Evening fell and the largest ballroom in the palace was primed for the celebration. A quartet of musicians stood in a nook and created magnificent melodies. People in glittering jewels and gleaming satin danced on polished parquet floors. Diamonds, crystals, emeralds, sapphires, rubies, gold, and silver, all flashed in the light of hundreds of chandeliers and thousands of candles. Damarishka danced most of all, alternating one partner after another, although each one seemed more boring than the next. Either they praised her or themselves.
She inwardly sighed. Would she never find her regal prince?
Then came the time for gifts. She opened them one after the other. There were velvet dresses, satin gloves and silk scarves, golden bracelets and necklaces and rings, silver violins, flutes decorated with jewels, and even a glass grand piano, as well as more gifts and more and more…
But the one thing Damarishka wanted most of all was missing.
A prince. Valiant. Gallant. Dashing.
Still, she smiled at everyone and thanked them, as is right and proper, especially as the whole hall gasped in astonishment time and again at each further luxury.
The cat found the whole lengthy process a waste of time. He sat serenely and licked his paws, ignoring the gifts with extreme indifference. After all, there was no cream for his sophisticatedly morose feline taste, nor was there a mouse to poke about here and there. Being a royal cat was fine, but it vexed him that he had to present himself at these tedious official events where not even one small rat was allowed! For some mysterious reason, people did not like rats.
However, the king looked the most despondent of them all. Damarishka was strongly displeased with him for the first time in her life, even feeling ashamed of him. After all, he huddled in the corner without pride like a frightened rabbit. How could he! He was supposed to be a king? He looked like he might flee at any moment. Damarishka secretly wished he would, but she said nothing.
Finally, only one gift remained. But what an unusual gift! That was why she’d left it till the end, hoping she could secretly remove it from the table during the course of the evening and no one would be the wiser, but she hadn’t managed it. She didn’t even want to open it now, but when everyone in the hall was staring at her, what else could she do? No recourse remained but to open it whether she wanted to or not.
She studied it again. It was a small green box with a peculiar odor. According to the card attached to it, it was from her father, but after his behavior today, Damarishka doubted a gift from him could be pleasant.
She crinkled her nose, but obediently unwrapped the strange box.
The instant the wrapping paper slipped from the box, the whole castle shuddered from its very foundations. Everyone tottered like drunkards, but the tremors didn’t last long, so most of them stayed on their feet.
No catastrophe followed.
Or did it?
A golden ring with a strangely brilliant green stone sprang from the box. For a moment it spun in the air before Damarishka’s astounded eyes, then suddenly it dove downward and slipped itself onto her left ring finger.
“What outlandish magic is this?” Damarishka cried, as a fierce wind suddenly rose around her. She tried to take off the ring, but it couldn’t. It was as if it were stuck to her finger.
The ballroom doors suddenly slammed open, and a tall man in a golden mask appeared between them.
Everyone froze in place as if carved from stone. They watched in speechless amazement as the unwelcome guest slowly crossed the hall toward the princess.
Only the king had an expression other than surprise on his face.
His face showed loathing.
The man halted before Damarishka.
Stay tuned next week for the continuation of the fairy tale I’m translating from one I wrote in Czech. And see here for the previous section.
And now for something completely different. I occasionally like to lure writers into my lair and get them to write stories on demand. My victim last night was Nate the Great, whose task was to write a story using the following random list of words and phrases: Nancy Nun-chucks, aggressive-repulsive, barking spiders, The clock struck thirteen, and then the killing began, tender age, bedsprings, explosive diarrhea, oxygen-deprived, burlesque, corkscrew, princess, turn me on, I believe in aliens more than love.
Nate the Great performed fabulously. See for yourself:
The clock struck thirteen, and then the killing began.
At 1300 hours every solar day on Sigma-16 base, Kaya donned her space suit and massacred the daily assailants. Wave after wave of extraterrestrial arachnids to obliterate. Today she had competition.
“Who the hell are you?”
A buff guy in an orange cosmonaut suit manned the battle station, wielding a pair of spiked nun-chucks. He saluted. “Greetings, earthling comrade. My name Vladi. I—”
“Look, Nancy Nun-chucks. This is my turf. I’ve been squashing the barking spiders from a tender age. So shove off, Ruski.”
Vladi stiffened. “So aggressive-repulsive. OK, princess, I let spiders eat you.”
“You’re as welcome here as explosive diarrhea, you oxygen-deprived dead-head.”
He adopted a relaxed pose. “You passion for killing turn me on. I want you on bedsprings later. I bring corkscrew and wine from motherland, and we do the burlesque boogie, spasibo.”
She extended her bo staff. It glowed with plasma energy. “Comrade, I believe in aliens more than love. Let’s get let’s get through this round and see what happens.”
He shrugged. “Da. We do that.”
As the twin suns reached their zenith, the spiders came in a black wave of death. Kaya and Vladi stood back to back, bo staff and nun-chucks, to defend humanity’s last hope.