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

 

 

The Witch Princess

Once there was a princess whose parents had died, so she lived with her aunt and uncle, who were also a king and queen but were cold and selfish. Unlike them, the princess, whose name was Rosella, was as kind-hearted as she was beautiful and brave. The only thing that she liked about living in their palace was that the Queen was a powerful sorceress, so Rosella had a chance to learn some magic. She studied a lot, and soon became quite a good witch in her own right--being careful to use her spells only for good.

One day her uncle the king fell ill and broke out in spots. Even the queen, with all her evil sorcery, could not cure him. So the king called all the doctors of the country together and told them: "If you cure me, you shall have half my kingdom. If you do not cure me, you will all lose your heads."

The doctors put their heads together and muttered, but none of them knew a cure.

"So!" said the king. "Then off with your--"

"Wait, wait!" said the oldest doctor. "There is one remedy. You will have to take a bath in ... er, ah ... in the blood of ... er ... some prince of nobler birth than your own!"

"Very well," said the king, and commanded his Royal Admiral to take the whole Navy seeking for a prince of nobler birth than his own. "And in the meantime," the king said to his guards, "put a lock on the doctors' chamber, and sharpen the executioner's axe, just in case the remedy does not work."

"Are you crazy?" the other doctors whispered to the oldest as they were led away by the guards. "Who ever heard of a remedy like that?"

"I made it up," the oldest doctor whispered back. "At least we get to keep our heads while he is seeking such a prince. Let us hope it takes a very long time!"

But as luck would have it, in the very first week of searching, the Admiral's ship met with a finely-rigged ship from a kingdom far away, which flew a royal flag and had a royal seal painted on its hull; and the young man standing on the deck commanding the sailors appeared as quite noble as could possibly be required.

"A fine specimen!" said the Admiral. "Capture him--but do not spill a drop of his blood!" They signalled their other ships, the fleet surrounded the foreign ship. The strange prince fought bravely but was at last captured, and brought back in chains to the palace, to stand before the King and the whole group of doctors.

"What shall we do now?" the doctors whispered to the oldest doctor. "The prince's blood cannot really cure the king. As soon as the king tries it, we will lose our heads."

"Ah, well, er." The oldest doctor examined the prince. "This one might serve. Provided that he is well-fattened first. Feed him on pies and cakes for at least, er, six months."

"Are you all mad?" shouted the prince, whose name was Antonio. "Release me at once!"

"Oh, yes, and. Er." The doctor backed away and whispered to the king: "This prince's blood is much too hot. His temper must cool. Tell him some nice story. Play some nice music. Give him ... the princess Rosella.... Er. For at least six months. Then call me again.... good day!"

"Very well," the king whispered back. He had Antonio's chains cut off at once, and lied: "My sailors made a mistake. I had asked them to invite you here to meet my niece Rosella, to see if she would like you for a husband. I hope you will stay here as her guest for a few weeks."

Rosella was very surprised to hear this. But as soon as she and Antonio saw each other, they liked each other very much, so both of them agreed to the visit.

In a hidden courtyard behind the old palace, open to the sky and full of overgrown flowering trees and vines, her uncle the king shut them up together. He had two tiny cottages built, one for Rosella and one for Antonio, and closed out all news of the outside world.

There Rosella and the prince spent many happy days among the fountains and birds, learning each other's language, teaching each other to play foreign musical instruments, and laughing.

Then one day when they were feeding the bright-colored birds, Rosella decided to practice her spell of understanding animal speech, and heard the birds saying: "Such a nice prince ... what a pity he has not long to live...."

"What!" said Rosella.

The birds, who were always flying in and out of the halls of the palace and hearing gossip, told her the whole scheme; and Rosella told the prince. "I will get you out of here," she added, "and you can escape to your own kingdom."

"You must come with me," Antonio said. "You will be safe there, and later we can be married."

Rosella agreed, and they kissed to seal the plan.

That night Rosella climbed out of the garden, put on sturdy clothes, took a pair of jeweled swords that bore her royal crest, and went to town and hired a ship. "Wait at the dock ready to sail," she told the captain. "When a man comes carrying one of these swords, treat him well and obey him as you would me."

Then she made her way through the dark town back to the palace. As she crept through the shadowy passages, she stopped by the door of the doctors' chamber to find out how their plan was coming. "We cannot delay any longer," the doctors were saying. "The King wants the prince's blood at moonrise, just two hours from now."

Rosella ran to the garden, climbed inside, and gave one sword to the prince. "Hurry! Go to the ship right now! Show the captain this sword and he will obey you. I will come to the ship as soon as I can."

Antonio protested, "I do not want to leave you in danger."

"Your danger is worse," Rosella said. "Nobody wants my blood. But if you die, my heart will break." So the prince climbed over the wall and hurried away toward the docks.

Rosella climbed the wall one last time and went inside the palace. How could she delay the pursuit? She crept down to the doctors' chamber, let herself in with the jailor's key, and cast a sleep spell. Soon all the doctors began nodding drowsily. So far so good.

Then the queen came down the passage. Quickly Rosella hid behind a drapery. The queen came in and shouted: "What is the matter, you fools? The king wants that youth's blood now!"

Rosella cast her spell again; but the Queen's own magic was too strong; she could not be affected by a spell cast from across the room. While the Queen was shaking and kicking the drowsy doctors, Rosella took a piece of magic parchment and cast her spell on it.

Then she made her voice deep and moaned, "Oh, Queen, help me wake up." The Queen hurried to the doctor nearest Rosella's hiding place and kicked him. Rosella slipped the enchanted parchment into the Queen's skirt pocket.

This time the spell worked. The Queen fell down, sound asleep, on top of the doctor.

Rosella ran to her own chamber and grabbed a few belongings, then collected a bundle of jewels and other treasures from other rooms in the palace. Then she saw the King going toward the doctors' chamber.

Rosella had now used up all her sleep spells, so she left the palace at a run. She wove her way through the dark streets toward the dock. The prince met her halfway, sword ready in case she needed help. She gave him the bundle of treasure, they ran to the ship, and quickly the captain sailed them out of the harbor.

When the king found all the doctors asleep and the Queen asleep on top of a doctor, he flew into a fit of rage. He screamed and kicked till he woke up all the doctors. Then they tried to wake the Queen, but the spell on the parchment was so strong that even all the doctors together could not wake her up. Finally they said, "She must be ill. Put her to bed."

The ladies in waiting took the Queen to her bed and undressed her. As soon as they removed her skirt, the parchment fell out of her pocket and the Queen woke up.

When they told the Queen what had happened, she became furiously angry. "Rosella must have done this! Bring me my magic mirror!"

The mirror showed Rosella and the prince on their ship just sailing out of the bay.

The Queen cried, "I will stop them! Perhaps Rosella's blood will improve my skin as well!"

She ran outside and cast a spell on a hemlock leaf and threw it into the river that ran by the palace. The leaf became a magic ship full of soldiers. The Queen jumped aboard and told the captain, "Follow that ship!"

Soon Rosella, who was keeping watch from the crows-nest, saw the Queen's magic ship overtaking them. She cast a spell on her jeweled sword and threw it down toward the waves.

"Sword, beat!" she cried.

The sword danced around the ship, beating up so much sea-foam that a cloud of mist rose on all sides.

"Mist, hide us!" Rosella cried.

The mist gathered around the ship, completely hiding it, and moved along with them as they sailed.

When she saw Rosella's ship vanishing into the mist, the Queen was so mad that she tore her hair. Then when she calmed down she picked up twelve of the hairs and cast a spell on them. Each hair turned into a soldier with a bow and a magic quiver that would never run out of arrows.

"Archers, shoot that mist full of arrows!" the Queen cried.

The archers obediently shot volley after volley of arrows into the mist, piercing every foot of it.

On Rosella's ship, when the arrows started falling, Antonio and the sailors swung their swords overhead, knocking aside arrow after arrow. "Go below, Rosella!" Antonio shouted. "There are too many arrows, we can't get them all!"

Instead, Rosella called back her jeweled sword and cast another spell on it. Immediately it jumped out of her hands and began dancing in the mist above the boat.

"Sword, parry!" Rosella cried.

The sword danced faster than lightning, all around the ship, knocking down all the arrows as fast as they came.

So many arrows were knocked aside into the water that they made a great heap floating right behind the ship. The Queen's ship plowed into this and scraped to a halt with big scratches in its paint.

Now the Queen was furious. "If I want this done right," she muttered, "I guess I'll have to take things into my own hands."

Using powerful evil words, this time she cast a spell on her own two hands. Her wrists grew longer and longer, her fingers grew colder and harder. At last her hands had become frightful silver grappling hooks on long white ropes.

With these terrible new hands she reached out into the fog, blindly groping here and there till she grasped the rail of Rosella's ship.

Rosella and PrinceAntonio felt their ship lurch to a halt--then move again, very slowly, pulling the weight of the Queen's ship and the whole heap of arrows behind it.

In the dense mist, they stumbled around the deck looking for the problem. Finally they saw the two silver hooks on white ropes gripping the rail.

"Sword, chop!" Rosella cried.

Her sword chopped--and both cut ropes began wildly waving in the air, spouting blood.

Horrified, Rosella cast a healing spell at the ropes. They turned back into hands, healthy hands on healthy arms, and withdrew in defeat, making a rude gesture.

Rosella's ship sped up, free of the drag, and as it sailed away they heard the Queen call out her final curse: "We have lost that Prince and so shall you! Once home may he forget you!"

Rosella's ship sailed on, free now. After she and the Prince had held and comforted each other, he said, "But what about the Queen's curse? I will never go home if it means forgetting you! Let us sail to some other country."

So they changed course to avoid his kingdom,. But a great storm arose and drove their ship toward it in spite of everything they could do. Fearing that the ship was about to be broken on the rocks, Rosella took a ring from Antonio's finger and together they cast a spell on it. "You may forget," said Rosella, "so I will wear the ring for now. Then later when you put it on again, may you remember everything."

As they neared the rocks, the storm gave one last great heave which washed the prince overboard. Then the wind calmed, and the ship righted itself and came safely to harbor.

No trace of Antonio could be found. It was as though he had been carried away by magic.

Rosella traveled at once to the capitol, and was very relieved to see the prince riding by in a parade, looking quite healthy. But when she called to him, she found the Queen's curse had come true. He would not even speak to her!

After resting and thinking for a few days, Rosella made a plan. She was sure Antonio's love for her would eventually prove stronger than the Queen's curse. But she wanted to speed matters, and in the meantime, she might as well have some fun....

So Rosella opened the bundle of treasure she had stolen from her uncle and sold enough of the jewels to rent a luxorious mansion just opposite the palace, then bought herself a wardrobe of fine new clothes as beautiful as those of any queen.

For the next few weeks she simply rested in peace and luxury, enjoying the solitudle of her mansion. Then she began going out into society, and flirting with all the men of the royal court--except Antonio, whom she ignored just as much as he ignored her.

Soon all the nobles and lords of the court began to hover round her. Every day her mailbox was full of love-sonnets and every night her garden was full of love-songs and serenades. Rosella went to grand balls in her splendid dresses, always watching the prince while she flirted with everyone else. But he never seemed even to notice her.

After she had become the belle of all the balls, Rosella went on to the next part of her plan. In her own manison she put a spell on a door, on a candle , and on her comb. Then she chose the handsomest duke and invited him to a private dinner in her home.

When the duke came into the dining room, Rosella said, "Excuse me, I'll be back in a moment. Oh, would you please close the front door?"

The duke closed the door, but it immediately opened again. He closed it again, and it opened again. Now he could not get his hand loose. All night the door kept him stuck there, opening and closing.

Rosella did not come back till dawn. "Oh, I forgot about you," she said. She shut the door herself, and this time it remained shut and released the duke's hand. She teased him about not being able to do such a simple thing, then sent him on his way still hungry.

Next night she invited the richest baron to dinner in her home. When he sat down at the table she said, "Excuse me, I'll be back in a moment. Oh, would you please blow out that candle?"

The baron blew out the candle, but it immediately lit itself again. He blew again, and it lit again, and he found himself stuck to his chair. All night the candle kept him there, blowing and blowing.

At dawn Rosella came back and said, "Oh, I forgot about you." She blew out the candle herself, and sent him on his way.

Next night she invited the king's cleverest lawyer to dinner. When he arrived she said, "I'll give you a kiss if you'll comb my hair first."

The lawyer was happy to comb her beautiful hair, but soon found that the comb was making more tangles than it was combing. And, like the duke and the baron, once started combing he could not stop or go away.

Rosella yawned and pretended to fall asleep. Next morning she said, "Oh, I forgot about you," and released him.

The lawyer was so angry that he went straight to the king (who was the prince's father) and told him the story. "This foreign girl is a mischeivious witch," the lawyer said. "You should have her arrested."

At this the baron and the duke told their stories too. The king laughed at them all, but he had Rosella brought to trial anyway. "Why are you making fools of my nobles?" he demanded.

Rosella did not waste time asking what the king meant. She stood up and said loud and clear: "I am avenging a great wrong that was done to me by a member of your court."

The king said, "What was that?"

Without naming the prince, she said, "I saved the man's life, and now he has forgotten me. He will not even speak to me."

"Well?" said the king. "Go on."

Now that all the court, including the prince, were listening, Rosella told the story. "I do not know the man's name," she lied, "but here is his ring."

The king made all the nobles line up then and there to try on the ring. As soon as it was Antonio's turn and he put it on, he remembered everything.

"Rosella, forgive me!" Antonio shouted. "Father, everyone! It is quite true! She did all this, and more!" And he told the whole story to all the crowd. "Rosella, please forgive me!"

"Of course!" she laughed.

In front of everyone, the prince bowed and kissed her hand. "She is wonderful, and I want her for my wife--if she will still have me. Father, if Rosella's witchcraft is bad, lock us up together!"

The king laughed and said, "Case dismissed!"

The End

Expanded from a classical story.--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

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