Fairy Tale: The Princess and the Drought
An original fairy tale born of whimsical thought: when the kingdom is darkened with drought and misery, their beloved princess seeks the help of a mysterious and distant wizard to save her people from starvation. Thank you for reading!
Once upon a time, there lived a princess who desperately longed to save her kingdom. The crops had withered, and food and water were scarce because of a monstrous drought. She sent messages to ally kingdoms for help, but none of them offered support. After all, it wasn't their problem her kingdom was ill-prepared.
One day, she received a letter from a wizard who lived far away in a land the princess had never traveled to before. The letter read:
I will help you, Princess.
But you must help me first.
Come to my tower, alone,
Where so few dare venture.
What could the princess say? Surely a powerful wizard could solve her problems with a snap of his fingers. Though she was cautious about making such a long, difficult journey, she decided it would be worth it in the end.
And so, she traveled, alone, where so few dared venture. She crossed the cities, farmlands, and forests of her home into the vast deserts and mountains of the unknown. When tired and hot from the travel, she drank of foreign streams; she tasted wild mountain berries and mushrooms when she got hungry; she passed through many other towns and cities she had never seen until, finally, she reached the tower looming over a lush green clearing with a restless blue river to its right and a thriving herb and vegetable garden to its left. The tower was a tall spiral of sapphire in which resided the great wizard.
At the foot of the tower, atop a staircase, as blue and rich as a starry night sky, there rested a creature of obsidian stone, but piercing blue eyes. It lounged on its stomach, like a cat atop its stone perch, guarding the tall, double doors to the tower. With a reptilian face, bulky claws crossed over one another, and bat wings folded about its shiny black sides, the creature lifted its head on alert as the princess warily ascended the steps.
"Good afternoon. Are you here by invitation?" the creature asked.
"I beg your pardon, but are you a... dragon?" the princess exclaimed, still taking in the sleek and frightening beauty of the creature.
The dragon regarded her thoughtfully. "Do you mean to ask if I am a dragon to know if you should fear me, or to know if you should heed my trove of wisdom?"
The princess paused in surprise. "I don't know. I have never met either kind of dragon!"
The dragon stared at her. "Dragons take many forms, Princess. This drought over your kingdom, for example, is your dragon to fight."
The princess swallowed, nodding her understanding. "I...suppose it is. Please, may I see the wizard of this tower? He has written me that he will help my kingdom."
The dragon's narrow head tilted inquisitively. "Have you come alone?"
The princess readily nodded again. "Yes. No one has accompanied me on this long journey." Pressing her lips, she suppressed a weary sigh. "It has been... quite difficult."
The dragon calmly replied, "Most journeys that are worth taking are also difficult." With a wave of his long tail, finned at the end like that of a dolphin, the double doors opened behind him. "Your first test you have passed then. You may enter."
Cautiously, the princess thanked the dragon and stepped into the tower. Immediately inside, a round room harbored a comfortable lounge, with several overstuffed armchairs and the beginning of a spiral staircase at the far wall. But, filling the air with pleasant, warm aromas, was a banquet of fresh fruit, clean vegetables, spiced and sizzling meats, steaming golden bread, crystal pitchers of colorful drinks, and cakes and elegant desserts, all perfectly displayed.
The princess felt her stomach groan, as she breathed in the smells and, gazed in hopeful delight. Her mouth watered as she naturally took several strides toward the food when, suddenly, she again remembered she wasn't in her own castle. And the food did not belong to her. The wild berries and mushrooms she had salvaged from her journeys would have to suffice. Wincing, the princess held her stomach, and turned to approach the spiral staircase instead. The wizard was expecting her.
The steps seemed endless, the princess's legs aching and wobbling the more she climbed. Pausing to catch her breath, she braced a hand against the curved wall around her, but drew it back with a gasp when her hand was immediately wet. It was then she noticed the dark sapphire walls, shimmered with a constant, thin flow of clear water running down the stone, like a fountain.
Sighing with relief, she wet both hands and cooled her sweating face. Then she cupped her hands underneath the flow and drank: a soothing refreshment to her drying throat.
Taking a deep sigh of relief, she continued up the stairs with newfound energy, and it suddenly wasn't long before she reached the top. Ending the climb, an old, wooden door stood within the sleek, stone doorway, its aged and simple exterior a startling contrast to the elegance of the sapphire walls.
The princess reached for a bronze door knocker at the center, and thumped it against the door a few times. In response, it creaked open as if by wind, to reveal a vast study of chestnut wood shelves blending with similarly stained walls and bearing a vast library of books. At the back-right corner was an ornate, curved desk, cramped and cluttered with scrolls, quills, and other trinkets and oddities the princess could not identify. At the back-left corner was a neat, rectangular desk almost completely vacant aside from an open, leather-bound book with empty pages and a quill, resting beside an ink bottle. A single, large window welcomed the sunlight in from the center of the back wall.
Bustling about the study was the wizard: an old man with wispy white hair frizzing about his wrinkled face, and a long beard split in two parts that braided together, bound by a spiral of leather cords and a sapphire brooch. He wore a lengthy blue tunic over sensible brown pants and boots: a baggy blue hood sagging from his shoulders, and flowing sleeves often shed off his thin wrists when he needed his hands free.
The wizard paused amid quieted mumbling and hurrying to the cluttered desk with an armload of various items when he spotted the princess in the doorway. "Oh, greetings, Princess!" he said, turning to her with a forming smile. "I was not certain you would come."
The princess folded her hands nervously in front of her. "I was not either, but I believed it to be worth the journey. If you can save my kingdom."
The wizard's eyes crinkled. "I see." As he set his burdens down on the already piled desk, the princess frowned, glancing toward the vacant surface of the other desk that could easily shoulder the burden.
Exhaling contentedly even as some of the scrolls tumbled to the floor, the wizard turned to her to continue. "Well, you must be tired and hungry from your journey. Won't you join me?" With that, he gestured toward the wall to her right, where the princess turned to see the same beautiful banquet table from before and the same lounge area set up nearby.
The princess's mouth hung open in surprise. "But...I just saw all of this downstairs!"
The wizard smiled and nodded. "It tastes much better up here."
Brightening, the princess hurriedly joined him for the banquet, and the two were soon merrily dining. She savored every bite, relaxing as the mouth-watering flavors flooded her senses.
"Dear wizard," she finally began, before taking another bite of her glazed, layered brownie with a strawberry drizzle. "Please, what help can I lend you that you would return the favor to my kingdom?"
The wizard crunched thoughtfully on a bite from the cookie shell of his ice cream cone, and then sipped his Caribbean blue drink. "You have reached out to the other kingdoms for help in this drought."
The princess nodded solemnly. "None of them will help me."
"They cannot help you," the wizard corrected, gesturing toward her with his half-eaten cone. "No other ruler can rule your kingdom for you, dear Princess."
Frowning, she slowly shook her head. "But my people need food, and nothing is growing in my land."
The wizard smiled again. "If food isn't provided in the way you are expecting, perhaps you are expecting it from the wrong place."
The princess chuckled, though a little tense with impatience. "But what other 'place' is there if not my kingdom's allies?"
The wizard shook his head. "Princess, you have been trying to solve this problem by asking others for help. The truth is you have sought the help from others, because you do not believe you can solve this problem yourself."
"But...I can't solve it; I have no food to give them!" The princess stiffened in her seat. "Please, good wizard, my people are starving!"
The wizard's smile had faded, though his countenance was still softened. "Then save them."
"You aren't going to help me?" the princess's voice cracked with desperation. Stinging tears brimmed her eyelids, but she quickly blinked to release them. "Then why did I come all this way?"
"To prove that you could." The wizard leaned forward on his elbows, setting the remnants of the cone down on his empty, glass plate. "You journeyed through the unknown all the way to my tower. You faced a dragon, you resisted a feast ungiven in your hunger, you climbed a seemingly endless flight of stairs, and you did all of it... alone."
The princess swallowed a heavy lump in her throat, her tears cooling as they dried on her flushed cheeks. "But I could handle all of that."
The wizard shook his head, a gentle smile further wrinkling his aged face. "The only problems that are impossible to solve are the problems we decide we cannot handle."
"But I..." The princess sighed with frustration, shifting uncomfortably in her chair. "I cannot end this drought!"
The wizard shrugged again, snatching the cone from his plate again to lick the melting ice cream from its tan surface. "Then you do not need to end it." He met her troubled gaze. "You need to learn how to live within a drought."
The princess considered the wizard's words carefully, as the lingering tension in her body slowly surrendered to her weariness. She deeply loved her people and longed to help them. Could the wizard be speaking the truth? Could believing she would defeat the drought truly be enough? With a sigh, she silently admitted one thing: it seemed she was the only one who was going to try.
Suddenly, an idea came to the princess, and she rushed to borrow a quill and paper. Sending a message by a pigeon borrowed from the wizard, the princess issued a command to her kingdom that all her able-bodied citizens travel beyond the kingdom's borders together, and harvest the wild mountain berries and mushrooms she had discovered on her journey. With the letter, she sent assurance that she would join them to help gather as soon as she could.
Bidding the wizard farewell, the princess hurriedly journeyed back to her people, and the return trip seemed only half as long. When she reached the mountains, she found hundreds of her people carrying out her orders, harvesting the abundant berries and mushrooms growing wild on the rocky soil.
There, the princess established work and transportation schedules, ensuring safety and fair wages for the citizens. Morning workers were sent early to distribute the food to the rest of the people, while the princess ordered that campsites be set up for each of the harvesters working late, so they did not have to trek back home in the darkness. Everyone in her kingdom slept soundly that night, well-fed and ready to work again the next morning.
The princess then ordered research on the plants, for the conditions on the mountain were harsh and, yet, the food source had thrived. Within days, the farmers were planting new berries and mushrooms on their own land, and the supply grew abundantly amid the dry soil.
Months passed, and the drought remained, but the people had built a flourishing kingdom off the wild berries and mushrooms. They baked pies, cooked stews, traded with merchants, and sold their products, finally rising from the ashes of a kingdom that was once starving.
Then, one fateful day, the rains returned, and the drought had finally ended! But the people still grew the berries and mushrooms even when their normal crops sprouted. And they forever honored their princess, who had bravely journeyed to the wizard's tower, where so few dared venture.
Thanks so much for reading! I hope you enjoyed the tale!