Copyright (C) 2015 by Randall R. Peterson All Rights Reserved.
gazed at her reflection in a gilded mirror as she stood on a landing above the
ballroom. The raven-haired beauty looked magnificent in a white gown trimmed
with thousands of diamonds and pearls. Each elegant stitch had been painstakingly
attached to Attaby Silk with silver
thread. The largest room in the palace was filled with attractive ladies
and handsome gentlemen, all waiting for the prince of Nodnol.
fanfare, sixteen trumpeters heralded the arrival of King Astor’s
only son. The Great Hall doors were flung open as Prince Dristig and a dozen
mounted nobles galloped across a drawbridge and entered the castle.
played an elegant motet and all eyes
were on the beautiful girl as she began to descend a marble staircase. Halfway
down the steps Miss Spindel’s shoe caught on her lace petticoat, and she
stumbled. A servant holding a tray
filled with champagne glasses, reached out a hand to steady her, and when he did
… a single drop of wine fell onto Dolda’s slipper.
“You Dankish, Ill-bred,
Pumpkin Butt!” the young woman screeched. “You’ve bloody ruined everything!”
And as Dolda’s rage against the terrified servant erupted
… her beauty melted until she was once again a horrible prancing old witch … dressed in sooty sack-cloth and
twisting in evil vapors … with two flea-infested goat-hoofs for feet.
heavens!” the crowd gasped as Prince Dristig stumbled away from his transformed
bride-to-be. “Why such a reluctant heart?” the old witch cackled as she pranced
onto the dance floor. One of her eyes was a blackened pit, the other a bulging,
un-cracked goose egg. “Wanting to trade these warts and crumples for a bit of
milk and honey-skin are you, my dear?”
always feared your great outward beauty might hide something hideous and
tainted,” the prince of Nodnol stammered. “I prayed that it wasn’t so … that
you were merely in the foul grips of a monthly disorder.”
and tainted am I?” Dolda stalked the prince across Nodnol’s Greatest Hall. Her hair
was like a nest of squirming vipers. Brutal rage flared from her single
functioning eye. “These are words worthy of bloodletting … but alas! … a prince’s opulent life is not to be taken
by anyone … not even a bride of grimoire such as I.” She laughed as she held
out a twisted hand and six dancers fell dead on the floor. “Not so with lesser
lives … I fear.”
order you to leave these walls at once,” the prince cried. “We’ve had enough
terror and treachery on this night to last many lifetimes.”
without a kiss … will I depart,” Dolda said. “One tiny smooch in moonlight and all
your attendants’ lives will be spared. Then shall I be gone forever … filled
with dreams and dancing.”
rushed the witch and with a simple blink of her eye she turned them all into
blazing straw-men writhing on the dance floor. “Perhaps I should visit your
sleepy village … visit all the villages in Nodnol,” she hissed.
Dolda wagged a bony finger at the prince and laughed
as she capered from the palace and floated around the castle walls, hovering
above fields and wetlands like an Irish banshee. “One kiss and you’ll be rid of
me,” she promised.
lips and the eternal taste of sludge are a small price to pay for the ransom of
many,’ the prince said as he met the frolicking witch on the drawbridge.
conquering moon surveyed the castle as an army of wind and clouds whispered
from behind and below their master. Hundreds of sleepy evening -birds jostled
to the edge of leafy-beds competing to see which fowl had the best limb to
witness the duplicitous kiss. The dark shadows of forest and marsh were all filled
with bright hungry eyes appearing like stars. “Have your kiss and be done,” the
prince said. “But no tongue! I’d rather thrust my patois into a pot of boiling goat-dung than lick your rotted
small peck … and this reluctant rooster may hop
on his way,” Dolda promised.
the prince’s lips had barely touched the witch’s when a bolt of lightning fell
from the sky and blasted olive and yellow vapors where once the young monarch
had stood. The crowd gasped as the greenish smoke swirled and then cleared. The
prince had vanished. In his place, a stupefied frog trembled under the gaze of
the horrified moon. Dolda swam in a fit of hysterical laughing.
from a prince is too pricey for my poor widow’s pension,” the witch reasoned “Where
is the mercy in Nodnol? … But a pair of spicy toad’s legs? They will be more
than welcome in my cooking pot.” She drew a glimmering butcher’s knife from the
musty folds of her dank skirts and bent low to secure her evening’s supper.
The frog avoided the slashing
knife by inches as it flung itself off the bridge and into the clammy waters of
the moat surrounding the castle. A crowd was forming. Someone shouted that a
wizard from Scotland had been summoned.
back on her heels, Doldawhistled and a large wolf appeared
slinking from a clearing in the fen. The witch used a length of her own matted
hair for a bridle and mounted the beast. Dolda was almost to the swamp when a
girl’s hopeful voice rang in the still night air. “True love’s kiss will
restore the prince,” she cried. A girl named Sarah, who washed clothes at a
nearby river, took off her shoes and waded into the stagnant water to retrieve
the amphibian. “My dream lover’s freedom is just a smooch away,” she gushed.
few feet from the forest, the witch reined in the scruffy wolf she was riding
and whirled to face the gaping crowd. “Your enchanted prince will be but one of
many in this kingdom,” she cackled. Dolda raised her arms in the air and a dark
tornado appeared storming across a swamp. The sky blackened and it began to
rain frogs … small ones, large ones, eager ones and lazy ones. Green squirming
frogs filled the rivers, the streets, the roofs, barrels and the tops of trees.
“Find your prince now,” Dolda screamed at Sarah. Then she turned and galloped
the wolf across a marsh and into the forest.
lakes of frogs sloshed through open windows and flooded cellars. Within minutes
the enchanted prince was lost in a sea of hopping madness. “There is but one
thing to do,” said the king when he arrived to look for his missing son. “Every
maiden of unquestionable virtue, and even those with less than perfect conducts,
must be summoned to the realm. All frogs in Nodnol must be captured, kissed,
marked and released.” He had a scribe take down his words and he ordered
placards printed and spread throughout the land.
my son from a life of soggy, fly-feasting squalor and you shall reign as his wife-queen
and as my daughter.” Before the day had ended, riders had spread the word all
over Britain and beyond.
the weeks that followed, girls poured into the kingdom of Nodnol … young, old,
pretty and pesty … nice, neat, naughty and nasty. They flowed into the city
from everywhere by cart, by coach and by canal. They arrived anyway they could
… by bridle, by boat, and by boot …
and the kissing began!
wagonloads of frogs had been gathered. The line of girls vying to transform the
prince back into human form and become his wife stretched for miles. Each frog
was passed down the line and each girl kissed it. Then strange things began to happen
from one leg to another, a plump maiden with fiery-red hair, a face sprayed
with freckles, dressed in green and stuffing her mouth with jelly-tarts, kissed
a frog who with a puff of glittery green changed into a young baker who looked
exactly like she did … and he loved to create sticky confections. The couple
were like two halves of a severed coin and they strolled happily away together.
gangly girl with legs like stilts, wearing glasses and brandishing a nose like
a pair of sissors, glittered her frog into a stork-like lad holding a fishing
pole and they ran toward the river to do some wading. A woman with a field of
hay found a horseman, while a girl who lived on an island found a young man
with a boat.
with suspicion, It didn’t take long for the citizens of Nodnol to realize that
every frog was enchanted, just waiting for the kiss of true love that would change it back into human
form. The line of girls grew shorter and the wagons filled with frogs fewer
until only Sarah the washer-maid remained … and all the frogs were gone.
walked down the dusty streets crying. “Why am I always the one left alone,” she
bawled. “Isn’t there a frog out there waiting for my lips?” She had just
cranked up a bucket of water from the town well to wash her face when she heard
a croaking sound from deep inside the rock-lined cistern. “Aha! Here’s a hopper
the lads in the wagons missed,” Sarah exclaimed happily as she hoisted her
skirts and began to climb down a frayed-rope to rescue her prince. Halfway
down, the old rope broke and Sarah fell. She splashed in the dark far below.
… here froggy,” Sarah called as she swam in dark water lit by clouds of
fire-flies. “So this is where you’re off to during the day,” she mused as she
brushed the air with her hands. She had almost lost all hope of ever finding out
what made the sound when she spotted a pair of green legs thrashing through a
break in the cistern wall and into an underground stream. A girl who washes
clothes at a river certainly knows how to swim for lost socks and other bits of
clothing. Sarah soon caught the frog and dragged it onto a sandbar.
into her soggy apron for a tiny jar of bees-wax and honey, Sarah freshened her
lips before she held the frog before her and then kissed it with all the
hopeful passion she could muster. There was nothing … no puff of glittery green
only the buzz of the fire-flies, the sound of dripping water, and the squelch
of the underground stream as it lapped against the rock walls.
she kissed the squirming frog … then over and over she canoodled the poor
creature until it lay on its back in the sand with its long tongue flapping in
the water. “Either you’re not the real prince, I’m not your one true love, or
you’re playing hard to get,” Sarah gasped as she crumpled exhausted onto the
sand. Looking up, she noticed crude steps cut into the rock wall and a dim
light far above her. After she had rested, she wrapped the frog in the folds of
her apron and climbed the stairs.
wind ruffled Sarah’s blonde tresses as she spied the cave opening that led to
the forest. There in the twilight space between light and dark loomed a
tethered wolf and Dolda. The wretched witch stood next to a tiny fire, hunched
over a cauldron filled with boiling water and floating pig’s eyes. A large wire
cage with a terrified frog inside jutted from the rocks next to her. Dolda
sprinkled bits of snake-grass, worm-root and chopped toad-stool into the vile steaming
brew with her bony fingers as she chanted echoing incantations.
“Drink this soup … and have some tea.
Shed your flippers … and marry me.
I’m not fresh and delicate … as I once
few warts and wrinkles … why all the fuss?”
drabble … rattle bone.
love … and lead him home.
a drop … placed on his tongue.
restore a prince … and make me young.”
loudly as the old witch dipped a silver goblet cup into the hot liquid and then
reached for the frog. Dolda was startled by the girl’s sudden intrusion and the
cup slipped from her fingers and clattered onto the stone floor. “You!” the old
witch screamed. “You’ve played with my plans for the last time!” Sarah turned
and started to run but her feet were still wet and she slipped and fell on the
rock floor. The scrambling witch seized the washing girl by her hair and
dragged her to the cage, locking her inside with the frog.
the empty silver goblet on the floor, the witch turned to refill it. Sarah used
this opportunity to swap the frog in the cage with the one wrapped in her
apron. Dolda turned around and smiled as she delicately lifted the switched
frog from its prison … careful not to let Sarah escape. The excited witch pried
open the frog’s mouth and pored the potion inside. The frog coughed and rolled
its eyes. It wiped its tongue on the rocks and spit and gagged … but it
remained a frog.
wall to wall in the cavern, a shrieking Dolda knocked over the cage and the lock
on the door burst open. While the witch overturned the caldron and stomped the
fire into ash in her rage, the poor washing girl from Nodnol took the
opportunity to kiss the frog hidden in her apron. This time she knew she
couldn’t fail … and she wasn’t wrong.
sun at mid-day was brighter as the prince appeared in a puff of glittery green.
The moment their eyes met Prince Dristig and Sarah both knew they were in love.
They were almost out of the cave headed toward Nodnol and already making
wedding plans when Sarah happened to look back. She felt sorry for the witch
despite all the trouble the old crone had caused.
last frog in the kingdom before he gets away,” Sarah called to Dolda as the
last frog in the kingdom was about to disappear into the darkness. “Try your
kiss on him … this might be your final hope!”
words caused the witch to spout crude insults for almost a full minute before
her cataract filled eye cleared and reason entered … then … “Why not,” Dolda
cackled. “Why the bloody hell-at-the-end-of-a-story not?”
of glittery green bounced off every wall in the cavern as a handsome woodcarver
Dolda had known in her youth appeared in a puff of smoke at her lingering kiss.
His adoring eyes, and a smile like the gleaming pearls Dolda had worn around
her neck in the castle, caused the crone he gazed lovingly at, to transform
into the simple seamstress he had always loved.
two lost lovers were dancing together as Sarah and Prince Dristig untied and
released the wolf even though they knew it was big and bad. They entered the
forest arm in arm and began the long journey toward his father’s castle.
they all … each and every person in the magical kingdom of Nodnol … lived
happily … forever and for after … all
except the wolf … I wonder about the wolf!