This story is by Mark Gregg and was part of our 2018 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
In the Princess Jo’s bedroom, amid the dark gothic walls, plastered with posters of heavy magic and punk voodoo bands, Jo’s friends listened eagerly.
Jo removed the hood of her skull and cross bones hoodie. Her room’s ambient pink light cast a shadow across her sombre elfin face. With a soft sigh Jo began her tale.
“It was a month ago that I overheard dad talking with Snorre Mischivsson – his fossilized relic of an advisor. Snorre convinced dad that because I was a tomboy I wouldn’t be able to find a prince. He said ‘I needed a female influence, and dad needed a queen.’ Like that old dinosaur knows ANYTHING! It was shortly after that dad began to date.”
“What were his dates like?” enquired Angela, brushing aside her long braided plaits. With big seal like eyes, radiant dark skin and floral dresses that were exquisitely sumptuous and girly, Angela was a beautiful flower. At least until she opened her mouth. At that point she resembled the Terminator – her mighty mesh of metal braces a terrifying sight to behold.
“They were like Princess Fashionista dolls, only even more plastic,” scoffed Jo.
Tommy had been rooting through the clutter on Jo’s dresser when he heard her remark. “What? Your dad’s dates were only nine inches tall? Where did he take them, to a dolls house?” Tommy chuckled. He picked up a snow globe, put it down, picked it up and put it back down again. It was a result of his hyperactivity; Tommy had the energy of a Magicell battery. It was why he couldn’t sit still for a second, let alone a minute. But if by some miracle he wasn’t on the move, he’d fidget like he’d fire ants in his pants.
“No Tommy, they weren’t nine inches tall. I meant they were like mannequins. Well… all except…” Jo took a sharp intake of breath. The memory was painful and she fought back her tears. “…Kristina. Kristina was beautiful and Dad liked her so much that he asked for her hand.”
Pete peered through his thick rimmed specs, bewildered. “Did she give it to him?”
“Of course she did,” said Jo.
“Hmm…” said Pete, staring down at his hand. “How did she remove it? Didn’t it hurt? And why did your dad only want her hand?”
“He didn’t want her ACTUAL hand, he was after her hand in marriage!”
“Then you should have said that. You know I take what is said literally.” And Pete couldn’t help it. He was mildly autistic and metaphors were as alien to him as flowery dresses were to Jo.
“Then what happened?” asked Angela.
Jo’s eyes welled up with tears. “Dad tried to introduce her to me. They came to my room and she was draped all over him. I was consumed with jealousy. I pretended to shake her hand. Instead I pulled my hand back and slammed the door on her face.” Jo hung her head and she sobbed, “I… I… I didn’t give her a chance.”
“It’s not your fault,” said Angela giving Jo an affectionate rub. “Your dad must have known you’d be jealous. Your mum died when you were born and the two of you have been alone for eleven years.”
“Yes… and he tried to make amends. He told me Kristina believed that Snorre was wrong and that it was fine to be a tomboy but, I didn’t want to know. Not long after, he announced they were engaged.” Jo gave a rueful sigh. “I took it badly. I switched on my Poison Apple and posted a message on Gitter asking the kingdom for help.”
“Did you receive any?” asked Angela.
“Yes, the usual replies from the usual ogres and trolls,” said Jo, frowning, “and one bizarre message.”
When you have nothing to wear to the ball but rags,
Or you’ve been locked in a tower by a crazy old hag.
When your kingdom is sleeping and an overgrown mess,
Or your stepmother is evil and your stepsisters’ pests,
Then call on me to prevent a disaster,
And navigate this way for your happily-ever-after.
“I pressed the link and my Poison Apple navigated the World Wide Spider Web to the home-parchment of the Fairy Godmother Corporation. It was gloriously presented in HTML-Spell Five, with jump spiders for an ultra-fast ping and mystic mark-ups for a spellbinding look and feel. The title was flanked by two enchanting fairies, while below was the oddest menu.”
Please wish for one of the following:
To turn a frog into a prince fit for marriage.
To have four white mice pull your carriage.
To rid yourself of your evil stepmother.
To kill the witch who’s kidnapped your brother.
To save your kingdom from a disaster.
Or to live happily ever after.
“Which one did you wish for?” asked Angela, perched on the edge of her seat, desperate to hear.
Jo avoided her gaze. She wasn’t proud of her actions and wasn’t finding it easy to confess. “I wished… to rid myself of my evil stepmother.”
“Was Kristina evil?” asked Pete, surprised.
“No, of course she wasn’t. I was lying.”
“That’s terrible!” cried Angela, aghast. “Why would you do such a thing?”
Jo shook her head. “I don’t know… I was jealous. Well, it soon back fired. On the day of the wedding I slumped over my balcony, staring out at the vibrant Sky Ships that filled the air like the Aurora Borealis, when Kristina knocked at my door. It was weird. She wasn’t wearing her wedding dress and looked upset. She told me she felt guilty about what she’d done and that she couldn’t marry dad. We chatted and I saw she wasn’t as I thought. I begged her to reconsider. She appeared to agree and gave me a hug.”
“So it was a happy ending!” cheered Angela, smiling.
Jo stared down at the floor. The memories provoked such anguish that she struggled to find her voice. “No, my wish came true… and Kristina disappeared.” In a release of emotion, Jo’s tears began to fall.
Angela hugged her. “Oh Jo, you poor thing.”
Jo sobbed and sobbed until the pain subsided. She took a deep breath to compose herself and then bravely continued. “I… I… I navigated back to the Fairy Godmother Corporation’s home-parchment. After being held in a wish queue for an hour, I summoned a fairy support engineer – a tubby young fairy in a t-shirt with the words ‘Don’t be a neutron – stay positive!’ He told me their terms and conditions clearly state that all wishes are final and the only way to save Kristina was to visit the Inn of the Three Headed Dragon.”
Angela’s faced exploded with a gasp. “Not the Inn of the Three Headed Dragon! JO, YOU DIDN’T GO THERE?”
“I had no choice!” cried Jo, with a fiery determination. “It was my fault Kristina went missing. I couldn’t standby and do NOTHING!”
“But Jo, it’s home to murderers! Assassins! And murderous assassins! They don’t just kill you. They’ll fillet you, cut out your gizzard and then they kill you!”
“Well, I had to go!” said Jo, defiantly. “Anyway, I stupidly believed the Fairy Godmother Corporation wouldn’t send me if it were dangerous.”
“Did you take a Sky Ship?” asked Tommy. “I bet it was brill! I bet you saw dragons, giants and all kinds of monsters.” Tommy flapped his arms and ran around Jo’s room as though flying over Midgard.
“Yes, I took a Sky Ship but I didn’t see any monsters… at least until I arrived at the inn. What I saw there was terrifying! A two headed giant guarded its entrance. One head – a thug named Ofridr – threatened to eat me. Fortunately, the other head – an educated fellow named Blidr – talked him out of it.”
“What happened then?” asked Tommy, so eager to hear that for once he was absolutely still!
“I entered the Inn—”
“I bet there were fights, decapitations and murders!” cried Tommy, swinging his fist in excitement. “It must have been so much fun. Ain’t that right Pete?”
“A strange inn, full of murderers and assassins, where there’s every chance of dying, and you’re asking me if it would be fun? It’s illogical! It’s nonsensical! And darn right insane! Of course it would be fun!”
“Actually, it was rather boring,” said Jo. “The assassins and murderers were very polite and they kindly directed me to Kristina. Yes there were a few killings but, they were all done in a very civilized way. I spoke to Kristina and it turns out she’s the most feared mercenary in Midgard. The fairy’s spell had cast doubts in her mind over lying about her past and she ran away in a panic. I pleaded for her to return. This time she really agreed.”
“So the most feared mercenary in Midgard… is going to marry your dad?” asked Angela, flabbergasted.
Jo beamed broadly. “Yep. How cool is that?”