The Three Princesses
A Fairy Tale
Once upon a time there were three princesses named Jennifer, Colleen and Alison.
Princess Jennifer lived in the Land of the Mountain King (or Queen, as chance may have it). It lay in a beautiful alpine meadow surrounded by glacier-caped mountains. Every day, when the sun peeked at last over the eastern rim, she climbed to the edge of the biggest glacier where her minions waited. There she climbed into a tiny golden sleigh so that her minions, hauling silken ropes through the pullies, could transport her to where the snow, which fell anew on the glacier each night, lapped against the sky. When at last she was alone in this brilliant world, she clamped a pair of skis onto her boots and, with a whoop of joy, pushed off down the glacier, bending her body to and fro to carve a sinuous path in the new-fallen snow, laughing into the cold wind. Her minions, who waited at the foot with hot chocolate and cookies, linked hands so that when, standing straight with arms outspread, she careened into their arms and collapsed, she did so in a heap of exhilaration.
Princess Jennifer loved the Land of the Mountain King (which it currently happened to be) with all her heart and hoped never to have to leave it.
Princess Colleen lived in the Kingdom By the Sea, which was a stony triangle of land bordering the sea, lapped on one side by white sandy beaches where the tide came in on slow, lacy frills, and on another by rocky inlets where mussels clung to the rocks as the wild waves crashed over them. Every day when the sun rose out of the sea, Princess Colleen went alone to the rocky inlets and the sandy shores with a basket woven of seaweed which she filled with all that the sea could provide for her there – cockles and mussels, clams and oysters, all the salty-sweet delicacies that Princess Colleen loved. On many a good day, she set sail in her little silver boat with silken sails and ran before the wind over the blue water with its ruffles of sunlit whitecaps. Dolphins winked at her while they leaped and played, and when the waves began to arch above her, turning from blue to green, Princess Colleen reefed her sail and threw silken lines to them so they could draw her back to the sandy shore. There, her minions would have prepared tea and crab cakes, and she would spend the rest of her day combing the beach for shells and playing in the sun-warmed water.
Princess Colleen loved her Kingdom By the Sea with all her heart and hoped never to have to leave it.
Princess Alison lived in the Land of Milk and Honey, halfway between the mountains and the sea. Every morning, as the sun warmed the green pastures and orchards, Princess Alison stayed in bed while her minions brought a breakfast of pancakes dripping with honey and spread with rich yellow butter, which came from the dappled brown and white cow she called Spot. After breakfast, she would dress and don her hat with the veil of silken netting and order her pony cart brought around so that she could inspect the hives, the chicken coop, and the dairy barn. A luncheon of fresh egg omelet and a frosty glass of milk from the red and white cow she called Patches was served on a flagged terrace overlooking the palace gardens, after which Princess Alison, somewhat fatigued, liked to nap for a couple of hours. Tea time arrived with minions bringing apple tart with cream from her favorite, a small, tawny cow she called Lady.
Princess Alison loved her fertile green kingdom with all her heart and hoped never to have to leave it.
Now it happened that there was another land nearby, a dark forested land, traversed by secret ways that wound through briars and bogs under the cover of towering evergreen trees, clothed in sharp needles of so deep a green they appeared to be black. It was rumored that this was also a kingdom, ruled from a castle so deep in the forest that no one from outside had been there for years untold. It was, if you asked the minions, nothing more than a myth, a story they used to scare their children in hopes that they would never venture there.
However that might be, there came a day when letters arrived at the castles of the princesses' kingdoms addressed to the their fathers, the kings. These letters were delivered by riders dressed in dark leather on black horses and were stamped with royal sigils showing a crenelated keep nearly lost beneath a guard of towering pines.
To Whom It May Concern:
(the letter read)
It has come to my attention that we, the rulers of our separate kingdoms, have a similar problem: our children have no means at present of producing an heir. Your daughter is in need of a husband. My son, Prince Igor, is in need of a wife.
I propose that you deliver your daughter to the edge of the Dark Forest where one of my minions will guide her to the Castle Under the Pines. If the Prince is willing, she will become Queen of the Dark Forest and my son will become Prince Consort to her own kingdom when the time comes.
With all due regards,
“It is your duty. You will inherit when I am gone, but who will inherit after you? I want to see my kingdom secured,” Princess Jennifer’s father declared.
“I will adopt,” she retorted, with arms crossed before her and a stubborn set to her mouth.
Her father rose in majestic fury. “That is madness!” he shouted. “If there is no legal heir, your beloved mountains will be annexed by the Land of Milk and Honey and we will be overrun with tourists and ski resorts. Is that what you want?”
“No, father,” Princess Jennifer replied. “I will go.”
“I have no need for a husband!” she complained to her minions the next morning. Unperturbed, her minions continued packing her rucksack for the journey. So she set off again for the mountain, but instead of pointing her skis toward home with joy in her heart, she trudged to the top of the pass and pushed off down the sunset side of the glacier toward the Dark Forest far below.
Princess Colleen stood gazing despondently at the sea view from her window. “I have no need for a husband,” she muttered as her minions went about packing a seaweed hamper with provisions for the journey.
“My dear,” her father had said, as they sat before the great seaward-facing windows the evening before. “It grieves me to send you away for a time, but I feel I have little choice.” And then he had handed her the letter from King Wolfram. “It seems that Prince Igor is the only eligible prince available for your hand, and that if we want to keep our precious kingdom, we will have to keep the line intact.”
“Would it really be so bad, father?” Princess Colleen had asked. “Couldn’t we perhaps ask our people to choose a new king or queen to succeed me?”
“Ah, if only that were possible. But while we were choosing, there would be no one on the throne and we would be open to annexation by the Land of Milk and Honey. In no time at all, we would be overrun with tourists and sea resorts. Your dolphins would no longer feel at home on our shores. And our inlets and beaches would soon be picked clean.”
So Princess Colleen climbed into her silver boat, but instead of running with the wind or calling the dolphins, she paddled slowly and sorrowfully along the shore until she reached the shingle at the edge of the Dark Forest.
Princess Alison pushed her breakfast aside and refused to get out of bed. “I have no need for a husband!” she wailed. In the courtyard, her minions continued to pack her pony cart with all she could want for a journey.
The night before she had thrown herself at her father’s feet, sobbing and pounding her fists on the floor in a tantrum of epic proportions.
“I won’t go! I won’t! You can’t make me. I will not, WILL NOT marry some snotty little prince named Igor.”
Her father the king heaved a heavy sigh, which was customary for him in the presence of his daughter, and said, “But, sweetheart, how then do you propose to get an heir to reign after you if you do not marry?”
“Who said I would never marry?” Princess Alison demanded. “There isn’t a prince in the entire world who would not want to marry the heiress of the Land of Milk and Honey.”
“But who, dearest? Who in the world is there besides Prince Igor?”
“I don’t know,” Princess Alison had replied, between hiccups, “but some day my prince will come. I know he’ll come. Over the mountains or over the sea, he’ll come …”
“You are not going to wait around for some vagabond prince to come begging at the gates. I’m sorry, cupcake, but you will have to go. And when you are married and have borne an heir, I will annex the kingdom of your choice. There are two on our borders with unmarried princesses. Perfect for vacation resorts.”
At that, Princess Alison laid her head on the king’s knee and sniffled. “Okay, father. But only if I can take my pony cart. I simply cannot walk all the way to the Castle Under the Pines.”
And so it was agreed.
Pried at last from under the covers, she dressed, donned her veiled hat, and climbed into the cart with a heavy sigh. She drove past the coop and the dairy barn and the hives before turning into the pasture where, after hugging Spot and Patches and sobbing into Lady’s neck, she set off at last for the far fences where the Dark Forest waited.
Princess Jennifer marched into the dark forest, shoulders squared and head held high, as if she were a soldier of her father’s castle guard, for that is how she saw herself. She was here on an order of her father the king with the singular mission of providing an heir to his kingdom.
Her path through the forest switch-backed down among the foothills at an angle so steep that she felt quite at home. “What did that silly king mean by if I could make it to his silly castle. This is a walk in the park for me.”
And then she came to a fork in the road. “Oh, rats. Now this is a quandary.” And she sat down to think of which way she should go. While she was sitting there, she noticed a leaf coming toward her. Looking closer, she realized it was being transported by a group of ants.
“Almost there,” puffed one of them. “Just one more hill to go.” And the leaf turned and began to make its way along the left hand track.
“Hmmm,” thought Princess Jennifer. “If that way is uphill, perhaps the other way is down.” And sure enough, all she had to do from then on was determine which fork led upward and which led down, and all too soon she arrived at the Castle Under the Pines.
Princess Colleen found it hard to breathe in the forest. She was accustomed to sea and sky and horizons that seemed to spread to the ends of the earth, and the weight of the tall pines rising so closely all around were to her a suffocation.
In the forest, the trees were bearded with hanging swathes of mossy green and it wasn’t long before Princess Colleen found that the track disappeared at times in marshy shallows. Clouds of midges filled the thick air, and the way forward through the muck could only be found by discerning the next treeless hummock. The water, thick with rotting vegetation and alive with things that crawled or swam beneath it, was never more than ankle deep so that Princess Colleen was able to proceed some distance into the forest until, stepping off of one last hummock she fell in up to her neck. Her feet sank into the muck, and try as she might she could not free herself to swim. Making matters worse, the midges swarmed about her head so thick that she had to close her eyes. When something burped in her ear, her heart nearly stopped with fright.
“You had best move from there, or others will soon come. I’ve had more than enough for lunch already.”
The raspy voice came from behind her. She opened her eyes and turned her head to see a gigantic tortoise in place of the hummock.
“I can’t move,” said the princess. My feet are stuck in the mud.”
“What are you doing here at all? This is no place for a – whatever you are.”
“I am a princess and I am on my way to the Castle Under the Pines. I thought the hummocks were set here to guide me, but I see – Oh! I’m sorry. Did I …”
“Step on me? I’m afraid you did, but I don’t mind. It’s not every day I get to rescue a … a … what did you say you were? A princess?”
“Yes. Princess Colleen. I live in the Kingdom by the Sea. Did you say ‘rescue’?”
“Indeed I did. Castle Under the Pines, did you say? Why anybody would want to go there is beyond me, but if you grab onto my shell, I will help you.” The tortoise slid into the water beside her and the princess held on for dear life as the tortoise pulled her free of the muck, leaving her shoes behind, and through the water until at last they reached dry land. There, just visible through a screen of trees, stood the Castle Under the Pines.
“Oh, thank you,” Princess Colleen cried as she crawled ashore, but when she turned to embrace her rescuer the princess could see only the tortoise’s dark round shape disappearing beneath the water.
The minion guarding the barrier before the dark forest swung the gate wide and Princess Alison drove her pony cart through. She shuddered as the tall pines closed in around her and pulled her new red shawl close around her shoulders. For a while, all went as well as could be. The track here was wide and fairly straight and after a while Princess Alison began to relax a little bit, thinking to herself that the Dark Forest wasn’t so bad after all.
“I don’t know why people call it dark. It seems more … shady. Cool. Probably not bad on a hot day,” she told her pony. Just then her pony stopped in her tracks.
“Whatever is the matter … oh!” Princess Alison gave a frightened little squeak. For there in the middle of the broad track stood a great black wolf.
“It is, indeed, a bit shady here in the dark forest,” the wolf told her. “But please do not be anxious. I was sent by King Wolfram himself to welcome and guide you.”
“Guide me? But the track is so broad and straight, surely I do not need a guide,” replied the princess.
“Oh, did I say ‘guide’? I meant to say ‘guard.’ The way is long and there are many dangers in the dark forest when night falls.”
“Well, thank you. That is very kind of the king. But I’m afraid you have frightened my pony so that I don’t think she will consent to pull my cart further.”
“In that case, I must climb up beside you. If she can no longer see me, she will not be frightened.” And the wolf proceeded to jump into the cart beside the princess.
Princess Alison shook the reins. “Walk on,” she told the pony, and, reluctantly, the pony walked on.
Now Princess Alison had heard all the tales about little girls and wolves in the Dark Forest, so she was not at all relieved to have one for a traveling companion. She edged to the end of the seat. To her consternation, the wolf glanced around nervously, and moved closer to her.
“Wh … what kinds of dangers do you expect to encounter?” Maybe, she thought, if she kept it talking it would forget about … well, whatever. She didn’t want to think about “whatever.
“Oh, you know. Lions, tigers, maybe bears. Almost certainly wolves.” Again the wolf looked around as if afraid something might pounce out at any moment.
Princess Alison glanced at the forest. “Oh, my,” she said. “But I don’t need to be afraid, do I? I have my own brave wolf to guard me.” She turned to the wolf, who had edged even closer to her. “But why do you need to be so close? You are the only wolf here.”
“The better to guard you, my dear,” the wolf replied.
Just then the princess heard a howl. Turning, both she and the wolf saw a pack of gray wolves trotting along the track behind them.
“Oh, save me, save me!” Princess Alison cried, and threw her arms around the wolf. But the wolf threw its forepaws around her as well, and bleated, “Save me, save me!” into her ear.
The princess drew back, almost falling off the pony cart, and stared at her companion. Instead of a fearsome wolf, she now beheld a very frightened sheep who, to make matters worse, seemed to be trying to climb into her lap. Seeing that she would have to save both of them, she pushed the sheep firmly away, gave the reins a snap, and reached behind for one of the hampers.
And so, while her pony took them down the track as fast as it could go, Princess Alison tossed all of her muffins and devilled eggs and, lastly her precious apple tarts into the path of the ravening wolves so that by the time the wolves had eaten the very last tart, they were out of the woods.
The pony had brought them safely through to the Castle Under the Pines.
Prince Igor pressed his nose to the glass of the uppermost tower window of the castle. “I have no wish to marry,” he complained to the minions who were trying to dress him in his very best. It was his 16th birthday, and instead of a real horse of his very own, his father had told him he would be getting a princess.
“You must marry,” King Wolfram had told him. “You must produce an heir.”
Now, Prince Igor had some notion of what that entailed, having raised livestock, and he blushed to think of it. In fact, never having met a princess, the whole thing terrified him. Did she know? Would he - oh, horrors – have to explain it to her?
Finally, he saw movement at the edge of the forest, and soon a girl strode into the courtyard and looked up at the castle. There was an air of no-nonsense about her that scared the prince a little. He couldn’t imagine himself asking for her hand, much less …
But wait. What was this? Someone else appeared at the entrance to the marsh, someone dressed in muddy clothes and … barefoot? Barely had Igor time enough to wonder about this apparition when lo and behold, a very pretty girl in a pony cart came through the main entrance and into the forecourt of the Castle Under the Pines. And riding with her was …
From his first birthday on, his father had given him baby animals, lambs, piglets, chicks and bunnies, for companions, and as these grew too large to be called pets, a big feast was held and he was presented with a new menagerie at his next birthday. Wooly Lambkin had been taken away only a few weeks before, which was why Prince Igor had been hoping against hope that his new companion would be a beautiful black foal to raise as his very own.
“So that’s where the rascal …” King Wolfram had come into the room and was looking over his son’s shoulder. And there are the three princesses – haha! Looks like one of them had a little tumble in the marsh. No matter. We shall clean her up and tonight we shall have a great feast, where you shall choose your bride from among them.
And off he went to order dinner. “Mutton, I think,” he said to himself.
Down in the courtyard, the three princesses looked at each other in amazement. They had each heard rumors, of course, that there were neighboring kingdoms with princesses, but they each had so many minions who had played with them as children and who had grown up beside them, that they had never wanted for companions.
Introductions had been made all around when Princess Colleen exclaimed, “Is this a trick?” Have we all been lured here to marry Prince Igor?”
“Does he expect his son to marry all of us?” asked Princess Alison. “I will NOT be a part of any harem!”
“What’s with the sheep?” asked Princess Jennifer.
Just then, a minion from the castle appeared to usher them all inside where, after being invited to a feast in their honor that evening, they were all shown to rooms of their own. A minion in a chef’s hat tried to lead Wooly Lambkin away, but the wily sheep hid behind Princess Alison’s skirts.
“I cannot be separated from my sheep,” she told the chef. “She saved my life in the Dark Forest.”
So the chef retreated, muttering something about having enough chicken to go around.
In their rooms, Princess Alison found that the window of her room looked out upon the far mountains, and she pressed her nose against it longing for home. Likewise, Princess Colleen could almost swear she saw a sliver of blue sea on the horizon from her own window, and hoped the dolphins were thinking of her while a salty tear ran down her cheek.
Princess Alison lay back against the pillows of her great bed and asked the sheep, “Okay. What’s your story?”
And the sheep told her that its name was Wooly Lambkin and that she had been a favorite pet of Prince Igor until very recently when she was led away to a pen behind the castle and given all that she could ever want to eat. Wooly Lambkin was fairly bright, for a sheep, and soon figured out that the end was near, so one day when a hunter minion brought home a wolf skin, she managed to wiggle out of the pen and into the wolf skin and escaped to the forest. “The rest, you know,” she sighed.
“Well,” Princess Alison replied. “If ever we get out of this dreary place, you are welcome to come home with me. Spot and Patches and Lady will be happy to share their pasture.”
There was a knock at the door.
“Come in,” called Princess Alison.
The door opened to admit Princess Jennifer and Princess Colleen.
“We have no wish to marry anybody,” Princess Jennifer announced.
“We need a plan,” added Princess Colleen.
Princess Alison sat up amidst the mounds of pillows, folded her legs under her, and patted the bedsides.
“Have a seat. I don’t want to marry until the day my prince comes. I certainly never expected to have to come to him. It’s all wrong.”
“Who is your prince?” asked Princess Jennifer.
“How in the world should I know,” Princess Alison replied. “He hasn’t come yet.”
The other two princesses raised their eyebrows and exchanged a look, but came and took their seats on either side of the great bed nevertheless.
“We have an idea,” said Princess Colleen.
Two hours later, the princesses were shown into a cozy dining room where a table had been set for four. The fire in the small stone fireplace was reflected in the handsome carved cadenza which stood against the wall, laden with silver bowls of mushroom bisque and golden platters piled high with golden fried chicken.
“I’m starved,” exclaimed Princess Jennifer.
“Simply famished,” added Princess Alison.
“I don’t see crab cakes,” sighed Princess Colleen.
Just then the door opened to admit a line of minions, who lined up in front of the cadenza. But the princesses had no sooner unfolded their linen napkins and placed them in their laps, when a horn sounded and the minions stood at attention.
King Wolfram was all that his name implied: big, with a beard that covered most of his face, and a head of unruly hair barely held in place by a heavy golden crown. He was dressed in kingly vestments of royal red and black heavily festooned with ribbons and medals. He strode in to stand behind the empty chair just in front of the fireplace, where he fixed them with a pair of black eyes nearly invisible through the foliage.
“Ahem,” he began.
The three princesses put their chins in their hands and leaned forward as if eager to listen to his every word.
“Ahem,” he began again. “I have gathered you here together today on a great occasion.”
“Oooh,” the three princesses breathed, simultaneously, as if greatly impressed.
The king, not used to dealing with princesses, looked down and addressed the rest of his speech to the empty chair.
“It is my beloved son Igor’s 16th birthday, and I have decided that it is time for him to choose a wife. Your fathers have all agreed that you are also in need of husbands, so that your line may continue after your, er, eventual demise. And so,” this time he raised his head and addressed the chandelier, “I proposed that he meet you all, that you enjoy a pleasant dinner,” here he waved one hand in the direction of the credenza, “and get to know one another.”
“But,” Princess Jennifer interrupted, “our fathers were given to understand that we were each the only one invited.”
“Yes,” Princess Colleen added, “My father would never have sent me here to be auctioned off.”
“Nor mine!” Princess Alison’s voice made the king wince.
“But I wanted my son to have a choice. Not be stuck with …” The king looked around at three glowering faces and faltered.
“Really, father,” said a voice from the doorway. “You’re not doing me any favors here.”
All heads turned, as Prince Igor came into the room.
Igor had black curly hair, a little tousled on top, and brilliant green eyes that flashed in the firelight. His parted lips revealed the whitest of teeth, while his smile quirked to one side just enough to suggest a sense of fun. If the princesses had been hoping to meet a handsome prince, Igor was just the ticket.
“Better let me take it from here,” he suggested, as he approached his father. “Besides, I’m ravenous.”
“Ladies, I present my son, Prince Igor.” The king wiped his brow as he edged around the table to the door. “Bon appetit.”
The prince beckoned to the minions. “Please,” he said, as he took his seat, “I suggest we deal with this conundrum after dinner?”
And since the minions were even now filling their soup bowls with delicious-smelling mushroom bisque, the princesses glanced amongst each other and nodded their acquiescence.
All too quickly, minions removed the empty soup bowls and plates piled high with bare bones, replaced the water glasses with goblets of wine, and left the four young people alone to resolve their dilemma.
“Well,” said Prince Igor, breaking a silence that threatened to last the entire evening, “since I am to choose a bride among you, perhaps you could introduce yourselves and tell me a little bit about your kingdoms.”
“I am Princess Jennifer,” said Princess Jennifer, it having been decided beforehand that she would speak first. “My kingdom lies high in the mountains and is covered for much of the year in drifts of snow so deep that we need special shoes to get from one place to another. When it isn’t snowing, it is very, very cold. It can be quite unpleasant.”
“Is there no spring, no summer?” asked the prince?
“Oh, yes,” Princess Jennifer replied, thinking of the beautiful flower-filled alpine meadows that surrounded her castle. “But alas we must spend so much time preparing for the long winters that there is little time to enjoy it.”
“Then I suppose you are hoping that I will choose you, since you would surely prefer to live here with me in the Dark Forest.”
“Oh, no sir,” Princess Jennifer replied. “The whole point of my marriage is to ensure that my kingdom has a king, er, queen, and surely my duty lies there.”
“How very plucky of you,” said the prince. “Your father must be very proud.”
“I am Princess Colleen,” Princess Colleen put in, and my kingdom lies on the seashore. Great waves pound the rocky inlets and the tide rolls salty water over the sandy beaches twice a day, while sea-roving beasts patrol the coastline all the year round.”
“It sounds absolutely frightful,” said the prince. “You must be hoping I will choose you, since you would also prefer to live with me in the Dark Forest.”
“Oh, no sir,” Princess Colleen replied, thinking of skimming over the waves in her silver boat and playing with the laughing dolphins. “The whole point of marrying is to ensure that my kingdom has a,” she glanced at Princess Jennifer, “queen, and surely my duty lies there.
“How very valiant of you,” the prince said. “And you,” he nodded to Princess Alison, “do you also have a terrifying tale to tell of your kingdom?”
“Oh, no. Not at all,” she replied. “I am Princess Alison, and my kingdom is the Land of Milk and Honey. I live a live replete with all I could ever want. My cows give me milk and cream and butter. My hives give me honey. My orchard gives me apples. The sun shines all the day on my green fields, and it only rains after midnight on weekends.”
The other princesses looked at her with raised eyebrows. Princess Alison shrugged. “What can I say?” she asked. “He’s cute.”
Prince Igor laughed. “And so are you, Princess Alison. So are you. As a matter of fact, I think I do like you the best, but here’s the thing. I don’t want to marry anybody. Not yet, anyway. Not until I’ve seen something of the world. You may have noticed, there isn’t really much to see in the Dark Forest. Too many trees.” He looked at Princess Jennifer. “I have seen the mountains from windows high in the castle. And,” to Princess Colleen, “I think I have also caught a glimpse of the sea from the windows on the other side. Long have I wanted to escape my home, climb mountains, sail the sea.”
“What about the Land of Milk and Honey?” asked Princess Alison, with a little catch in her throat. “Is there nothing about my kingdom that you might like?”
“I like everything you have told me about the Land of Milk and Honey, but it sounds more like a place I would love to come to after a hard day in the mountains or surviving a storm at sea. Someday I think I would love to follow the track that leads to your land. In the meantime …”
“In the meantime, we have a problem. None of us want to marry today. Even if you picked one of us, we would find a reason to say no. Wouldn’t we, Princess Alison?” Princess Jennifer gave her a hard look, and the Princess of the Land of Milk and Honey had the presence of mind to nod her head.
“I’ve got an idea,” said Princess Colleen. “Prince Igor, you tell your father that you have decided to marry Princess Jennifer, but you will have to visit her kingdom to ask her father’s permission before she can say yes. Then the rest of us can go home, and you can have an adventure in the mountains.”
“But …” Princess Jennifer protested.
“Wait,” Princess Colleen ordered. “After one year, you, Prince Igor, will return home to tell your father that you have not been able to keep me out of your mind, and that you are determined to visit the Kingdom by the Sea to ask my father’s permission.”
Delighted oohs went around the table.
“Brilliant!” declared Prince Igor. So I will marry you?”
“Oh, no, silly. You yourself said that you like Princess Alison the best, and after you have stayed in my kingdom for a year you will go home to tell him that. Then … then …
“Then my prince will, indeed, come. Just as I always told father that he will.” Princess Alison was all smiles. “And after we are married, we will come visit you often. On vacations.”
And so they all picked up their wine glasses and toasted to adventures and vacations and living happily ever after.
King Wolfram was not entirely happy about the decision his son had made – he was secretly hoping to annex the Land of Milk and Honey – but he gave in on the condition that they return to the Dark Forest to be married.
The plan worked beautifully.
Prince Igor trudged up the long slope to the crest of the mountain above Princess Jennifer’s home and was given his own pair of skis. The two of them roamed the mountain valley and the rocky glens and became jolly friends but did not fall in love. Indeed, Princess Jennifer never married, but she did become close to a minion’s son when his parents were killed in a rare avalanche. She adopted him and raised him to be a kind and wise ruler in her stead.
Princess Colleen greeted Prince Igor when he emerged from the marsh, accompanied by a very large tortoise, and together the two of them searched the inlets and dug in the sand for cockles and mussels and crabs and oysters and scallops. Prince Igor learned to sail and to swim with the dolphins and when he finally left for home, it was with a packet of crab cakes that he had learned to love. Princess Colleen introduced the concept of voting to her minions and, indeed, they did elect someone from their ranks to succeed her. He was a very likable young man, and the princess became so fond of him that one day she heard herself proposing to him (he was much too proper a minion to propose to a princess), and they lived long and happily and had many children, all of whom knew from birth that if they wanted to rule, they would have to be elected.
So it came to pass one early spring day, when the sun shone bright over the Land of Milk and Honey, that a young man came riding out of the Dark Forest on a tall black stallion, and Princess Alison, who had just been insisting once more to her father that some day her prince would, indeed, come, ran through the green meadow, with Wooly Lambkin close on her heels, to fling herself into the arms of Prince Igor.
“You are here!” she exclaimed.
“So I am,” he said, and kissed her.
And they loved each other long and well and took many vacations to both the Land of the Mountain Queen and the Kingdom by the Sea, and welcomed their friends just as often to the Land of Milk and Honey not to mention the Castle Under the Pines where it was, just as Princess Alison suspected, a shady place to visit on hot summer days.