A Story for Lunara
Once upon a time, there lived a beautiful princess.
She lived in an equally beautiful palace, in her father's beautiful kingdom. She was surrounded by unimaginable riches, endless knowledge from her tutors and books, and fields of exotic flowers that bloomed every spring.
Quite frankly, though, said princess was bored.
"I just want to see the world, Umbra. Is that too much to ask?"
The kazeriu curled up at the foot of her bed hummed softly in sympathy, but could not offer much of an answer.
The princess sighed. "Apparently so." Her father had said repeatedly that she was forbidden from leaving Shenkuu, despite her best arguments. The world was dangerous, he kept saying. It was big and unpredictable. She could get lost, or hurt. Anything could happen. In her mind, though, that was what made it sound so interesting.
She stopped pacing back and forth in her room. Her lessons were finished for the day, and she had nothing to do for the rest of the afternoon. And she could only stand to make so many flower arrangements before she felt like throwing the vases at the walls.
"Hmm, maybe Hinchiro will have something for me to do. What do you think?"
Umbra hummed excitedly. The princess agreed with that sentiment. Of all of her tutors, her father's advisor, Hinchiro, was the least tedious. She skipped her normal lesson with him this morning because he had paperwork to attend to, but it was likely that he would be done by now.
They found the old Mynci in his study, putting away the papers on his desk.
"Princess Lunara," he said, surprised to see her here at this time of day. "What can I do for you?"
"Anything, really," Lunara replied. "I just can't make another flower arrangement today. I can't. Please." She dropped heavily into a chair. Boredom was exhausting.
"I see." Hinchiro moved to sit in the other chair. He had given the princess the kazeriu to keep her company. And although that seemed to help a little, it still wasn't enough to keep her from being lonely. "How about a story?"
Lunara sat up straighter. "A story?" She read many books in her studies, all about philosophy, history, and law. She seldom got the chance to read a storybook.
Hinchiro smiled to himself. He had gotten her attention, it seems. Perhaps she won't be so bored now, at least for today. "Yes. Once upon a time..."
One upon a time and far, far away, there was a magical kingdom called Maraqua, all the way at the bottom of the sea.
What? Yes, the whole kingdom is under the water and everything. Do they...? Hmm, well yes, they would breathe water like we breathe air, of course. What happens when they try to breathe air? That is a good question, isn't it? We may never know. Ahem. Anyways...
In this magnificent kingdom, there lived a handsome prince. Don't roll your eyes, Lunara, he was the mightiest warrior under the sea. He protected the kingdom from the dangerous creatures which rose up from the deeper chasms by riding his mighty chariot and striking them down with his powerful, enchanted trident.
What is a trident? It's... well, it looks like a giant fork. Yes, it does sound rather silly if you put it like that, I suppose. Stop giggling! It is a formidable weapon which can magically vanquish his foes.
One day, while riding around the town which surrounded the prince's castle, he saw one of his subjects, a kelp farmer from the outskirts, frantically swimming through the town gates, looking visibly distressed.
The prince was a loyal servant to his people, and so he stopped to ask what was wrong.
It was horrible, the farmer said, so upset that he was barely coherent. There was a dragon, a big, threatening dragon, right near his farm! How was he supposed to keep raising his school of pfish when there was a big hungry dragon eating them all? Well, yes, and it was rather dangerous to the kingdom and everyone in it if there was a big hungry dragon nearby. That, too.
Does the dragon...? Well, it can't really breathe fire underwater, now can it? No, this is a sea dragon. They are as big as a house, and have many sharp teeth. And instead of fire they breathe cold ice instead, freezing everything in its path before it eats them.
The prince was concerned for the safety of his people, and volunteered to go find and slay the dangerous dragon. He asked the farmer for directions, and rode off to protect his kingdom.
He arrived at the cavern where the dragon was supposed to be, and carefully went inside.
Instead of a pfish-eating dragon, however, he found a crying princess, instead.
How did he know that it was a princess? Hmm. There was a tiara glittering on top of a pile of other shiny treasures, and she wore a fancy princess gown, even though it was torn and dirty.
The prince lowered his trident. He could not attack what was obviously a damsel in distress, of course. He slowly went closer, and when she looked up, he asked her what was wrong.
She told him that she had been cursed by the evil sea witch. Every day when the tides shifted, so would she. She started crying again. She was the dragon, she admitted. She felt horrible, of course, but she could not control it. It was all she could do to stay this far away from the cities, and away from innocent denizens of the sea.
The prince thought for a moment, and asked if she could feel when the tides would shift again.
She said yes, it would be in just a few hours from now. He should leave and be far away before that happened. It was not safe.
He waved off her protests, and told her that he had an idea. He would be back in a few hours, when it was time, he said.
She was confused, but he was adamant, and so she settled back down and prepared for another horrible night when she might very well eat the nice prince who had tried to help.
Meanwhile, the prince went off to the deepest and darkest part of the ocean abyss to search for the evil sea witch. Eventually, after fighting off more and more of her evil minions on the way, he found his way into her lair.
Unfortunately, the magic of his trident was not enough to vanquish her. Instead, his attack did nothing but give her a mildly irritating shock. Snarling, the sea witch fired back with her wand.
The prince did the only thing he could, and he fled.
What? No, he is not being a coward, he is being smart. Wait, just wait, you will see.
As he swam up out of the abyss, he kept firing over his shoulder, trying to hit the sea witch. Each time, she would snarl with anger and charge at him even faster. But the prince managed to stay ahead of her the entire way. All the way back to the cavern where he had left the princess, in fact.
As he reached the cavern, he did not slow down. He charged right inside, evil sea witch in tow, and managed to surprise a very irate dragon. And this very irate dragon reared up and breathed a beam of ice at those who dared to invade her abode.
The prince had known it was coming, and managed to duck. The sea witch, however, was not so lucky, and became entirely encased in a pillar of magical ice.
He held up his trident, and tapped the pillar lightly. The entire block shattered into a million pieces, which washed away in the currents.
The dragon, too, looked as if it shattered at the same time. But, inside the sparkling points of light was the princess, alive, well, and cured.
"And, that's it. They lived happily ever after."
Lunara huffed in her seat. "Well, that's not a very good story, is it?"
Hinchiro frowned. "What do you mean?"
Lunara stood up, pacing again, and started counting on her fingers. "One, how did he know that destroying the evil witch would end the curse? It could have just as easily done nothing. Two, how did he find the witch in the first place? I thought the ocean was huge, but he got there and back in just a few hours? Three, where did this princess even come from? I mean, I thought this prince was prince of the sea, but he had never heard of her? If I had to learn all the noble families back many generations and the names of all six dozen distant cousins then why didn't he? Four, they were just supposed to fall in love and live happily ever after? That is just completely un--"
The Mynci held up his hands. "Princess! It's just supposed to be a story. None of it is real. But, at least you weren't bored during that, were you?"
Lunara stopped pacing. "No. No, I wasn't." She smiled. "Thank you, Hinchiro."
"You are most welcome. Sleep well, Princess. The moon is bright tonight."
"Yes, good night." Lunara headed back to her room, Umbra following close behind.
Yes, it was just a story.
But she was sure there were real kingdoms like that, somewhere out there. And she wanted to find the real story.
All she needed now was a plan to run away...