Winning Entry – Trish Ruschke Rice

Once upon a time…a spunky, silly, sassy princess lived in a teeny, tiny, tranquil kingdom far, far away.  The kingdom was a happy place that was always warm and sunny, and the people who lived there always felt very safe and sound. Everyone that is, except the princess.

Pretty Princess Prissy didn’t like the sun; she didn’t like the warm weather, and she really didn’t like the magical creature that lived in the cave above her castle! That creature made her feel anything but safe and sound because the cave the creature lived in was on a cliff that sat just outside her bedroom window! The day that the princess moved into that castle was the very day that Princess Prissy had slowly stopped being her spunky, silly, sassy self. She slowly became scared, sad, and somber instead.

Princess Prissy’s loyal subjects wished that their pretty princess could feel as happy and secure as they did. They tried everything they could think of to cheer the Princess up…but it was impossible.  They just knew they could help, if only the princess would tell them what was bothering her! Sadly, the once spunky, silly, sassy princess stayed silent and sullen.

It continued that way, until one day when a bright, bold, brave, boy from the kingdom next door accidentally bounced his big beach ball over the wall that divided the two kingdoms. He fearlessly found his way over the wall to fetch his big beach ball. Much to his surprise, he found Princess Prissy there in the garden sulking, sighing and softly crying.

“Why are you crying?” asked the boy.

“Because I’m afraid,” the princess replied.

“My name is Bobby, and I am very brave. Please tell me what terrible, terrifying thing has you so troubled, and I will take care of it!”

Princess Prissy pondered sharing her woeful worries.  She had never told another living soul the truth about why she was always so sad and scared.  The princess finally decided that it would be better to tell this bold, brave boy who was a total stranger – than to admit her fears to her loyal subjects, who counted on her to royally rule their kingdom.

“When I was a very young child, I used to live in a castle on the other side of my kingdom,” the princess said, as she began her sad story. “It was a safe, secure, soundly-built home – until one day when it caught fire and burnt to the ground. They’ve never been able to find how the fire started, but I think I know what it was. Our castle caught fire the same day that a strange magical creature came to live in my kingdom. I’ll never understand why my parents built our new castle right under that creature’s cave on the cliff outside my bedroom window.”

“We should ask them,” said brave Bobby. “I’m sure your parents had a very good reason!”

Princess Prissy explained that her parents had perished shortly after the new castle was complete, so there was no longer anyone to ask. Brave Bobby asked what made her, so certain the creature caused the fire. He calmly asked her to consider that the calamity may have been a coincidence – but the princess refused to accept the probability of brave Bobby’s point of view.

“What is it that has you so convinced that this creature was the cause of your calamity?” Bobby asked.

“The creature is a dangerous dragon,” replied the princess, “and everyone knows that dragons breathe fire. A fire breathing dragon that showed up on the same day our castle burnt down couldn’t possibly be a coincidence!”

Brave, bold Bobby was left simply speechless. It was hard for him to believe that a dragon would cause such a terrible tragedy. You see, Bobby’s kingdom was home to a very large number of delightful dragons who desired nothing more than to live in harmony among the humble humans in Bobby’s kingdom.

Bobby quickly decided he would have no trouble fixing this fiasco by simply conversing with the creature. The dragon might even know something about what had started the ferocious fire! It took some time, but Bobby finally convinced Princess Prissy to join him in his quest.

“Don’t worry,” brave Bobby said. “I will protect you. It just so happens that I know quite a lot about dragons!”

Princess Prissy was very tired of being so very sad and scared, so she took a deep breath and decided to trust her new friend.

The two new friends made their way back toward the castle, carefully climbed up the cliff, and cautiously approached the creature’s cave. Upon seeing the dragon, Bobby broke into a sudden sprint straight toward the beast! Princess Prissy thought that Bobby was certainly much more bold and brave than she had first believed!

“It’s Delbert!” Bobby exclaimed. “Delbert the Dragon disappeared almost a decade ago. He was my very best friend and playful pet until the day he suddenly vanished without a trace. I knew we would meet again someday!”

“Your best friend and playful pet set fire to my castle?” Princess Prissy cried.

The princess was heartbroken. Her new friend’s love for his long-lost dragon was obvious. Maybe she made a mistake trusting in a stranger. But there was something Bobby had said to her in the garden that kept coming back to Princess Prissy. “Your parents must have had a reason,” Bobby had said.

“Excuse me,” Princess Prissy whispered. “May I please ask you a question or two, Mr. Dragon?”

“Of course!” Delbert the dragon replied. “I have been patiently waiting for many years to talk with you, Princess Prissy. You seemed so scared when I tried to approach, that I thought it would be best to wait until you were ready to come to me. I see that my patience has finally paid off. What would you like to know?”

Princess Prissy politely asked Delbert the Dragon, “Do you know how my old castle caught fire? And do you know why my parents built our new castle here?”

“I certainly do, and I am very glad you asked. It’s time you both knew why I left my home and came to reside here,” Delbert replied, smiling sweetly at Princess Prissy and Brave Bobby.

Seeing now, how gentle this giant dragon was, the princess was beginning to doubt the sad story she had told herself all these years. “Wait! Did you breathe fire on our castle by accident?” she asked.

Bobby and Delbert broke into hysterical fits of laughter until they both had tears running down their faces. Delbert began to snort, and then suddenly sneezed. The princess braced herself for the thing she feared most in this world. Princess Prissy was sure the dragon was going to accidentally breathe fire.

And then…it began to snow.

“Wait! Where’s the fire?” the princess asked.

“That’s why we were laughing,” Bobby explained. “Delbert doesn’t breathe fire – he breathes ice!”

The princess slowly and silently blinked once, blinked twice, and then blinked again – unable to believe what she had just seen and heard.

Bobby quickly made himself at home in Delbert’s cave and got busy preparing tea while Princess Prissy spoke with Delbert.

“I’m terribly sorry I’ve judged you so harshly all these years. I can see now that you had nothing to do with that fire.”

“I’m afraid that it’s far too easy for most humans to believe the silly stories and old stereotypes they’ve heard about things they don’t understand. Now that we’ve met, I only ask that you do what you can to convince your loyal subjects that they shouldn’t judge others who may be different from them. Your father learned that lesson a long time ago, but I’m afraid he passed before he could share that lesson with you and your kingdom.”

Bobby brought in their tea, and the three friends sat down to discuss all that had happened.

“Your father, the king, was a great man,” Delbert began. “Everyone believed that the king who ruled the land near your old castle was a frail, kind old man – but your father saw through his disguise. That king was an evil, jealous, wicked man. He desperately wanted a happy family of his own and was jealous of your mother and father. His sadness turned to anger, which then spread across his land like a wild virus, infecting all of the people who lived in his kingdom. This upset the king to the point of raging anger, and all of his focus was set on destroying the happiness in your father’s realm. It’s important to know that the evil king had a choice. We all get sad or angry sometimes. But our character is determined by how we choose to handle those emotions.”

“As soon as your father realized the danger his kingdom was in, he set out to seek the advice of the wise queen who ruled the land where Bobby and I lived. They decided you should be protected above all else, as the future ruler of this land and they asked for my protection.

But the evil king next door used your father’s absence to his advantage and struck his final blow while your father was away. We caught him setting fire to the castle, just as we arrived. I chased him off, and your parents quickly decided you would be safer on this side of the kingdom, away from the evil king. So they built this castle and asked me to stay on and watch over you. They trusted me to freeze any additional fires that the evil king might set, knowing how scared you had become of anything that reminded you of the horrible tragedy that happened the day I arrived. The citizens of this land didn’t understand dragons. They’d never seen one, and they had heard terrible stories about us. Unfortunately, they believed those stories, and I think you believed them as well.”

“So now, Princess Prissy – it is time for you to choose. Will you let your sadness, your loss, your fears and you unfounded judgments determine the fate of your land? Or will you learn from what has happened and choose to lead by example as a brave, fair, open-minded queen who chooses happiness, love, and light?”

“I want to choose happiness,” said the princess. “But I have been sad and afraid for so long that I’m not sure I remember how to be the princess I was before the fire. I don’t know if I can do this all by myself!”

Bobby jumped up and said, “You don’t have to be alone! I can help you, and I bet Delbert will stay and help too!”

“I will remain here if that is your wish,” Delbert said. “I know that your loyal subjects would support you as well. I feel certain that they would all be thrilled to see you get back to your old spunky, silly, sassy self.”

Princess Prissy headed back to her castle that afternoon with a huge smile on her face. Word quickly spread throughout the kingdom that the princess was happy again after many years of sorrow. Upon returning to the castle, the princess immediately began to plan the first royal ball since the king and queen had passed. The princess felt she had finally become the person she needed to be in order to rule her land as their queen, so her coronation was set to precede the ball. She then called in her royal scribe to write an official proclamation.

Let it be known far and wide, that the kingdom ruled by Queen Prissy will forever be a happy, sunny, welcoming place. The citizens are commanded to choose fairness and kindness – judging no being by anything other than their proven actions and words.

Good Queen Prissy reigned for many years, with her trusted advisors Brave Bobby and Delbert the Dragon by her side…and they all lived happily ever after.

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