick there and grow big!"

The arrow stuck in his fin and grew big. Now the dragon could not get the top part of his body back down the well.

"Dragon, will you come along peacefully and leave our kingdom?" said Andrea.

The dragon roared and shook his head, and kept trying to squeeze back down the well. Andrea went out of range and sat down and ate the rest of her lunch. "He'll dry off pretty soon," she told the firebird, "and then you can have him. What do the rocs want him for, anyway?"

"In their kingdom there is a band of adventurers who keep a zoo full of monsters."

"Why are you cursed?"

"That's another story."

When the dragon had dried off, the bird came out of Andrea's pocket and grew to the size of a barn. He pulled the dragon out of the well as easily as a robin pulls a worm out of the ground, standing back so that the dragon's tail only shook a little water on his feet. Then he picked up the cask with one claw.

"Better shrink," said Andrea, "so you can get out."

The firebird shrank to the size of a horse, and the dragon and cask shrank with him.

He flew along a broad stone passage, turning up his flames to light it, till he reached the bronze door. There he grew to the size of an elephant and broke the door open. "Thank you very much," he said., and flew away.

Andrea tried to open the cask, but the lid was too tight. So she sat down to rest in the sunshine, and soon fell asleep.

-----

Now, when Andrea's brothers found she was missing, they said, "If our father finds out she has run away, we'll get in trouble." So they followed her tracks through the forest, and arrived at the cave to find her sleeping by the golden cask.

"Well, little sister," they said, "are you safe?"

"Yes," she said. "This lid is stuck. Can you open it?"

The brothers tried, but they could not open it either, so they began carrying the cask toward the capitol, and as they went along, Andrea told them the whole story.

"What?" said the middle brother. "You defeated the dragon? Nobody will believe that!"

So the brothers whispered together, and decided to take all the credit for themselves. As they passed a ravine, they pushed Andrea in, and went on without her.

When the brothers got to the capitol, the King rushed to meet them and his soldiers struck off the lid of the cask.

Out sprang the Prince, unhurt, with drawn sword ready to fight the dragon; because all the time inside the cask, he could hear nothing, and did not know what had happened.

The brothers backed away hastily, but the King stepped forward and said, "My dear son, the Waterdragon is dead. These brave boys have rescued you."

The Prince believed him, and they all proceeded to the castle, where the King announced a great feast and celebration for three days hence.

-----

It took Andrea a long time to climb out of the ravine and make her way to the capitol, and she arrived on the day of the feast, all ragged and dirty.

The whole town was cheering for her brothers, who pretended not even to recognize her. Few people would listen to her, and no one believed her story. She could not even get near till the very last hour of the feast, when the King and all the court met on a great platform in the public square to crown the brothers as regents of half the kingdom.

Andrea made her way into the middle of the crowd and sat down. Just as the King was about to place the crown on her oldest brother's head, she took out her bow and shot the yew-wood arrow straight up into the air.

The arrow circled around three times and then flew away in the direction of the forest mountain.

Everyone was shouting and looking around to see who had shot the arrow, but Andrea just sat still and waited.

In a few minutes the yew-wood arrow flew back. Right behind it flew the ash-wood arrow. Both arrows circled down and laid themselves at Andrea's feet.

"Guards! Guards! Seize that girl!" shouted the King.

But before they could reach her, Andrea had quickly fitted the yew-wood arrow to her bow and fired it into the air again.

The guards carried Andrea up on the platform in front of the King., with everyone pointing and yelling. "What is the meaning of this?" demanded the King.

Just then the yew-wood arrow flew back. Right behind it flew the oak-wood arrow-- pulling the Waterdragon, because it was still stuck in his fin.

The brothers were so scared they hid under their chairs.

The Prince jumped up with his sword ready to fight the Waterdragon.

Behind the Waterdragon flew the firebird, as big as a barn, with all his flames waving.

Behind him flew the King of the Rocs, as big as a castle.

Behind him flew the whole roc band, making a lot of noise.

They all flew around in circles, pointing at Andrea, and shouting: "She did it!" ... "It's all her fault!" ... "She shot this arrow in my fin! She sent me out of the kingdom!" ... "She gave me that Waterdragon! She promised!" ... "She stole that Waterdragon from My Royal Zoo!" ... "We want our Waterdragon!"

Andrea just sat there while they flew around.

The crowd began to cheer: "She did it! Hooray for Andrea!"

"Would you like for me to get rid of the rocs and the Waterdragon?" Andrea asked the King.

"Yes!"

"Do you promise to listen to the whole story?"

"Yes!"

So Andrea called to the oak-wood arrow, "Arrow, fall out and grow small!"

The arrow fell out, grew small, and laid itself at her feet.

The Waterdragon shook his fins and flew away, and all the rocs flew away after him. The populace were still cheering so loud that the King took Andrea into his private chambers, where she told him the whole story.

The King gave Andrea half his kingdom, and threw the brothers in jail for fraud. For her half, she chose the part of the kingdom that included her old cottage in the forest;and to live in, near there, she took a fine estate near the King's summer palace. When her father came home from his journey, she met him at the docks in a splendid coach and drove him straight to their new home.

The Prince became Andrea's best friend, and they had many adventures together in the forest from then on. As for the brothers, when they were let out of jail, Andrea hired them as her gamekeepers, and gave them the old cottage as a gift.

The End

This one's all mine, though using many traditional motifs.--RL

 

This story is copyrighted by Rosemary Lake. All Rights Reserved.
The Once Upon a Time When the Princess(tm) series
Once Upon a Time When the Princess Rescued the Prince,
Once Upon a Time When the Princess Beat the Dragon
Once Upon a Time When the Princess Cast the Spell
Once Upon a Time When the Princess Got the Treasure

Home Page
rosemary@rosemarylake.com