The Dove Princess

Princess - The Dove PrincessOnce upon a time, a king’s daughter loved dogs as her dearest friends. She had all manner of species about her all the time, and whenever she went for a walk, she always brought at least two with her. She trained the dogs herself along with her brother, who loved them almost as much as she did, and they spent all their free-time with them.

One afternoon, the princess decided to train one of the newest puppies, so she set off on a walk with Klitus and Grimus, two old, wise dogs, and OrangeYellowBlack, OYB for short, the frisky puppy.

“Shall I come with you?” asked her brother eagerly. He wanted to get out of a long meeting with his tutor. “OYB might be troublesome.”

She laughed at him. “I’m sure I can handle him,” she said, and made the prince watch her run away with the dogs while he had to go to his lesson.

The woods beside the palace were a golden green, full of playful shadows, butterflies, and trilling birds. She knew to stay only in this wood, since further on, against the very edge of her father’s kingdom, there was a deep, dark forest, ruled by a sorcerer.

 

OYB - The Dove Princess
OrangeYellowBlack, the frisky puppy

Klitus and OYB ran ahead, and then back again, and then on ahead. The princess practiced calling OYB’s name and making him learn to obey. Grimus plodded on patiently beside her – her loyal, faithful watchdog.

Out of the trees beside the path hobbled an old, ugly, hunchbacked man. He was pulling himself along with a gnarled staff, and grunting as he came. He did not seem to see the princess until he nearly ran into her, and she had to hop out of his way.

“Watch it! Ah, princess, I didn’t see you. Have a few coins for a poor old traveler?”

The Encounter in the Forest
The Encounter in the Forest

The princess was frightened by his awful appearance and brisk manner, but she was too polite to show it, and fumbled in her purse for some coins.

He stomped over to receive them and, as if by accident, hammered his staff into Grimus’s paw. With a squeal, Grimus jumped back and growled lightly in his throat. He did not like or trust this old man, and his paw pounded so painfully he could not walk on it, and had to limp on three legs.IMG-5755

“Oh, Grimus, my darling, are you alright?” The princess bent over her friend and the two other dogs danced excitedly nearby, unnerved by the event.

“Oh, terrible accident that,” mumbled the beggar. “Whoops. Didn’t see him!” He whirled about as if to help, sending his stick going in every direction and nearly whacking the princess’s head off. Though it missed her, it hit OYB in the rear, and with a cry of panic, the puppy took off running into the forest.

“Ho, there! All this fuss is putting me out!” cried the old man, but the princess ignored him and called and called for OYB to come back.

“Oh, where is he? OYB!” She was so upset that she ran after her lost puppy without a second thought, closely followed by Klitus. Grimus whined on the path, torn because he wanted to go too, but knowing he would be no help hobbling on three paws. So finally, he turned back toward home, leaving the beggar grumbling to himself on the path.

When he reached the palace, he barked like a mad pigeon, and everyone yelled and told him to be quiet, but he only got louder and louder, until the prince, who was studying geography and finding it exceedingly dull, heard the noise and ran downstairs.

“What is it boy?” he asked, and Grimus started limping back toward the forest. “Something’s wrong,” said the prince to himself, and followed after.

Grimus led the prince to the place where they had met the beggar, but there was no sign of him. So he began to sniff the ground, and then took off after his beloved princess’s scent.

To both their horror, the scent led them right up to the dark forest, and there, against the outermost tree, lay Klitus, dead.

Grimus whined and wept over his fallen companion, and the prince knelt beside him. “You must go home,” he whispered. “This is no place for an injured creature.” Grimus looked at him with large, worried eyes. “I’ll be alright, you know,” the prince assured him. “The sorcerer never harms young men.”

Dark ForestSo with his tail between his legs and his ears hanging past his mouth, Grimus trudged back to the palace, and the prince disappeared into the black shadows of the dark forest.

Immediately beneath those trees, day turned to night, and he could see no further than the stretch of his arm. As he searched for his sister, he began to despair. There was no sign of her. Instead, there was a big black toad the size of his fist sitting on a mushroom.

“Have you seen my sister?” he asked the toad.

“No,” he croaked. “All I see all day are the black flies that fly around my head.”

A little further into the forest, he found a lion. “Have you seen my sister?”

“No,” he growled. “All I see all day are the scuffling hogs I eat.”

Even further, a snake was coiled around a tree limb. “Have you seen my sister?”

“I have sssseen only the miccce that I sswallow whole.”

The prince searched for two more days until his strength relinquished itself to the weight of his desperation, and he fell to the ground and slept.

In his sleep, a dream came to him. He saw OYB run into the forest in fright, and his sister chase after him. He saw a mighty black crow fly across the gray sky and land in a tall, dark tower in the very middle of the forest. The crow changed into the evil sorcerer, the dark master of the land, and with a wave of his staff, he transformed the princess into a beautiful dove.

When the prince awoke, he no longer searched for a princess, but called out in a loud coo for a dove. Finally, a coo came back to him.

From the very tops of the trees flew down a bird on a single beam of light and alighted on his shoulder. He kissed its beak, and the dove nuzzled its head into his cheek.

“Oh, my dearest sister, how shall I save you from this fate?” he asked her. She cooed softly in response and a tear fell from her eye.

“I will save you!” he declared, and headed off for the black tower with his sister still on his shoulder. When they reached the mighty fortress, the prince banged on the door.

The Sorcerer's Dark Tower
The Sorcerer’s Dark Tower

“Sorcerer!” he yelled. “How can I save my sister?”

The sorcerer stuck his head out of the tower. “Go away!” he shouted, and disappeared back inside.

He pounded even harder. “Sorcerer, how can I save my sister?”

This time, there was no response. For ten minutes, the prince yelled and pounded. Finally, the sorcerer returned to the window.

“I said, go away! Or I’ll turn you into a dove!”

The prince pounded so hard on the door that the wood splintered in two, and then he ran up the spiral staircase.

When he arrived, the Sorcerer was very angry. “Go away, I tell you! Why do you test my patience? I’ll enchant you!”

The Dark Sorcerer
The Dark Sorcerer

“Everyone knows you do not enchant men. I’m not leaving here until you tell me how to lift her curse.”

The sorcerer groaned with annoyance, but he saw he could not get rid of this boy. “Very well,” he snarled. “You must leave her in this forest for three years. You cannot return home – instead, you will wander the world as a nameless beggar collecting one whole seashell from each ocean and stringing them into a necklace. After three years, if you put that necklace around her neck, she will turn back into a girl. Now go away and leave me in peace!”

The brother and sister said a tearful goodbye at the edge of the forest. Just as the prince turned to leave, however, he heard a tiny bark and from out of the foliage leapt OYB. With a coo of joy, the dove lighted on the animal’s head, and the prince left them together, relieved that his sister would have a friend in her exile.

At the first cottage he came across, the prince traded his rich royal clothes for the costume of the resident peasant, and then departed into the world to find the shells.

At the first ocean, he encountered a polar bear and wrestled with him on an iceberg until, finally, he overcame the beast and collected the shell. Just before reaching the second ocean, he faced a giant, evil koala bear who tried to kill him with a rifle. But the IMG-5756prince defeated the evil Koala, took the rifle for himself, and found his shell. At the third ocean, he strangled a sea serpent. At the fourth, he slew a gigantic spider. And finally, in the final year, when he had traveled, and suffered, and grown into a man, he came to the fifth ocean.

Evil Shark
Evil Shark

There, he picked up the final shell and threaded it onto the string he had worn around his neck for three years, then he sold the shark to local fisherman who could make use of its parts, and with the money from the sale, headed back to his own country.re, just as he bent to pick up the final shell, a giant shark flew out of the water and came right for his throat. He leapt back, pulled out the rifle, and with one single shot, killed it in the head.

He went straight to the forest, and there, right where he had departed from her all those years ago, he saw his sister waiting. He ran up, placed the necklace over her head, and she transformed instantly back into a princess. The sorcerer knew when his magic had ceased, and he flew instantly to where the prince and princess were embracing.

“I have completed your tasks!” proclaimed the prince.

The sorcerer had never expected to see the prince again, and he was very angry. But a promise was a promise, so he had to let them go. But before they did, he said to them, “You have escaped my power for now, but someday beware…I will come after your descendants.”

The brother and sister headed back to the kingdom with their now grown dog OYB, and their father the King, who thought both his children had perished years ago, received them with tears of joy.

The End

 

Keep a look out for future stories about the Sorcerer! Why doesn’t he enchant men? What will happen when he goes after the prince and princess’s descendants? Why is he always so cranky?

Images were made by myself and my four-year-old brother

‘Catspaw and Devil’ by Elizabeth Russell

Once upon a time, not too long ago, in the far distant hills of the continent, in a little nook surrounded by towering mountains, there was a quaint country village. Tucked right up against the base of one of the peaks, with a roof of living grass and a door of solid oak, sat a lovely, proud cottage. It was so terribly prideful of itself, with its engraved lintel, painted shutters, and drooping, scalloped eaves, that
even though it sat in the shadow of the mountain, it shone bright with the light of the sun. Without the house lived the pure-white sheep, speckled gray cow, prancing, prattling geese, and long, carefully-hewn rows of golden wheat. Within lived the hale farmer, his red-cheeked wife, his three rambunctious, healthy children, and finally, his red-eared, allegiant sheepdog. If the house was proud, the dog was ten times more so: he had the best home, the best family, and the best master in the world.

Though this home was a veritable paradise, the neighboring village was anything but. The tavern, the most respectable of the assorted, dubious joints that haunted the dark corners of the muddy streets, was home to unsavory costumers, often characterized by a drooping cigar dangling from a scraggly chin, or an eye-patch half-obscuring some questionable jagged mark of former ill-deeds.

On the night our tale began, many such miscreants decorated the smoky interior of this place when, much to their one-eyed consternation, the door kicked wide open to immerse the murky interior in rays of forbidden light.

“Close the blasted door!” cried a hoarse-voiced card player.

When there was no reply, all heads turned, squinting, toward the rectangular opening, to see perfectly outlined in the center, the silhouette of a standing cat.

Scratch, scratch went his paws upon the old wooden floor as he made his slow, deliberate way to the bar.

“No weapons allowed,” growled the bartender.

The strange feline slapped a bill on the counter. “Never ask me to retract my claws.”

In that den of thieves, outlaws, and vagabonds, everyone turned away to mind his own business. They knew who the stranger was: one note of his voice betrayed him. He was the notorious bounty hunter, Catspaw.

 

The farmer, parking his tractor in the last light of the calm, well-worked day, looked up in contentment at the distant peaks of the mountains. There the pink, orange, and purple sunset danced in a medley over the undulating, oceanic curves. He reached down to pet his red-eared dog Devil, the cuddly, frolicsome creature so named in a moment of mirth.

dog-2024644_1280“Come, my friend. Mother will have dinner on the table. I can smell it from here.” These were the fateful last words of the friendly farmer.

Right after he said them, two ruffians from the shadows leapt out upon him, encircled his arms and chest, and threw a sack over his head.

Leaping into action, Devil romped about, biting ankles and making a nuisance of himself, but the kidnappers merely kicked him away, threw his beloved master into the back of their beat-up pickup, and drove away, kicking up a far-off trail of dust.

The farmer’s red-cheeked wife answered Devil’s cries of “Yelp! Help!” by running outside and promptly bursting into tears.

Her neighbors heard the commotion and scampered over. After interpreting her hysterical words in much the same way you might translate a foreigner with a heavy accent, the neighbors were horrified. But one neighbor did not panic.

“I hear Catspaw is in town. He is staying at the tavern. Never fear, dear woman, he will save your husband.”

“No! No!”cried out Devil, as he had been doing unheeded for the past few minutes. “I will save Master. Never fear! Devil is here!”

But no one listened to the little red-eared sheepdog.

“Yes, yes, the brave bounty hunter Catspaw. He will save my man.”

The whole retinue of wife, children, and neighbors set off for the town, leaving a dejected Devil trailing his tail in the dust, whimpering and alone.

“No! A dog’s love is true! I will find my master: I don’t need any old bounty hunter!” He squared his chest, perked up his ears, and set off down the road after the truck’s trail of dust, tracking with his up-tilted nose the heavy odor of burned petrol.

 

After about half an hour, with his energy high, his hope sustaining, and his feet still bobbing briskly along the road, Devil saw a statue on a rock beside the dusty concrete shoulder, barely illumined in the last light of day.

It had two pointy ears, a gray concrete hide, a red pointy nose, two black eyes, and extended claws sharpened from real silver, so it seemed. Devil extended his tongue to test the material of this strange statue, only to receive a decided, furry whip slash across his snout.

“Yow!” he yelped in surprise and darted backward.

The statue, of course, was no statue, but Catspaw himself, patiently awaiting Devil’s arrival.

He leapt lightly to the ground, stirring furrows in the dirt with his claws.kipling_cat_who_walked_by_himself

“I was awaiting your arrival. You can turn back now. I will take it from here.”

His voice was like sophisticated gravel falling into a quarry, bouncing off boulders and rippling, scattering to the bottom.

“No!” barked the canine. “Devil is here! Never fear! I will rescue my Master. He is counting on me!”

Without disturbing a hair of his iron gray coat, the bounty hunter silently sized up Devil, who bravely threw out his chest.

“I can see I am not dealing with an amateur, who only follows his heart. You are a fearsome beast, bred for battle: your teeth made to tear a throat, your brawn to suffocate, your claws to sharpen themselves on bones. You will never back down in the face of death. And if you fail, you will walk into that unknown abyss, confident that you faced each trial with cunning, bravery, and fire.” All the time he spoke, he slowly paced about the dog, working his way in ever tightening circles until his stiff fur brushed right up against the other’s quivering hide. When he reached the last three words, he spat them in derisive scorn, and Devil whimpered at each.

Now the speaker sat back on his cool, confident haunches and looked the passionate pet in the eye. “Leave the rescuing to the professionals.”

For a moment, Devil stood in the dust, torn between his fear and his love. But “No!” he cried. “Dog’s are faithful! Never fear, master! Devil is here!”

Catspaw shrugged lightly. He was too sophisticated to argue, so he silently endured the other’s exuberant company, and they both set off down the road.

After an hour, when the moon was just peeking her head over the tips of the mountains, they saw a ramshackle hut in the distance.

“That, my friend, is the hut where your master is hid.”

Devil was very excited and wagged his tail so hard that his entire body shook. “Let’s go, let’s go!” he cried.

“Patience,” advised Catspaw. “We must make a plan before rushing in. I will take point, you will wait behind. If anyone attacks you, call out. That is the plan.”

“That’s a good plan!”

Devil waited while Catspaw disappeared into the barn. Quivering with impatience, he sniffed the ground and air to pass the time. But then he noticed something odd. He did not smell his master, only a strange, sinister presence. It was a trap!

Barking wildly, he raced into the barn. “Yelp, help, Catspaw! Catspaw, my master isn’t here!”

“You imbecilic canine!” cried Catspaw. “You’re ruining the plan!”

Then a net dropped from the ceiling right above him, but Devil, who was wagging his head all about, saw it and knocked the cat out of the way. The net dropped onto empty air.

Catspaw, with a dignified air, shook himself, and then coolly, with his sharp, extended claw, cut the rope that held the net, causing one of the kidnappers to plummet to the floor of the barn.

When the kidnapper opened his eyes, the notorious bounty-hunter stood over him and little birds faded in and out in circles around his pointy ears.

“All right, scoundrel.” Catspaw’s sword wavered inches from the kidnapper’s throat. “You will tell me immediately where you have stashed this hapless mutt’s master.”

“I-I don’t know! Honest. I don’t got no brains in this operation.”

Catspaw, his intelligent, sharp mind noting the pathetic emptiness behind the crook’s fleeting eyes, harnessed his sword and deftly tied the kidnapper to a chair.

“There you shall remain until we return with the authorities. I hope, for your sake, that our search does not take too long. Come, Devil of mine, you have, despite my best attempts to the contrary, proven yourself useful. You will take point, and your smellerific nose will guide us to the ill-starred farmer.”

Devil beamed and wagged in overawed rapture as he set off briskly down the continuing path, with Catspaw marching erect behind him.

The full moon’s radiance illumined everything in the darkness of night. The trees threw themselves against the speckled sky, only visible where they blotted out a group of stars. The dog and cat plodded patiently on.

“This is it! This is it!” cried Devil finally, pointing like a hunting dog toward a tall, abandoned grain silo. “My beloved master’s scent is most strong here.”gobleboots

Catspaw and his new companion went up to the door. “They are indeed inside, my friend; I can hear them. Let me take on the bandits: they are no match for your farmyard innocence. While I keep them occupied, you find your master.”

Catspaw burst into the silo like an avenging angel, his body a sleek blur of furry-osity, his blade – snick snick – sliced the air, and, most terrifying of all, his complete silence. Taken by surprise, the kidnappers scattered in fear, but there were more of them than the cat, and they soon rallied against him. No one of them was a fit match for his skill, but together, they made a formidable opponent. The silo was crumbling to pieces so that there were beams of moonlight spotlighting the floor and clouds of shifting dust blowing up in eddies all around.

Devil found his master, tied to a chair and hidden in a dark corner.

“Devil, you good dog!” cried the farmer, “Untie me boy, bite through the ropes: there you go. Oh, how I’ve missed you!”

“Good, ill-fated master of my new companion Devil,” cried out Catspaw through the mêlée. “You must retreat this vile granary of defalcators on the infinitesimal chance that I am overrun.”

“Never fear! Devil is here!” cried the faithful dog and threw himself into the fight, biting and barking, and getting in Catspaw’s way.

The farmer fled, but discovered the beat-up truck parked outside with the keys in the ignition. So he drove it through the silo door, knocking the whole crumbling tower over and causing much confusion. Catspaw, the only being alive capable of keeping his head in such turmoil, tied up all four of the villains before the dust of the fallen building had quite settled.

Then they dumped the kidnappers into the back of the pickup, the loner Catspaw sat up front in the passenger seat, the devoted Devil lay content across his master’s lap, and the fortunate farmer drove off down the road, back toward his village, his home, and his family.

 

The End

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Artwork courtesy of:

ArtPassions.net

Pixabay.com