salad_barbarian: Richard (Richard)
[personal profile] salad_barbarian
The Princess and The Bow by Salad Barbarian:

Once quite a long time ago there was a young princess who loved to shoot with her bow and arrows. But being very young she didn't really know how to aim properly and so she tended to hit things that she really should not have. This led to a few broken dishes, some ruined barrels, and a lot of distress by the King and Queen. But whenever they would threaten to take away her little bow and send her to bed without supper; tears would burst from the Princess's eyes and she would say she was sorry. They would relent and that would be that until the next errant shot would cause the whole thing to play over again.

One day however she was shooting very close to the woods and one of her arrows struck a raccoon. She was about to retrieve the arrow from the body when a voice like a large bell rang out "WHO HAS KILLED MY RACCOON?" The Princess was very afraid but managed to softly reply "I did." Suddenly a small tornado four feet tall whooshed toward the princess and when it was so close she could almost touch it, the tornado died down and there before her was the Queen of the faeries. "Why did you kill him?" asked the Queen, "Did he try to hurt you? or Do you need his meat for food?" "He didn't try to hurt me at all." replied the startled Princess. "And my parents always give me plenty of good things to eat so I don't need to hunt. The fact is I was playing with my little bow and the arrow hit him by accident." "Accident!" the Fairy Queen said angrily "Don't you know how to aim a bow like the one you're holding?" "No I don't." said the Princess as she began to cry "I'm very sorry!" "Well" said the Queen "Sorry you may be but even if you were very, very sorry you still need to be punished."

The Fairy Queen waved her wand and in the twinkling of an eye she and the little Princess were caught up in a great gust of wind that took them many many miles away. When the wind had died down the Princess found that she was in a room at the top of a one hundred meter tall tower. As she looked around the princess saw that there was no door and the only way out was a single window (which being so high up she was quite unable to use). In the room was a simple bed, a shelf with a few books, a little kitchen, and over in the corner was a sight that cheered the Princess so that she almost forgot that she was to be punished; a bow that looked to be of iron and a quiver full of arrows that looked like steel!

While she gazed at the incredible sight of such a lovely set of bow and arrows the Fairy Queen set about explaining her punishment to the Princess. "While you are here you will learn how to shoot an arrow. The quiver will never run out of arrows and I shall send one of my animals everyday to cross the field outside the window. It is up to you to strike them down for a meal. My servant Mr. Crow will gather up any that you hit and bring them to you." The Princess asked: "But what if I don't hit any?" The Fairy Queen replied: "Then you will starve." and so saying the Queen was lifted aloft by a whirlwind, whisked out of the window, and disappeared.

The Princess upon realizing just what sort of situation she had gotten herself into began to cry and cry. In fact she cried so much that she didn't even notice when Mr. Crow arrived at the window. It wasn't until he called out to her:
"Princess, Princess I greet thee hello,
tears can be healing this I do know,
but now you must act fast and not slow,
for it is the time to let an arrow go!"

The Princess raised her little head and wiped the tears from her eyes to look at him in amazement (for she had never seen a talking crow before) and asked meekly "Why?" Mr. Crow answered her "Today's meal is soon to pass by, and it's quite hard to aim with a tear in your eye." The Princess remembering that if she did not hit her mark she would go hungry did her best to calm down. She walked over to the wonderful bow and arrows, picked them up, and went to the window. "Here comes the boar, let your arrow soar!" exclaimed Mr. Crow The Princess looked out and saw a large boar walking out of the brush and into the clearing quite near the tower. She picked an arrow out of the quiver, pulled the bowstring back, and for the first time ever aimed. As she let the arrow go she was sure it would hit. But her belief in her skills was so far unfounded and she missed. The boar ran off as the arrow hit the ground a few meters away.

The Princess's tears sprang forth anew as she saw her meal run away. "Today there may be sorrow, but hope shines for tomorrow." said Mr. Crow who then flew off leaving her alone. The Princess sank to the floor in despair. After the sadness passed came anger. Anger at the Queen, and Mr. Crow, and at herself. She yelled out at the world until her throat hurt. After the anger had passed came determination. She could not change where she was, but she could change how she responded to it. She got up and started the kitchen fire. When it had burned one of the pieces of wood on one end she picked it up with a pair of tongs and used it to make a mark on the wall of one side of the room. She then began to practice.

The next day Mr. Crow arrived at her window saying "Princess, Princess I tell thee true, today my wish is for a nice pork stew." "I wish for the same for I am hungry" said the Princess "Though I practiced long into the night I never once hit the mark. But I'll try." Once more the boar walked into the clearing and once more the Princess shot forth her arrow. But once more she missed. She was about to despair once more when Mr. Crow said "Look and hear, for your aim was near!" The Princess looked at where her arrow had hit and saw that it had indeed struck closer. "This was no quirk, your practice did work." said Mr. Crow before he flew off.

That night the Princess practiced even harder than the previous night. But despite being very very hungry and the night getting later and later she was determined not to rest until she could hit the mark. And sure enough she soon did just that! She would have jumped for joy had she not been so tired. As it was she simply smiled to herself, put down her bow and quiver, and went to bed where she dreamed dreams of being a mighty huntress who never missed her target.

All too soon the morning came and so did Mr. Crow "Princess, Princess don't let your eyelids drupe, for today is a fine day to sup on pig soup." The little princess rubbed the sleep from her eyes, picked up her bow and quiver, and went to the window. For the third time the boar walked into the clearing and for the third time the Princess shot her arrow and for the first time it hit! "I did it! I did it! exclaimed the Princess with glee. "Good for you, you struck true." said Mr. Crow as he flew down to the boar. He began ripping off parts and flying them up to the Princess for her to cook. All that day they ate and ate until they were full and there was no boar left. The Princess asked "Will there be another large boar tomorrow?" "From the next day to the next day, your meal will be smaller and farther away." replied Mr. Crow before thanking her for the meal and flying off.

And so it was as days gathered into months and months gathered into years that the little Princess had to hunt smaller and smaller prey that appeared farther and farther away from the tower. Sometimes it would take two, three, or sometimes even four days before she could hit her target but she never gave up. Also no matter how small the prey it was always enough to satisfy both her and Mr. Crow. Occasionally Mr. Crow would bring her new clothing and books as she outgrew/finished reading to ones she had. One day as they were finishing up a shrew that she had hit far beyond the edge of the clearing she asked "Mr. Crow will the rest of my life be like this? Will I never again set foot outside of this tower?" Mr. Crow looked at her for what seemed like a long time and said. "As you well know, you've mastered the bow, but tomorrow we shall see, if you've learned responsibility." So saying he excused himself and flew out the window. The Princess wondered at his words for a long time until it was time to go to bed. At that point she decided to put in out of her mind for now and let tomorrow take care of tomorrow.

The next morning she awoke early (as she had gotten in the habit of doing) and tried to prepare herself for whatever the day may bring. Soon enough it was time for her to hunt for her day's meal but when Mr. Crow came to the window and said "If you wish to leave, you must earn your reprieve." As he said this he spread his wings wide and the Princess noticed a small mark of his chest. The mark was just like the one she had made on the wall the first night she came to the tower. "I have to shoot you?" she cried. "Is there no better way to prove that I understand what this power means?" Mr. Crow said:
"Princess, Princess I bid thee goodbye,
sometime hence you may have a good cry,
but now you must hold your head high,
for it is the time to let your arrow fly."

The Princess realizing that there was no better way wiped the tears form her eyes and raised her bow, nocked her arrow, and sent it soaring toward her mark. As it struck home Mr. Crow fell back and two strands of red rope emerged from his chest and attached themselves to the sides of the window. When the Princess went to the window and looked down she saw no sign of Mr. Crow except that the two red ropes formed a ladder as they descended to the earth.

The Princess quietly gathered her few possessions in her blanket and slung them over one shoulder, slung her quiver and bow over the other shoulder, and then made her way down the ladder. As she touched the ground she brought the red rope ladder to her lips, kissed it softly, and then whispered "Thank you."

She could not recall which way her parent's kingdom lay so she simply picked a direction and trusted in the skills she had learned to take care of herself. After three days of walking she came upon a large old wolf. "Greetings young lady." said the Wolf cheerfully. "Greetings sir wolf." said the Princess cautiously "Do you know these woods well?" she asked. "I know them quite well indeed!" answered the Wolf "I have roamed these wide woods since I was but a pup." "Then" said the Princess "would you please do me the favor of directing me to my parents kingdom?" "I would be delighted to help one of so noble a birth. For I have heard of a kingdom several days journey from here whose princess has been missing for far too long. However if you would have a favor from me you must first do a favor for me." replied the Wolf. "Ask your price and I shall decide if it's worth paying." said the Princess intelligently. "Not too far from here there are three hens who live on the top branches of the tallest tree in the world. If you provide them to me I will provide you with directions home." said the Wolf. The Princess thought for a bit and said "What you want seems reasonable enough." The wolf brought her to the tree right away. Soon enough they stood at the base of the tallest tree in the world. The princess looked up and way up on the top branches she could make out three specks that could only be the tree hens. She nocked one of her arrows, aimed carefully, and sent it strait up into the air so high that it seemed to disappear. As the wolf looked on she did this twice more and then lowered she bow. For several minuets they waited when suddenly a hen with an arrow in it's breast fell down in front of them followed by a second and a third! The Wolf thanked her profusely saying "In all my many years I have never eaten such a wonderful meal! In fact it was so good I shall not only tell you where your parent's kingdom is I shall accompany you as far as the great river." And so saying they headed off toward her parents kingdom. In time they came to a mighty river that was so ferocious the princess dared not cross it unaided. "Alas" said the Wolf sadly "I can not help you cross. In my younger days I made great sport of plowing my way back and forth through these rapids. But now this old body would doubtful make it halfway before succumbing to the flood. However I will not leave you before giving good direction should you find a way to cross yourself. If you look carefully on the other side you will make out a tree in the distance with orange leaves the year round. In the first light of day it's shadow will point the way home." "Before you go" said the Princess "might I know your name?" "My name" answered the Wolf "is Padure." The Wolf turned to go and was quickly disappearing into the woods by the time the Princess had a chance to say "Thank you Padure!" "You are most welcome!" echoed an answer that seemingly came more from the woods than the Wolf.

The Princess stood on the shore for a moment before she decided to go upriver in the hope that just as she had started out small and weak so to might the river. As she traveled along (making sure to mark where the tree with the orange leaves was) she was delighted to notice that the river did narrow slightly. but as she rounded a bend she saw something that did not delight her one bit. The river straitened out and stretched toward the horizon. She was about to turn back and hope that the river would perhaps lose some of it's power as Padure the Wolf had in his age when she saw something that very nearly frightened her. Sitting on a rock just a few meters from where she stood was a spider as big as a dog! the Princess quickly reached for her bow and had nocked an arrow when the Spider said "I mean you no harm young lady. In fact I believe I might be of some help." The Princess (who although prepared to fight but was by no means eager to do so) decided that if she could trust a wolf then a spider might well turn out to be an ally as well. The Princess lowered her bow and asked "And how would you help me?" "I noticed" said the Spider "that you seem to be looking for a way to cross the river. Am I correct?" "You are very observant." said the Princess. "It is quite easy to be so when one has eight eyes." quipped the Spider. "I could weave you a bridge across but like Charon I would ask a payment for my services." "Ask your price and I shall decide if it's worth paying." said the Princess. "Half a kilometer up the river there is a swarm of mosquitoes. Whatever prey I catch in my web is drained dry before I can eat it. They have followed me from hunting spot to hunting spot to the point where I starve because of them. Put an end to their meddlesome selves and I shall build a bridge strong enough to bear you and all your kin." announced the Spider. The Princess thought for a bit and said "What you ask seems reasonable enough." She went on a little ways and soon spotted the mosquitoes. She had never shot so many arrows before. She nocked one of her arrows, aimed carefully, and sent it into the swarm where it hit the one mosquito she had targeted. One arrow followed another as she slowly disposed of the individuals of the swarm. The day dragged on as the area behind the swarm became like a miniature shining forest of metal with each steel like tree marking the grave of one mosquito. Her arms burned with effort as what was once a great cloud soon dwindled and vanished. The Princess lowered her bow and slowly walked back to the Spider. "I am very much impressed milady." said the Spider when he saw what she had accomplished. You rest yourself awhile and I shall weave a bridge that shall last till the reckoning!" so saying he went to work spanning the river as she sat down and rested her weary body and since it had been a long day she soon was asleep. When she awoke it was morning and before her stretched a mighty bridge finer than any built by human hands. She looked around for the Spider and saw him busy at work building a web (for now that the mosquitoes were gore he would be able to eat again). "Good morning." she said to him "What is your name that I might properly thank you for this bridge?" "My name" answered the Spider "is Rupert." "Thank you Rupert." said the Princess who then walked across the bridge and toward the tree with the orange leaves.

The Princess arrived at the tree late in the evening and decided that it would be better to stay awake and see where the first light of morning would cause it to cast its shadow. For if she missed it than she would lose a whole day and it would be better to be tired than wasteful. In time the moon rose and set and as the sun rose the shadow of the tree showed her the way home. She fired an arrow strait ahead to ensure she did not lose her way and in three days she stood at the entrance to the castle. When she announced herself to the court the King and Queen rushed so quick to embrace her that their crowns nearly fell off! They had a great feast to celebrate and they all lived happily ever after.

I think it could use a little work like making it clearer the shooting of Mr. Crow was the first of the three challenges she must overcome (most of the fairy tails I read/listened to had a thing about things happening in threes) and my grammar ain't what it used to be. But all in all I think it turned out rather nice.
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