Heidi Swanson is part of the Sophomore class of 2020 at the prestigious college of St. Norbert. Swanson is from the surrounding area known as Green Bay, Wisconsin. She is currently on track for an English Major with a minor in Spanish. This class is currently a riveting experience for Heidi Swanson because she is looking forward to the readings of the original fairy tales. Just like a fairy tale, Heidi loves to read to escape the realities of the modern world today. Heidi is the Copy Editor as well as Entertainment Columnist for the Green Knight Newspaper. Her love for fairy tales and reading has translated into her newest piece of work called “The Missing Princess.” This tale allows for all of us to be able to go back to those times where we were young and to escape the reality of the world to a place where princesses, princes, and hardship come alive. - Niki Koclanes
For many years, the kingdom of Praesalis had been troubled by the disappearance of the young princess. The king was obsessed with finding her for she was his only heir. Without her, his bloodline would end after his death. For this reason, he sent out a message across the land, offering the hand of the princess to whomever could find her and bring her back home. At first, many young men from the lowliest shepherds to the proudest lords had answered the call, for if they could find Princess Andromeda, they would become kings and marry the most beautiful woman in the land.
The problem was none of the men had returned.
This was a source of gossip among the people. At every bustling market full of strange products and even stranger people, a peasant with a penchant for storytelling recounted the tale of the young princess and her unsuccessful saviors. As time passed and the disappearance of the princess began to seem more of a legend than real, the story became twisted. Sometimes, it was said that an odd figure dressed all in black had snuck unaware throughout the castle, stealing Princess Andromeda right out from under the nose of King Barrington, or a terrible witch covered in warts magicked the princess straight through her looking glass (consequently, many villagers had huge hanging boogers or dirty dusty faces, for they were wary of looking into reflective surfaces from that point on). As for the potential suitors and their own disappearances, many people chalked it up to the princess’s captor. Somehow, this evil was so terrible that even the strongest men of the kingdom could not beat it.
Every single person throughout the kingdom had nightmares of the awful incident that befell the beautiful princess. As time went on, Princess Andromeda’s disappearance began to seem more and more like a legend than fact, though the king never forgot his daughter. His loss was heightened because, as more and more suitors disappeared, less and less volunteers came forward to attempt to rescue the princess.
It was at this point the king became desperate. He wanted- no, needed- his daughter back.
“Gustav,” King Barrington bellowed. “Have the soldiers march through the streets of the city, seizing anyone who looks to be strong and brave, and have them brought to me. I am tired of incapable idiots failing to complete the one task I give them: to find my daughter.”
Without looking him in the eye, Gustav answered rather weakly, “M-m-my king, surely you recognize the brave sacrifice of all who tried to bring Princess Andromeda back.” Gustav began to shake, his eyes widening while he imagined the horrors the suitors endured. “Some might have been ripped limb from limb by a terrible ogre, or eaten alive by a fire breathing dragon, or worse—they could have been,” a small squeal escaped from the servant’s mouth, “defeated in battle. Besides, would it be wise to force people to try to rescue Andromeda?”
“Are you questioning me?” The king’s eyes had an uncomfortably chaotic gleam in them as he turned to face the cowering servant.
At this, Gustav ducked down lower, like he was attempting to join the gray brick of the castle floor.
“No, my king. You know that I think you the smartest and bravest of all, and I live to serve. I only hesitate at taking anybody from the street. We might have to deal with a revolt if that happens.”
“Then what would you have me do?”
“P-p-perhaps we could search the dungeons for any person willing to risk life and limb in exchange for freedom?” Gustav was kneeling while he said this, for he knew that the king wanted to look down upon him from the throne. “Of course, we would only force the people with low level crimes, for we cannot send a murderer to rescue the beautiful Princess Andromeda, now could we?” Gustav nervously laughed, hoping to lessen the king’s annoyance.
“While I do not appreciate you questioning my abilities, Gustav, this might not be a bad idea,” King Barrington replied, towering over the small frame of the servant. “A criminal might be best suited to find the evil force who captured my dear daughter. Perhaps you are not as dumb as I thought you were.”
“Thank you, kind king.” Gustav bowed so low his protruding nose just barely brushed the ground.
“Well, get on with it! Go and order the guards to search the dungeons for the fool unlucky enough for this quest!”
“Yes, sir, right away, sir,” Gustav stammered as he bowed out of the throne room.
Not for the first time, Silas had gotten himself arrested and thrown into the dungeons of the castle. They had become almost like a second home for Silas; he knew every crack in every stone, was aware that cell number two always reeked of human piss (and worse), and some of the more permanent residents had become almost friends (which was a little strange, considering the various crimes they committed, but Silas tried to ignore that part). Somehow, like all the other times, he would get out of imprisonment. The only problem was he would probably end up in the dungeons once again. He had to feed his younger siblings somehow, and with his father’s sickness and his mother’s abandonment, their only source of income was Silas whose quick hands and silent movement made stealing from the rich the easiest way to get money.
The arrival of the king’s servant, Gustav, pulled Silas away from his thoughts. What would warrant Gustav visiting the dungeons? Usually, the king took no notice of crime in the kingdom. That was one of the reasons why Silas continued to steal: the king did not care, so Silas had no fear of the king’s attention on him.
Gustav whispered conspiratorially to the guards, and his eyes occasionally darted to the prisoners lining the bars of the cells. The captain of the guard seemed incredulous as he listened to what Gustav told him and gestured that Gustav had to tell the prisoners the news because there was no way he was going to. As the conversation between the captain and the servant came to an end, Gustav turned towards the prisoners, though he hunkered down as if to appear smaller.
In a tiny voice, Gustav squeaked, “The king has ordered that one must once again go on a valiant journey to rescue his beloved Princess Andromeda. Whoever is the lucky person—” at this most of the prisoners scoffed, recognizing the irony of the statement, for they knew that each person who volunteered to rescue Princess Andromeda had disappeared— “shall be absolved of any and all crimes and given 1000 crowns for their skill and bravery.”
Upon hearing of the reward, Silas perked up. If he could succeed in finding the lost princess, all his troubles could go away. With 1000 crowns, his family would be happy and healthy! But there was also the risk of death. Silas knew he was not the strongest or smartest of all people (there came to mind a time when he bad mouthed a half-troll in a bar and ended up with a broken hand). He also knew, though, that, if he continued to steal, his luck would run out; one day, someone would kill him for his burglary. Still, the threat of death kept him from volunteering. Besides, no one else had succeeded, so how could he?
Glancing around, Silas found that every other prisoner was going through the same thought process as he was. No one volunteered.
Gustav waited a second for someone to step forward, and then said, “If no one will step forward, then I will just choose at random.” At this, most of the prisoners tried to blend into the shadows so that Gustav would not notice them, including Silas. This seemed to have the opposite effect, for Gustav pointed one gnarled finger at Silas and said, “You, there! You have the privilege of finding the missing princess!”
“Does he recognize how ridiculous he sounds?” Silas grumbled. Gustav, not hearing Silas’s comment, started to explain the parameters of the deal as he opened up Silas’s cell.
“Now, because we have to ensure your return, we shall keep tabs on your family. If you don’t return, well… let’s just say you don’t want to know what the mighty king will inflict upon your loved ones.”
Silas nodded, understanding how far the king would go to find Princess Andromeda. It was known how desperate he was to get the princess back.
“One thing,” Silas asked. “How am I supposed to find the princess? She has been missing for years. Where do I even start?”
“Ha! That is not my problem to deal with!” Gustav exclaimed. “Come, you must meet the king.”
Dejected, Silas shuffled out of his cell, dragging his feet. He did not want to face the inevitable fact that his family would probably be killed. Just before he stepped out of the gloom of the dungeons, he heard a small voice.
“I know how you can find the princess.”
Not caring about Gustav waiting beside him, Silas turned back.
“Who said that?”
“Me.” Silas heard the wavering word from the cell farthest away from the door. He quickly strode over, peering through the bars. His eyes almost passed over the small figure huddled in the corner. This strange prisoner appeared a little strange, and he was in the dungeons, but so was Silas. To save his family, Silas would listen to the words of a mass murderer (but he really hoped the man, like Silas, was in the dungeons for a much more noble reason).
“Who are you,” Silas asked, “and what do you know about the princess’s disappearance?”
“It just so happens I was the last person to see the princess.” The small figure seemed to straighten up after saying this.
“Isn’t that a little convenient? Why hasn’t anyone else come to you for help?”
“Well of course it’s convenient! That’s the way it should be. And no one has listened to me because I’m imprisoned. No one really trusts prisoners.”
“Can’t imagine why,” Silas remarked dryly.
“Yes, well,” the figure continued, “to find the princess, you need only head north, towards the Cursed Cliffs. There, you will meet someone who can take you to the princess.”
“Who will I have to defeat to retrieve the princess?”
“Ah, young man, that is for you to find out!” The man winked, and his appearance wavered a bit. Silas blinked, and the image was back in full force. “Good luck!” The strange man promptly fell asleep.
“Ooooookay. That was weird.” Turning back, Simon went to leave for the second time. Gustav looked at him like he was from another world.
“Have you gone crazy already? There’s no one in that cell. Come, you must meet the king.”
Looking back, Silas saw that Gustav was right: no one was in that cell. Maybe he really was crazy.
Kneeling down before the king was one of the scariest things Silas had ever experienced in his entire life, and that included the time when he had almost fallen into the latrines. Silas’s fear was heightened by the king’s sharp appearance; with knifelike cheekbones, a jutting chin, and a stony expression, the king could be the doppelganger of a statue. His personality was as stony as his appearance.
“Well, aren’t you a lucky one, Silas? To help you on your quest, I will provide a horse and one weapon.”
“How generous,” Silas said under his breath. Somehow, he couldn’t keep his mouth shut, even in the presence of the king. Luckily, King Barrington did not hear him.
“You may choose any of the weapons, but the horse I am giving you is the fastest one to ensure your journey is swift. Now, what weapon would be best for you?”
Silas had no idea. In his whole life, the most dangerous thing he held was a knife, and that was to cut bread. Since he knew most warriors carried swords, he picked up one that seemed light enough. He had no real way of telling if the sword was good, but it looked badass enough to work.
“Are you finished yet? Choosing a weapon is not supposed to be this difficult,” the king said without acknowledging Silas as an equal.
“Yes, I think I’m ready,” Silas said.“Good. Outside, the horse awaits you. Do hurry. I will be waiting for your
return as I’m sure your family will too.” At this last remark, Silas noticed a strange look on the king’s face, almost as if he wanted to inflict pain on Silas’s family. But the look disappeared after a moment. Without looking back at King Barrington and the strange servant, Silas walked out of the castle doors. At the bottom of the steps stood a jet-black horse, about 16 hands high. With the help of an attendant, Silas climbed up onto it, grabbing at the saddle for balance.
“Okay. I can do this. I have you, right?” Silas said to his steed. The horse whinnied, as if in agreement. Now, Silas just had to determine where to start to find the princess. Deciding his only lead was to listen to the mysterious figure in the dungeons, Silas spurred the horse on towards the Cursed Cliffs. He left without telling his family about what had happened. They did not need to stress about this in addition to everything else.
As Silas traveled closer and closer to his destination, he began to question himself. What was he thinking? He had listened to the words of a madman! He wasn’t even sure if the figure in the cell was real! The thunderous rhythm of the horse’s hooves did nothing to calm him; it felt like he was riding the waves of an ocean storm instead of a horse. Finally, after what had seemed like years of the same endless expanse of green, broken only by the vast array of blue, Silas arrived at the Cursed Cliffs. It seemed to him that the name was a bit cliché. The name did not match the appearance, for the cliffs seemed normal, save for the person sitting on the edge, looking out across the sea. As Silas dismounted from Blackjack, he realized the stranger was not human. With his pointed ears and near perfect features, Silas realized he was about to talk to an actual elf. This adventure was becoming more and more absurd.
“Hello,” Silas started somewhat hesitantly, “I was told you could help me find Princess Andromeda?” He stayed a couple of feet away from the stranger, for he did not want to tempt the winds to see if they could push him off the cliff. The elf looked up at Silas, his deep green eyes boring into Silas’s. Almost immediately, the elf’s pensive expression turned into a grin, lighting up his whole face.
“Ah, yes, you must be Silas? The criminal from the capital city?”
“Hey! I’m not a criminal!” Silas exclaimed.
“Then why were you in the dungeons?” the elf queried, a confused look on his face.
“I’ll have you know, I was there because I stole money so I could feed my family,” Silas protested and folded his arms, tilting his head up.
“Oh, so you’re a noble criminal. But a criminal all the same.” The elf smirked. Silas spluttered, trying to come up with a defense, but the elf continued, turning back to look out across the sea. “My name is Everett. As promised, I can take you to the princess.”
“Good. So I’m really not crazy. The guy in the dungeons was real.”
“Well, the whole crazy thing is up for debate, but yes, Kilgarah is real. He may have had to hide from some of the less savory characters in the city. Namely, the king.”
“Right.” Silas gave Everett a weird look. He had thought elves weren’t this talkative. “Anyway, can you take me to the princess now? I’m kind of in a hurry.”
“Yes, yes, of course.” Standing up, Everett moved towards Silas, holding out one hand. “Grab my hand, and I’ll take you to Andromeda.”
With a doubtful look on his face, Silas sidled over to Everett sitting on the edge of the precipice. Looking down at the waves crashing down against the sharp rocks, his hand shook as he took Everett’s. The elf smiled, standing up, and promptly jumped off the bluff, bringing Silas with him.
Immediately, Silas began to scream (later, when he told this story to his family, he omitted this part). His thoughts swirled around, trying to find the point at which he went wrong. Probably when he trusted an elf he had only just met. Or maybe when he listened to that old madman that may or may not have been a mirage. Squeezing his eyes shut, Silas accepted his stupidity and waited to become a splat of blood on the jagged rocks below.
Then, Silas’s feet pounded against a soft forest floor. Cracking open his eyes, he saw a beautiful castle in front of him. Tall trees with leaves of the most vivid greens and reds and yellows towered over him. Birds sang sweet symphonies, and rays of light filtered through the leaves.
“Am I dead?” Silas wondered, for he could not figure out how he was alive. He had accepted his fate; he was going to die. Next to him, Everett chuckled.
“No, Silas. This is where you will find the princess.”
“And you just…brought us here. With magic.” Silas waved his hands in the air as if he was casting a spell.
“Couldn’t you have, oh, I don’t know, not jumped off the cliff?”
“Yes. But I have a flair for the dramatic.” Everett winked. Whereas Silas was a bundle of nerves looking about ready to explode, Everett was relaxed, propping himself up against a tree trunk. Suddenly, a huge roar shook the trees of the forest, and the tell-tale stomp of huge feet announced the arrival of an enormous dragon. Terrified and shaking, Silas pulled out his sword.
“Everett, you never warned me there would be a dragon!” he shouted.
“Well, what were you expecting? This is the castle of a princess.” Everett replied without a trace of fear. He even looked relaxed. The dragon roared at the two of them, advancing on Silas. Dappled in the deep greens and browns of the forest, with golden streaks that mimicked that of sunlight, the dragon blended into the background. Silas could only make out the dragon because of the deep red settled in the belly. Too late, he realized that the deep red signified the dragon was about to expel a blistering blast of fire. Just in time, Silas dove out of the way into some bushes along the way.
“You alright there, Silas?” Everett called out. Irritatingly, he was still leaning up against a tree as if facing a fire-breathing dragon was a daily thing.
“Um, no! I’m pretty sure all my eyebrow hair is singed, and I’m going to become an appetizer for a dragon! A little help here would be nice!”
Everett started to laugh, then guffawed. Tears were streaming down his face as he turned toward the dragon, bowed, and said, “Okay, Ryua, you can stop now. That was good fun.” The dragon, who a second ago had been prepared to make Silas a shish kabob, dropped down onto all fours, making a noise that sounded suspiciously like a laugh. Silas looked back and forth incredulously between the dragon and Everett.
“Fun? I could have died!” Silas’s ears were turning bright red as they often did when he was angry, scared, or embarrassed. This moment was a combination of all three; being laughed at by a dragon was a rather humbling experience.
“Yeah, but you didn’t. Besides, it was only a joke. Ryua here had the idea once Kilgarah told me of your impending arrival.”
Still angry, Silas marched towards the doors of the castle. “Where can I find the princess?”
“In the tallest room of the tallest tower, of course. But watch out for the ogre!”
“There’s a dragon and an ogre guarding the castle?”
“Well, really, just an ogre. Ryua comes and goes as she pleases.”
Quietly and carefully, Silas entered the castle. His eyes darted around, looking for any sign of the dreadful ogre. He held his sword out in front of him, though his arm was shaking due to his encounter with the dragon (Ryua, whatever) and his fear of the ogre. Awkwardly, he carried the sword up the stairs, worried that he might impale himself, ending his short career as a hero. Balancing this against the need to be ready in case the ogre showed up, he resolutely kept the sword tip pointed up. Eventually, after many, many stairs and no sign of the ogre, Silas arrived huffing and puffing at the doorway of the princess’s room. He knocked first, of course. He was a gentleman.
“Come in,” he heard. Strange. Princess Andromeda sounded way too calm for being kidnapped and held against her will for several years. Opening the door, Silas prepared to meet the beautiful princess. She was sitting in a chair by the fire, a book propped up against her knees. When she saw Silas, she jumped up, grabbing a dagger from within her boot.
“Who are you?” Princess Andromeda said, her eyes hardening into sharp points of light.
“I’m Silas,” he said proudly, gathering himself up as if to appear more like a warrior rather than a commoner kid. “I’m here to save you.” Though he appeared confident, Silas was unsure of the situation. The princess didn’t look like she had been kidnapped. In fact, from what Silas could tell, she looked right at home; even the dagger appeared to be a natural continuation of her hand.
“Save me? I don’t want to be saved. I came here to escape,” the princess said as if Silas should have known that.
“But the whole kingdom has been looking for you for years,” he explained. “Many potential suitors have tried looking for you, but none have returned. Speaking of which, why have none returned? Is it because of the dragon? Or–” Silas’s expression became even more horrified. “Did—did you do anything to them?”
“No! I’m not evil. Though I do dabble in the black arts, sometimes.” Stopping, Princess Andromeda realized how she sounded after witnessing the look of shock on Silas’s face. “Of course, I don’t use it for anything evil. Just to protect myself against any nefarious monsters. No one has shown up to ‘save’ me besides you.”
“Then what happened to them?”
“I don’t know. Maybe they were too ashamed. Men do like to feel capable, you know.”
Silas nodded, with a look of understanding.
“I get it. We can’t all be heroic.” Silas said, flipping his sword. Or at least, he tried to flip his sword, but with a loud clatter, it fell to the floor. The princess smirked, quirking one eyebrow.
“Obviously, you’re an exception,” she teased.
“Yes, well,” Silas carried on, ignoring the heat he felt on his face, “Why did you leave? Your father really wants you back.”
“He is the reason why I left. My father is a horrible person. He cares nothing for the people of this kingdom. The poor are starving. I’ve seen children running through the streets of the capital who look like nothing more than a bag of bones, beggars so emaciated they seem to be walking corpses. Corrupt lords are overtaxing their subjects, and my father does nothing. And, I’m fairly sure that’s the least of it. I’ve heard him conspiring with that Gustav about something. But I have no proof,” Andromeda stopped, taking a breath. It looked like she was going to continue, but Silas interrupted her before she could.
“Princess, everyone knows the king is a tyrant.” Silas glanced at Andromeda, realizing he was talking about her father. “No offense,” he stated awkwardly, before continuing, “That’s the way rulers are.”
“I was fed up with it.” Crossing to the other side of the room, the princess fell back into a chair, looking defeated.
“Then why not change it? Come back with me. Stand up against your father and save the kingdom!” Silas raised his fist with a triumphant look on his face.
“It’s not so easy as that, Silas. My father has people to back him up. What do I have?”
“Well, you have the dragon, the elf, and the ogre. Surely that’s a starting place.”
“I don’t own them, Silas. I live with them. I couldn’t ask them to fight for me.”
“You still need to try, Princess. If I don’t return with you, your father will kill my family. Besides, you could potentially save everyone in the land. Think about it! You could help fix the problems and be a good, kind ruler.”
The princess looked into the pleading eyes of Silas. He was so earnest, so determined to convince her that she could win, that her resolve to remain in hiding weakened.
“Fine, Silas,” Andromeda relented, flitting about the room in an attempt to gather some things. “I’ll go back with you. But if I fail, just know that it’s your fault.”
Silas beamed, a look of happiness on his face. If the princess won, perhaps his family’s lives, and the lives of other poor people, would change.
“Awesome! Now, let’s find the ogre, Everett, and Ryua, and we can take off for the capital. Justice, here we come!” Silas bounded out of the room, rushing down the steps. Andromeda smiled, admiring the optimism of the young Silas. Looking back at her simple room, she tried to find a way to carry the peace of the past years with her.
“And therein lies the end of the story of the missing princess, who wasn’t really missing, and the unlucky criminal, who wasn’t really a criminal but more like an honorable misfit. Ryua, Everett, Andromeda, Silas, and Turk, the surprisingly well-groomed ogre, travelled to the capital to restore the once great city. With the help of Kilgarah’s secret spy network, they overthrew the tyrant king.”
"Everett, you told that story wonderfully, as always, but I doubt that I screamed when you jumped off the cliff,” Silas said, shaking his head.
“No, Silas, I don’t think I would forget almost losing my hearing to your piercing shrieks.” A chorus of giggles sprang up from the captivated children. Silas’s ears went red, and he ducked his head. One boy raised his hand timidly into the air. “Yes, Alfie.”
“Can we hear more about how you guys beat the king?”
“Ah, well, that is a story for another time. Now, shh.” Everett raised his finger to his lips, and pointed to the back of the hall. “Queen Andromeda is ready for her coronation.”
Standing tall and proud, Andromeda began to walk up the long aisle. Thousands of her subjects were packed into the castle, eagerly awaiting the coronation of the true queen. All knew that this was just the beginning. The beginning of giddy shouts of laughter, of calming peace between kingdoms, of considerable respect between people and their ruler. It was the beginning of a happily ever after.