From Cursive To Curses- Part I
Jacob would have preferred a dinner by the fireplace in his chambers. The king had summoned all his courtiers to the banquet hall for a feast. He pinned his heavy cloak to his shoulders. With a sigh, he left the comfort of his chambers and into the corridor.
The chill of the corridor seeped into his bones as he made his way towards the sounds of music and idle chatter. Jacob rounded the corner and stepped into the banquet hall. The room was warm thanks to the large hearth that had a fire raging within its mouth. Everything from duck to tarts covered the table and practically begged sampling. His stomach rumbled at the sight of the delicious spread.
Jacob found his seat with ease towards the end of the table. The king sat at the head of the table, followed by his daughters. The courtiers were next and after them, sat Jacob. He found that he couldn’t complain. Not many individuals had a seat at the king’s table. A glittering object caught his attention. Princess Thea tossed her golden ball and caught it. Without a care, she tossed it again. Her elder sister, Princess Ryia, watched.
Princess Thea was of fair hair and a childlike personality. Princess Ryia was regal and observed everything. The gears within her mind were always turning, while Thea’s attention was on whatever item took her fancy at the time. In this case, it was a golden ball. The king had gifted it to her a fortnight ago, and she carried it everywhere. Whether it was because of the glittering shine or the sign of her wealth, it had become her favorite trinket. It was not as if the king favored one daughter above the other. He had tried to give Princess Ryia gifts, but she had turned her nose to such things. Princess Ryia did not covet trinkets.
Jacob looked away from the princesses and the golden ball. He turned his attention to the meal in front of him. The chattering and music continued around him as he began to slice into a piece of duck on his plate. A knight passing by bumped his chair in a rush towards the king. The conversation lulled for a moment as the knight rushed past. They returned to their conversations. The chatter began, but attention was on the king and his knight. They were whispering, and princess Thea looked horror-stricken. After a moment, the king nodded to the knight. He bowed in return and rushed out of the room.
The knight returned to the banquet hall, both hands out with palms up like a beggar asking for alms. Instead of empty palms, a slimy green frog sat balanced on his gloves. The frog’s eyes scanned the room as the knight approached the king. The conversation died, and all eyes were on the frog. Princess Thea shrank into her seat as if she could blend into the chair itself.
“Good evening, Sir Frog. You have sought my audience with such urgency. What have you to say that is so important that you would interrupt my dinner?” he asked.
Jacob watched, as did everyone at the table. He could not imagine that the king thought the frog would answer. This was some prank that the king must have been playing along with. The maids peeked around the corners to witness the strange event. To the astonishment of all, the frog spoke.
“Your youngest daughter has made me a promise she has yet to keep, Your Majesty. She had lost her golden ball to the depths of the lake. She and I made a bargain. If I returned the ball to her, I would eat from her plate and sleep upon her pillow until my day’s end.”
The king looked to the youngest daughter. She hid her golden ball under the table. As if she expected everyone to forget she had been tossing it in the air.
“I braved the depths of the water. As I swam deeper and deeper, my lungs felt as if they would burst. Yet, I saw the shimmer of the golden ball. The princess had her prize returned, and her pleasure at the return of her ball was my pleasure too. However, when it came time to bring me to her side, she ran off. She must have forgotten me in all the excitement.”
“Tell me, daughter, is this true? Do you owe a debt to the frog for the return of your ball?” the king asked. The youngest daughter huffed and crossed her arms.
“It’s a frog, father. What does it matter if I do or do not owe a debt? I have my ball, and we can toss the frog out on its end!” The king’s vein twitched from within his neck. After a moment, the anger dissipated.
“Young girl, when you make a promise. You make a promise for the kingdom as well. You will let this humble frog eat from your plate and sleep upon your pillow. Else, I will return that ball to the lake myself and then ensure you fulfill your bargain.” He stated. The young princess began to protest. The king gave her one look, and the princess stilled.
“If you promise me five new dresses, I will do this for you, my father,” Princess Thea tried to bargain. The king ignored the comment and looked to the frog.
“Come, Sir frog, join us.” The king looked to the rest of the audience that sat at the table. All watched, a bit stunned that the king had invited a frog to dine. “Instead of gawking, I suggest you all return to your conversations.” The chatter resumed. Everyone tried their best to ignore the frog that plucked grapes from the princess’s plate. Jacob’s inner scholar marveled at the frog being able to talk at all. He would have to ask about this while he gave the princesses their lessons tomorrow.
Three days had passed since the night the frog made his grand entrance into the castle. The princesses were not able to attend their lessons as it had been one event after another with the frog. Princess Ryia had taken to reading in her chambers and avoiding the situation. The frog spent all hours of the day with Princess Thea. They seemed to be striking up an odd friendship. Yet, Jacob had heard from the seamstress that the king sent ten new dresses to the princess.
On the fourth morning, everything changed. Princess Thea came bounding out of her bed chambers with a man in tow! She raced down to the banquet hall and announced her marriage. The king demanded an explanation. Fury poured from him as he stood, ready to strangle the man himself. Princess Ryia looked just as furious at the scandal of a man emerging from her sister’s chambers.
The man explained he was a prince. He refused to marry a fairy and was cursed. She had turned him into a frog to live out the remainder of his days. Only convincing a princess to share her plate and bed for three days would lift the curse. The king sent them to the library under guard as he conferred with his advisors.
Hours passed, and rumors spread. Would he kill his daughter for having a man in her chambers and embarrassing the family? After meeting with his advisors, the king formally accepted the fate of his youngest daughter. That evening, a golden carriage had come to the castle and carried them both off to his kingdom.
For Jacob, the odd events made his job much easier. As the Court Scholar, he oversaw the princesses’ education. Princes Ryia was a bright student and excelled in all her lessons, while Princess Thea had always been a bit scatterbrained.
The library was dusty and had a smell of pages that gave Jacob a sense of comfort in the odd days that had passed. He found Princess Ryia sitting in their regular spot for lessons. She was watching the world outside the window. The light filtered through and caught the dust floating through the air. She noticed him and bid good morning. He nodded in greeting and opened the book to where they were studying last. It was only a few moments into his lecture when the sound of tapping interrupted him. The princess’s fingers tapped against the worn table as she stared out the window. Irritation marred the lovely features of her face. With a heavy sigh, he shut the book that contained the lessons.
“Your highness, your mind appears to be elsewhere. Care to share what has captured it, and we may continue our lesson?” He asked. Her eyes lifted to his.
“She is marrying a prince but was nothing more than a spoiled brat.” A hint of jealousy dripped from her words.
“Why would you envy her? Surely, there is a line of princes in wait for you?” She huffed and crossed her arms.
“I am sure I will marry an old duke or lord. Father will only marry me off to further grow his wealth.” Jacob bit back a laugh. Princess Thea was engaged to an enchanted prince by her own rash actions. Yet, Princess Ryia was the true prize. The elder sister possessed the beauty that men would go to war for. She was not only beautiful. She held a wit that was sharper than any blade in her father’s army.
“Have you any proposals now to suggest such a thing?” She deflated a bit at the question, as she sunk into her seat.
“I have no proposals as of yet. Father has not sent word to any suitors. Yet, the shame that falls upon me, that my younger sister marries before I! What will the suitors think of me?”
“They will think of you as the treasure that you are. Your highness, think upon your sister’s fate a bit more in-depth.” She stood and paced the open space beside the table. The train of her elegant velvet gown trailed behind her.
“How did he become a frog?” Jacob asked. She hesitated, and he smiled. She was working past her emotions, using logic. “What do you think will happen when the fairy discovers the curse was broken?”
“Fairies are not forgiving,” the princess mumbled under her breath. Her anger and envy melted away, and she looked horrified.
“Your sister will learn this the hard way. If she had paid attention to her lessons on creatures within the kingdom, she would have known this. Also, in her haste to marry such a handsome enchanted prince, she did not seek advice.” Princess Thea rushed forward and grabbed his sleeve.
“Are you saying she is in danger?” Her eyes sparkled with emotion.
“She is in danger, but there is nothing we can do. She let her emotions guide her actions.”
“Father made her keep her promises. To break them with another kingdom could cause war.” She released his sleeve and looked towards a tapestry that hung from the wall. Embroidered on the heavy cloth was the scene from a battle. He could not guess what was running through her head.
“Indeed, that is true. Therefore, when she announced her marriage, he upheld her promise. Learn from this. Let logic guide your actions and words. Pity your sister, do not envy her fate.” She nodded and took her seat once more at the table.
“You are correct, as always. Let us return to our lesson. I will be here should my sister send for my aid. Envy has no invitation to my mind. I will never place my kingdom into such dangers based on foolish, whimsical decisions.”
He smiled and picked up the book he had been reading from, content to have her attention once more. Jacob began his lecture again. Yet, the whole situation was strange. Although Jacob had not spoken to his brother in months, he would have to write to him for advice on this.