Monday, February 2, 2009

From The Valley Of Lost Projects: Princess Lucinda And The Missing Moon

I ran across these when I was looking for paintbrushes yesterday afternoon. (I swear I had a fistful of decent brushes but they're nowhere to be found. Wound up using a child's watercolor brush, then went to the art store.) I'd forgotten all about this one...

I've posted this image here before. It's the only finished piece I did for this project -- if any of the sketches below had been rendered, they would have been done either as pen-and-ink pieces or in this style.

Four or five years ago I suffered a fit of affection for my princessophiliac nieces and granddaughter and decided I was going to write them a fairy tale.

Unfortunately my tendency toward grisly imagery, convoluted prose, and class warfare (when I think of knights and princesses I picture myself in a stable with a pitchfork) wound up making the creative process a lot more difficult than I'd thought -- and I when I realized that my target audience would find this work intolerable I gave up on it.

I was also just starting to take my writing seriously and my kung fu was weak. The paragraphing in particular made this story a lot more difficult to read than it should have been.

Still, clumsy and amateurish as it it, when I was preparing it for posting I felt a little interest stirring. Maybe it was the Oz-noir abortion I was messing with a little while ago but now there's a temptation to go back and mess with it... I guess at some point I'm going to have to write a fantasy influenced by both fairy tales and my tendency toward the hardcore. "Once upon a motherfuckin' time..."

The start of the story is posted in the comments section if you're interested.


Sean Craven said...


In which we meet the beautiful Princess Lucinda,
And in which she meets a strange new friend.

Once upon a time there was a beautiful princess named Lucinda. She should have been the happiest girl in the world, because she had everything that she could possibly desire. Twenty tailors and ten cobblers did nothing but make clothes for her. She wore new outfits three times a day, and never wore the same thing twice- as soon as she took off a blouse or a petticoat, it was burned so no one would ever be able to wear it again. If a particularly lovely dress or scarf or pair of shoes took her fancy, she was quickly reminded that something even more beautiful was going to be ready soon, and whatever it was that she fancied was whisked off to the fire.

As for friends, she had five maids in waiting who did whatever she told them to, and listened quietly whenever she spoke. If she wanted to play croquet with balls of jade and ivory, that is what they played. If Lucinda wanted a tea party, they drank tea out of porcelein cups so thin that the sun shone through them and ate cakes garnished with crystallized flowers off of golden trays. If Lucinda wanted them all to go hide in a closet and leave her alone, they did exactly as she said. But Lucinda had noticed that sometimes when her maids in waiting thought they were alone, they would talk and laugh and sometimes cry in a way that seemed very strange to the princess because it wasn’t about Lucinda, and for some reason it made her feel lonely.

Lucinda had three entire rooms full of the most beautiful dolls that you have ever seen. Every time she picked up one doll and started to cuddle it, she would be struck by the thought that there was another doll that had prettier hair, or a nicer smile, or a dress made of pink silk with lovely ruffles. Then Lucinda would have one of her maids bring her the new doll, and Lucinda would hold it for a moment, and then think of the doll that would coo if you rocked it, or the one that had a dress just like her mother’s wedding dress, and she would call for that doll instead. Sometimes she would think about the way that Sophia, the littlest maid in waiting, would sleep with her one rag doll held in her arms and pressed against her cheek. It made Lucinda wonder why that sad and tattered rag doll seemed so precious to Sophia. It didn’t talk or dance, it didn’t have a pretty dress or any hair at all, and in fact it looked as though it smelled a little bit. But sometimes Lucinda would grow secretly angry with Sophia because she had that worn-out rag doll with brown button eyes.

Lucinda was very proud of her parents. Her mother, the Queen, was a famous beauty and her father the King was proud and handsome, and they were known all over the world for the glittering magnificent dances and feasts and celebrations of all kinds that were held at the castle. And every New Year’s Eve, Lucinda’s father the king would dance with her just before midnight, and then give her a kiss on the forehead while everyone around them cheered. And every year on her birthday, Lucinda’s mother the queen would eat a slice of cake with her and give her a kiss on the cheek. Sometimes Lucinda wished that she could spend more time with her beautiful mother and her handsome father, but she was glad that everyone in the kingdom knew how much they loved her.

And that is how everything was for Lucinda. There was nothing in her life that wasn’t beautiful and rare and expensive and plentiful. So there was no good reason at all for Lucinda to go off all by herself, and climb to the top of the highest tower in the castle and sit there on the cold, gritty stone floor all by herself with nothing to look at but the sky and nothing to listen to but the wind. But this was exactly what Lucinda liked to do the best. She didn’t do it often, because it caused a fuss and she was scared that someone might find out her secret place, but whenever she thought she could get away with it, she loved to come and lay on her back and watch the clouds drift in the wind.

One night as Lucinda lay in bed, she found herself unable to sleep. Her pillows were as soft as a baby’s breath, her feather mattress snuggled around her as cozily as it always did, but she could not get to sleep. As she lay there in the dark, she felt herself overcome by a strange sad feeling, and she didn’t know why. But she knew that if she started to cry, someone would hear her and would insist on knowing why, and Lucinda didn’t think she could stand that. So as silently as a shadow she got out of her bed, and made her quiet way to the tower.

Princess Lucinda had never gone to her special place on top of the tower at night before, and as she walked softly up the spiraling stairs she grew nervous and wished that she had brought a lamp or a candle with her. When she got to the top of the stairs she put her soft little hands against the trapdoor and pushed it up. Her eyes had grown used to the dark and the moonlight coming in through the square opening of the trap was so bright it made her blink.

When Princess Lucinda saw the sky above her, for a moment she forgot that she was sad. Because she was at the top of the tallest tower in the land, when she looked up there was nothing to see but sky, and it looked like a black and purple field of flowers made of tiny flames, with a glowing milky river running through the middle. The moon was beautiful pearl as big as the tip of her thumb, and there was a friendly look to it that Lucinda particularly appreciated.

Then Lucinda sat down on the cold, gritty stone and leaned back against the battlements and thought. And as she thought, her head drooped lower and lower, until she wasn’t looking at the sky at all. That afternoon she had overheard her maids in waiting talking about how much they missed their families. Martha, who was dark and very pretty, had said that even though she didn’t have a father, she had loved to spend the days with her mother and help her clean the house belonging to the head of the dyer’s guild. Judy, who was growing quickly and was a little clumsy, said that she missed her father the most, and told them all an exciting story about the day her father had taken her out on his fishing boat and they had seen a water serpent so long that they couldn’t see both ends of it at once.

Her body curled up, and she pressed her face against her knees. Lucinda couldn’t remember spending even an hour with either of her parents. And when she tried to imagine herself telling this to her maids in waiting, she could see their faces turned respect fully towards hers, patiently waiting as she spoke and responding to her words with polite and distant sympathy. “I am all alone,” Princess Lucinda thought to herself. Her knees felt wet, and she realized that she was crying. Then she thought, “Does anybody really love me? And do I love anybody?” With that thought running through her head, she curled up and for the first time in her life she wept out loud.

But while Lucinda was crying, something strange was happening. Even though it was the middle of the night, the light was getting brighter and brighter. Lucinda started to feel frightened as well as sad, so she had to take a moment to work up her courage before she looked to see what was going on.

“What’s wrong, dear? Why are you crying?” Princess Lucinda had never heard a voice like this one before in her life. It was soft and gentle, but despite its quiet tones it seemed very very big. Lucinda looked up, and there, not ten feet away from her, was the beautiful moon. Lucinda was surprised to see that when you were close to her, the moon looked a bit like a pearl, and a bit like a lovely woman with a wide friendly mouth and big gray eyes. Her skin glowed brightly, but not so brightly that it was hard to look at her.

“Pardon me,” said the moon shyly. “I hope I didn’t startle you.” Lucinda got to her feet and curtsied. “Since there isn’t anybody around who can give us a proper introduction,” said Lucinda, “let’s just introduce ourselves. My name is Princess Lucinda of the Three Green Rivers.” “I am Princess Luna of the Night Sky,” said the moon. “Since we’re both princesses, you can just call me Luna.” “And you shall call me Lucinda,” said Lucinda. “Isn’t it funny, how our names sound a little bit alike?” “And both of us princesses as well,” said Luna. “It must be more than a hundred years since I last met a princess, and she was a comet. Flighty thing, but good company.” “A hundred years?” said Lucinda, “How can you be a hundred years old and still be so pretty?” “Oh, a hundred years is nothing,” said Luna, “I have been sailing through the sky and looking down on the world every night since the mountains first rose from the ocean, and I suppose I will continue to do so until they are washed away. But someday I hope to marry the sun, Prince Sol, and when I do I shall be the Queen of the Night Sky.”

Just then a voice came from behind Princess Luna. “Shouldn’t we be going?” it asked. “The night is getting on.” Princess Luna smiled. “We still have time, dear,” she said. “Why don’t you set me down and go take a little rest?” “All right,” said the voice, which was creaky and croaky and crabby, “but you remember that it wasn’t my idea.” With a distinct flapping noise, Luna settled down on the stone floor of the tower top, and grew dimmer. “There now, is that better?” she asked Lucinda. “Yes, thank you,” said Lucinda. Now she saw that there was an enormous bird perched on the wall next to Princess Luna. He was very long and slender and graceful, and he had a beautiful blue crest running from the bridge of his beak to halfway down his neck. “Well, you must not be much of a princess if you can’t even glow,” he said. “I’m going down to the moat and see if I can find a frog or two.” With that he spread his wings, and swooped out of sight.

“Never mind him,” said Princess Luna. “He’s always a bit rude, but I don’t know what I’d do without him.” “Well,” said Princess Lucinda, “None of my maids in waiting would dare to speak to me that way. I rather wish they would. It can grow very tiresome when you always get your own way. It seems as though no one cares.” “Is that why you were crying a little while ago?” asked Princess Luna. “I don’t mean to pry, but you seemed so sad that I couldn’t bear to leave you all alone.”

Princess Lucinda was very quiet for a moment. “I suppose,” she said, “that I was crying because I felt alone. I don’t usually cry, and it took me by surprise.” “I only cry when the sky is full of clouds,” said Princess Luna. “That way nobody but Lafcadio knows. Or I wait until I’m home and in bed by myself.” “Is Lafcadio that lovely bird?” asked Lucinda. “Yes,” said Princess Luna. “I’ll have to tell him that you said that he’s lovely. It will make him cross.”

“I don’t feel like crying anymore,” said Princess Lucinda. “I’m glad,” said Princess Luna. “I hate to feel alone. You know, as much as I love Lafcadio he isn’t very good company. Would you mind if I came to visit you every once in a while?” “I would like that very much,” said Princess Lucinda. “And isn’t it funny, the way our names sound a little bit alike?” “That’s very true. I feel as though we’re friends already,” said Princess Luna. Then out of the darkness they heard a splashing noise as Lafcadio caught a frog. “Well, I should be going,” said Princess Luna. “but I hope to see you again soon.” “It was a pleasure to meet you,” said Princess Lucinda. “Lafcadio!” called Princess Luna. Lafcadio circled the top of the tower twice, saying “At least the frogs were good,” before he snatched Princess Luna up into the sky. Lucinda waved as her new friend was lifted into the sky. “Goodbye!” she cried, “I’ll see you soon!”


In which there is much talk of weddings and so on.

The very next day Princess Lucinda announced that she was tired of the room that she had slept in since she was a baby, and that she was taking over the old watchtower. By the time night fell, she had moved her bedroom into the very top room of the tower. She had done this so as to make it as convenient as possible to spend time with Princess Luna. The two princesses spoke to each other every single night, and soon they were the best of friends even though they were so very different.

Of course, Lucinda’s parents found out that there was something changing in the Princess’s life, but they had a very different notion of what was going on than Lucinda did. “Did you know,” said the Queen, “that when Lucinda moved her rooms she only kept one of her dolls?” “Really?” said the King. He was a little distracted. Partly he was buttering a muffin and partly he was thinking about which horse he was going to ride in that afternoon’s foxhunt. “She only kept the one that has my wedding dress on it,” said the Queen. “My little girl is turning into a young lady.”

The king paused, and wiped a bit of butter from his mustache. “Really?” he said. “I suppose I haven’t been paying attention.” He smiled at the Queen. “Do you remember when you were a young lady and I rescued you from that warlock who kept his heart in an egg in a pigeon in a duck-“ “-in a fox in a wolf in a bear that lived in a cave of ice,” interrupted the Queen. “Yes, I remember that very well.” She leaned over and gave the king a peck on the cheek. “Do you know who I feel sorry for?” said the King. “Old Roland. You know, Sovereign of the Scarlet Mountains? Roland the Red?” “Is he that big fellow with corned beef face?” asked the Queen. “That’s the one,” said the King. “When his wife was a princess, she was such a sourpuss that her father swore he’d give her hand to the first person who could make her laugh.

“Well, Roland had apprenticed himself to a wizard who told him never to touch the donkey which he did, of course. Not too bright, our Roland, but a good man with a boar. Anyway, some gypsy tried to pull him off the donkey and got stuck, and then someone tried to pull the gypsy off, and so on and so forth. Cressilda, that’s his missus now, she saw Roland fastened to what looked like a circus and she laughed, and there you are.” The queen frowned. “Well, I wouldn’t like people to say that’s how I met my prince.” The king smirked, and said, “Seems that’s how Cressilda feels about it, because she hasn’t laughed since. Poor old Roland, married to we are not amused. At least he gets in a lot of good hunting.” And with that, the King got up from his breakfast table, kissed the Queen, and went down to the stables. But in the back of his mind a thought was working away, a thought the Queen had put into his head. Lucinda was growing up.

One night Princess Lucinda asked Princess Luna about her prince. Luna rolled back a little, and gathered her thoughts. “We have known each other for the longest time,
she said, “I see him every evening just as I start my journey across the sky, and every morning just as he begins his. For hundreds of years he just nodded at me in passing. It’s funny to think of such a strong, bold person being so shy, isn’t it?” Lucinda smiled. “Do you think he liked you all along?” she asked. “You know, I think he did,” said Luna. “I know that’s what I wished. Then one morning-“

With a few soft flaps of his wide wings, Lafcadio perched on the wall next to Princess Luna. “Are you telling that old story again?” “I must apologize for Lafcadio’s impudence,” said Luna. “He’s been in a bad mood for oh, I don’t know. As long as I’ve known him.” Lucinda kept quiet. She was used to the way that Luna and Lafcadio teased each other. She also felt as though Lafcadio really didn’t like her very much.

“You know he didn’t really want to talk to you,” said Lafcadio, “He only did it because of those boys on the ship.” “What ship?” asked Princess Lucinda. Lafcadio cocked his head and looked down his beak at her in a superior way. “Just as I carry her majesty from one end of the world to the other, Prince Sol has to be hauled through the sky by a ship. All of it, planks and ropes and sails, has to be harvested from the Forest of Gems in order to be able to withstand the heat. This ship has a very vulgar crew.” “Now I’m sure they’re very nice,” said Princess Luna. “They’re just a bit loud, and easily excited.” “Vulgar, in other words,” said Lafcadio, “just as one would expect from anyone born and bred on the ground.” He made the word ground sound very dirty.

“Lafcadio, what a rude thing to say!” said Princess Luna. “Vulgar, indeed. Pay him no mind, Lucinda.” “Indeed I shan’t,” said the princess, and she and Lafcadio gave each other very cool looks. “It is getting late, isn’t it?” said Princess Luna. “Much as I hate to say it, we must be off.” “Will you tell me the rest of the story tomorrow?” asked Princess Lucinda. “Of course,” said Princess Luna. “Good night!” And with that, Lafcadio swept her into the sky.

The next morning, just as Lucinda was rubbing her eyes and stretching, there was a gentle knock on her door. “Come in!” she called. It was Judith, the oldest and fussiest of her maids. “Princess Lucinda, Their Majesties the King and Queen have requested your company for breakfast.” She walked into the room with a rose-colored gown over one arm. “They want you right now, so I picked out a dress for you. I hope it’s all right.” Judith’s round face seemed even more worried and serious than usual. “It looks lovely,” said Lucinda. “Did they say why they wanted me?” Judith shook her head. “No, Princess. I was just told to fetch you as quickly as possible. Here, let me get those laces.”

To the Princess’s surprise, the breakfast was not held in the dining room. Instead, one of her mother’s maids guided Lucinda to a parlor that she had never been to before. It was all red and gold plush, very dark but very cozy. A small table was crowded with pots and bowls and warming dishes, and there her parents were waiting for her anxiously.

As her mother’s maid filled a plate for the Princess, her mother the Queen said “Lucinda, my dear, you are no longer a child.” “Quite right,” said the King. “Your mother and I were about your age when we met.” “Oh,” said Princess Lucinda, who did not know what to make of the conversation so far. “Your father and I think that the time has come for you to find your true love. Dear, I don’t mean to worry you, but you must understand that this will entail a certain amount of hardship. Do you know where your father and I met?” Lucinda shook her head.

“It was in the dungeon of my father’s castle, you remember, we went there for the Spring festival two years past? Anyway, I was in chains, my dear. I had been chained to the wall and my wrists and ankles were worn positively raw.” Here the Queen pulled back one lace and satin cuff, and held her arm in front of Lucinda’s face. “I still have scars, you know. That’s why I always wear long sleeves.” Lucinda gasped. “Mother, why were you in chains? And what was Father doing in the dungeon?”

The Queen paused for a moment, and a distant look passed over her face. Then she said “You know, it’s about time you heard about how your Father and I came to marry. Dear,” she said, and patted the arm of the King, “do tell Lucinda our story. You tell it much better than I do.” The King calmly finished chewing his mouthful of venison chop with wine gravy, and then spoke.


In which the King tells us how he met the Queen
And gained his throne and crown.

When I was a young man, just about your age, I decided to set out to seek my fortune. I was the youngest of three brothers, you know your uncles Jacque and Jacob? Well, they were both older than I was, so I figured I didn’t have much of a shot at the throne. May as well see a bit of the world, have a bit of fun. Took nothing with me but my horse Randolph, bless him, a sword, some clothes and a bit of money and so on. Tackle and tucker. Just what I could fit in my wallet and saddlebags. Well, as I was passing through a village in Black Oak country, I heard that the local potentate had a daughter that was in the way of something special, so I thought I’d take a peek at her. (Here he startled Lucinda by digging a thumb into the ribs of the Queen, who actually blushed.)

When I got to the castle, I knew something was wrong. Didn’t smell right. It was night, and it seemed as if the light from the torches and candles and whatnot wasn’t bright enough, and in the corners of your eyes you could see the shadows squirming. The guards had heads that were too flat, eyes that bulged too much, and chinless mouths that stretched from ear to ear. I announced myself, and without saying a word they took me to see the king. Didn’t think much of his court. They all had beady eyes, buckteeth, and sniffly pointed noses. And the princess I’d heard so much about was much the same, only with ears up to here! (At this point His Majesty held his hand over the top of his head.) And the poor thing seemed terrified. Didn’t say one thing. None of them did. The king was gaunt and gray and as old as the hills, but I could tell he still had strength in him.

So his nibs tells me that I can stay the night, and that he’s going to hold a tournament for his daughter’s hand, and he expects me to take my part in it. Do you want to know what I did? (Lucinda nodded.) I’ll tell you what I did. I kept my mouth shut and my eyes and ears wide open.

So the next day, they had the tournament. Worst I’ve ever seen. What was strange about it was that the horses all had six legs, and were strongly inclined to skitter all over the field instead of running in a straight line the way they ought. Of course I won; I couldn’t really help it. Should say it was my horse that won, good old Randolph.

The king, so-called, gave me his daughter’s hand in marriage, and insisted on holding the wedding that very day, in spite of my protests. That night when my new bride and I were finally alone (Here the Queen snorted regally and looked disgusted.), I decided that it was high time I found out what was going on. Now, the Princess, so-called, still hadn’t said a word. The gray king said that it had something to do with a disgruntled fairy godmother. Well, she wasn’t the only one with a fairy godmother. You remember your Aunt Glissaundra? (Princess Lucinda did remember her Aunt Glissaundra. She was seven feet tall and had wings like a butterfly, so she was difficult to forget.) Glissaundra is my godmother, bless her, and when I was a sprat she once gave me a jar filled with a powder that she said would restore things to their true forms. Well, I pulled that powder out of my wallet and gave Princess Can’t Talk a good sprinkle.

Turned out she was as rabbit, and not even a well-bred one, just some little cottontail out of the forest. But it’s a funny thing. As a princess the creature was a joke and a failure, but as a rabbit she was something else entirely. She started hopping towards the door, and looking back at me as though she wanted me to follow. So I did. She led me to a locked door guarded by two of those pop-eyed chinless fellows. I gave them some of the dust, and they turned back into frogs and set off for the moat. I picked the keys off an abandoned belt, and opened the door.

My dear, that was the dungeon of the castle. Now you’ve seen our dungeon? Good ventilation, plenty of clean straw and so on? Well, it was very different in those days. (Lucinda got a sudden strange feeling, and looked around at the walls, picturing her nice safe familiar home as the enchanted castle of an evil wizard. It made her feel, well, adventurous.) The air was stagnant and the walls were wet with sticky nameless fluids, torches guttered smokily, it was damp and cold and filthy in every imaginable way. Smelly. I looked through the hatch in a doorway, and there in that unspeakable squalor, I saw your mother. (“I looked just awful,” said the Queen.) Nonsense, my dear, don’t pay any attention to your Mother. She stood out in that setting like a diamond in a dung heap. There she was, chained up and neglected for who knows how long, and yet you could still see a spark of unconquerable pride in her bearing. She glared angrily at what little she could see of me, and said “You may tell your foul master that I will never consent to marry him, even if my flesh rots from my bones in this foul pit.” (“I didn’t say that,” said the Queen.) I put the key in the door and pulled it open, but just at that moment guess who showed up?

It was the Gray King. “I have given you everything,” he said, which I thought was a bit of an exaggeration, “and this is how you repay my generosity?” (“He didn’t say that,” said the Queen. “He said ‘What the blazes are you doing down here?’”) Now who’s telling this story? Anyway, his hand went to the hilt of his sword, but before he’d drawn it halfway I’d chopped his head off. (“That’s perfectly true,” said the Queen. “Your father is an excellent swordsman.”) Thank you, my dear. Always nice to hear. So his head popped into the air, and then landed on the floor with a thump. And then something dreadful happened.

As the torchlight glimmered on the stump of his neck, his body bent over, snatched up the head, and put it back on his shoulders! He shrugged a bit to get it settled in place while I stood there with my mouth hanging open. Lucky I didn’t catch a fly! “Now you listen here, young fellow-me-lad,” he said, “In three days you and I will fight to the death. If you don’t show up, this young lady will pay the price, and if you lose she pays it double, d’you hear me?” I looked past him to your mother and said “Don’t worry about a thing, we’ll have you out of there in no time.” (“I knew right then that everything was going to be fine,” said the Queen.) Indeed. Well, then he says “Don’t think you have any hope at all of winning, son. I keep my heart well out of my body, and as you have seen I am a hard man to kill.”

Well, I couldn’t go back to bed after that, now could I? I allowed myself to be thrown out of the castle, and started walking and thinking. And then guess who I saw? It was the little brown bunny that used to be a princess. (“Is she the same rabbit that sits between you at the New Year’s Ball?” asked Princess Lucinda. “Yes,” said the Queen, “She still doesn’t talk, but she’s very well behaved. Wonderful table manners for a wild animal.”) Seems she wanted me to follow her again, and I did. We walked all night and most of the day. We walked through the woods, and up into the mountains past the tree line, until we finally came to a glacier, and in that glacier was a cave of ice. The rabbit scooted into that cave, and came right out again with a bear behind her. So I- (For the next several hours the king went on and on in excruciating detail about how he killed the bear, and out popped a wolf which he then tracked down and killed and out popped a fox and so on. His Majesty loved to hunt more than anything else, and so he had to talk about the lay of each foot print and where the spear went in and the difficulty of aiming a crossbow into the sun, and so on and so forth until the Queen and the Princess were almost mad with boredom.) – and there, inside the pigeon, was a crystal egg with a heart beating away inside it.

I tucked the egg into my pocket, and returned to the castle just in time for my duel. I must have looked a sight, hadn’t slept or bathed in days, no doubt covered in fur, feathers and blood. The whole crowd from the castle was waiting in the courtyard, and out strides the Gray King. He looks at me, sneers, and draws his sword. I pull out the egg; drop it to the cobbles and step on it. And that’s it for the Gray King. I take my magic powder and give the crowd a good dusting and the courtiers turn into rats and mice while the guardsmen turn to frogs. I figured that all those six-legged horses must be beetles or cockroaches or some such vermin, so I leave them alone. Sent ‘em to market later. I go down into the dungeon, and let everybody out. And, well, here we are. That’s how I got my throne and your lovely mama.

In which the Moon is lost,
And the Sun is angry.

“That, darling,” said the Queen to Princess Lucinda, “is what we want for you. It’s time you had a brave handsome prince of your own. Now it’s very unlikely that an evil wizard will enchant us all, so your father and I have been thinking. How would you like to be imprisoned on top of a hill of crystal? Your prince would have to be awfully clever to get you down, and I think a hill of crystal would look just lovely in the garden. Dear, that isn’t a very ladylike face.” “I’m sorry, mother,” said the Princess. “I’m just a little bit surprised by all this.” The King said, “I’m still not sure about this crystal thing. Wouldn’t a good old-fashioned beast be a better idea? Nice three-headed ogre or a manticore or some such? That way you’d be sure to get a prince that knew his way around a sword.” “I’m sure Lucinda wouldn’t like living in some horrid lair,” said the Queen, “would you, darling?”

Princess Lucinda felt completely lost. “Mother, Father,” she said, “This is all seeming very strange to me. I’m not sure I feel ready to marry.” Her father laughed gently. “Lucinda, my chicken,” he said, patting her on her knee, “after you’ve been sleeping in a cave for a few months, you’ll be thoroughly ready for marriage.” The Queen glared at the King in a very well-bred manner and said “Don’t listen to him, dear. This isn’t going to happen overnight, so we all have time to think it out. But you are a young lady now, and we do have to reach a decision.” And with that, the Princess was dismissed.

The rest of the day seemed like a dream to Lucinda. Her life was never going to be the same again, and she didn’t know what to make of her parent’s notions of what was to be done with her. One minute she’d think of how romantic the story of their courtship was, and how wonderful it must have been to be rescued by a handsome prince, and the next minute she’d see the pale scars on her mother’s wrist where she’d been shackled. It made her feel sick. And the idea of not having any choice in who was to be her husband! Just sitting in a crystal palace or a smelly cave, waiting for months, seeing princes getting defeated- what if she saw a prince and fell in love with him and he failed to rescue her? What if he got eaten, or broke his neck trying to ride his horse up a hill of crystal? And what if-

And all day long the what-ifs filled her mind and kept her from doing anything but fret. Her maids in waiting tried to talk to her about the exciting news, and she ordered them away, only to hear them whispering and giggling. They sounded so happy for her that Princess Lucinda wanted to scream. She needed to talk to someone sensible, and was anxiously looking forward to the time when Princess Luna would come for her visit. As soon as it was night, Lucinda went up to the tower, hoping that Princess Luna would see her, and come early.

But there was no moon in the sky. The stars seemed anxious and the wind seemed worried, and as the hours went by Lucinda stopped thinking about her situation and grew more and more concerned for Princess Luna. Where was she? What could have happened to her? It seemed to take years for the night to pass, each moment filled with worries that grew worse with each passing moment. But the night passed, and the sky grew light, and something strange happened, strange and horrible.

There was something wrong about the distant light of the dawn. It seemed too close, and it moved irregularly back and forth across the horizon before it began to approach the castle, which it did far too quickly. Princess Lucinda could see that the sun was too close to the ground, and as it got closer and closer to her she could hear a shouting, roaring noise. Part of it was a rush and crackle like someone waving a torch, and part of it was a voice so deep that it made her bones throb. “Where is she,” it was saying, “Where is Luna, my Luna?” Lucinda could see the tops of the tallest trees bursting into flame as the sun passed over them. As the sun rushed towards her, Lucinda closed her eyes and covered them with her hands, but when he was hovering right over her his face was so bright that she could still see it. She had never seen anyone so angry in her life.

“Where is Princess Luna,” he asked, and his voice was so hot that Lucinda felt as though she were standing too close to a bonfire, her skin starting to itch and sting, and so loud that her ears rang painfully. “You know her, she spoke of you often. Where has she gone?” “I don’t know,” sobbed Lucinda, “I waited for her all night, and she never came. Please, can you tell me what I can do for her?”

Prince Sol drew back and softened his light. “Child,” he said, “uncover your face.” Lucinda did. Now she could look at the sun. He looked very sad. “I burned you, poor thing,” he said, “and I burned more than you. I have behaved like a child.” “It’s not your fault,” said Lucinda. “You were worried and upset.” “It is kind of you to say that, but it is not true,” said Prince Sol, “Look around you.” Princess Lucinda looked down from the tower, and out at the land.

Smoke rose up from hundreds of small fires, and the fields, hills, and farms were scorched where the sun had swung low. “This is my fault,” said Prince Sol. “I tried to find her, and this is what happened.” Then he sobbed, and a glowing golden tear rolled from one eye. “Now I will return to my duties, and there will be no one to search for Princess Luna.” The tear dropped with a thump at Lucinda’s feet.

“I’ll find her,” said Princess Lucinda. “I will find her if I have to search the whole wide world.” Sol looked down at her. “Little princess, you are very brave, but you don’t know what you’re getting yourself into. Are you sure you really want to do this?” “I have to,” said Lucinda. “If I don’t, I’ll lose the only friend I’ve ever had.”

“Luna is lucky to have a friend like you. If I can do anything to help you, I will. But now I must go. Farewell!” And with that, Prince Sol leapt into the sky. Princess Lucinda waited a moment, smelling the smoke of distant fires, and looked down at the teardrop at her feet. It was like a jewel, still glowing and too hot to touch. Lucinda wondered for a moment how she could carry it, and then she went down from the tower to speak to her parents.


In which Princess Lucinda learns
That it is easier to escape from a tower
Than from your promises.

Lucinda found her father in the stables, getting ready to ride. “Please, dear,” he said, “I don’t have time to talk to you now, something dreadful has happened.” “I know,” said Lucinda, “I just spoke to the sun about it, and he feels just awful. But please, I need to tell you that I’m leaving.” The King pulled himself up to his full height and stared at Lucinda in astonishment. “You’re what!?” he said. “It’s about the moon,” said Lucinda. “She’s missing, and I have to find her.” The King sighed. “Lucinda, my darling little girl, don’t you know better than to talk to trees and rocks and various celestial bodies? You can get into very serious trouble by associating with the forces of nature. Very serious.” He paused, and pulled at the end of his mustache, tugging his lip down. “I have work to do, my poppet, and I can’t be worrying about you. Hugo, please take her to her room an d make sure that she stays there. James, go tell the queen that she needs to speak to her daughter as soon as possible.” And with that, he vaulted onto the back of his horse and set off. Hugo, wide, blonde, and placid, took Lucinda’s arm. “Sorry, your highness,” he said, “but your father’ll have my ears off if I don’t follow orders.” Lucinda shrugged free of his grip. “Please keep your hands to yourself,” she said. “You may see me to my room, and you may stand at the door, but I suggest that you do not forget your station.” “I do beg your pardon, your highness,” said Hugo, and off they went, Lucinda with head held high and her nose pointed up, and Hugo just one long arm’s length behind her. Lucinda’s throat ached from wanting to cry, but she refused to allow herself to be seen in tears.

Everyone in the castle was in a panic. “I say the world’s coming to another end,” Lucinda heard one chambermaid whispering to another, and that seemed to be the general consensus of opinion. Everyone was worried that the Sun was going to swoop down on them again and set the world on fire. Lucinda did not bother to attempt to reassure them, but she had her own worries. Princess Luna ruled the tides and the stars, and helped to keep the winds on their best behavior, and the thought of what might happen without her was very worrying. The Princess was starting to realize that there was more to the situation than the loss of her friend.

After Lucinda had reached her room and Hugo had gently shut the door behind her, she went to her bed and sat down. After a moment she let her self fall on her side, and, curling up, she let herself cry. When she was done, she washed her face in a silver bowl, and listened to the muffled sound of Hugo shooing away her maids. She sat on her bed and waited, and then brushed her hair and waited. The time passed with an intolerable slowness, each second dripping like syrup, each minute like a mile, the hours so long it was impossible to see one end of them from the other. After more of those hours than Lucinda knew existed, there was a knock on the door. It was not her mother. It was poor Hugo, who Lucinda now thought of as Horrible Hugo, with her lunch on a platter of sea-green wood inlaid with curling vines of gold. Lucinda indolently supped at the soup, picked at the fish, pulled the flesh from her grouse one slow shred at a time, and by the time she had wiped the last of the brandy sauce up with the last bite of cake, her mother hadn’t shown up.

It was the most miserable afternoon of Lucinda’s life. She wanted her hair brushed and there was no one to do it. She wanted to listen to music and there was no one to play it. She wandered around her room, picking up a vase of lavender jade here and setting it there, pulling out the box of carved horn combs she had gotten from her mother on her last birthday and setting them out on her vanity one after another, the amber one, the auburn one, the moss green one, the aqua one that you could see through, and all the rest of them. Lucinda looked at the clutter forming in her room, and it made her so angry she could scream. And there was no one to pick up her things and put it away. Her mother wasn’t coming. Her mother would never come.

When Horrible Hugo finally knocked on her door and carried in the tray with her dinner on it, she was shocked to see that there were only seven courses. She wanted to ask Hugo if she was being punished or if things were so bad that this was the best that the kitchen could do, but of course she couldn’t ask a question like that of Hugo. He was only a guard. So she picked her way through dinner the way she had picked her way through lunch. And even though she wasn’t really hungry, it still felt as though she needed something else, a plate of gingered dumplings or cream cakes topped with candied violets, or those little sticks of grilled meat with the sweet red glaze that made your lips tingle…

Lucinda walked up the stairs and out onto the roof of the tower. The sun was setting in the distance, and the smoke that was still rising up from the fires he had set in the morning was strangely beautiful in the yellow-rose and purple light that was fading from the sky. Lucinda wondered how Prince Sol was, and decided that he couldn’t feel any worse than she did. Heaving a dramatic sigh that she would never have let out if anyone were there, she stared up and watched the stars appear as the sky grew dark.

A voice startled Princess Lucinda awake as she lay on the cold stone floor of the tower top. “Well, isn’t this lovely. I’ve been looking for you everywhere, and now here you are taking a nap at home. Well, I suppose that you must be very worn out by all the trouble other people are having.” Lucinda stared at the elegant figure glaring down at her. “Lafcadio!” she said. “Very perceptive. Prince Sol told me that you were going to look for Princess Luna; I suppose he was lying to me? Not that His Most Gracious and Radiant Majesty has ever lied before, but, well, here you are…” He cocked his head as his voice trailed off and fixed Lucinda with one yellow eye.

Lucinda rose gracefully to her feet and looked haughtily back at him. “Sir, I would suggest that you mind your manners. I am assuming that you have some notion of how to conduct yourself when addressing royalty? If not, I suppose I might lower myself to instruct you, purely for the sake of your mistress.” Lafcadio impertinently turned his back to her, and looked up at the sky. “Oh, my poor mistress,” he said, “are you waiting for your beloved Prince Sol to find you?” He shook his head. “Lafcadio,” said Princess Lucinda, softly. “Alas, alack, he had duties that hold him with bonds far stronger than his love for you. Are you longing for your friends?” “Lafcadio,” said Princess Lucinda in a strong, firm voice. “No, the friend who you hold so dear is badly in need of her rest, and cannot come to your aid. And my luminous mistress, the beloved light of my life, do you have a thought for your poor foolish Lafcadio?” “Lafcadio!” shouted Princess Lucinda, “We have to get out of here!

Lafcadio whipped his head around on his long snaky neck, but before he could open his beak Princess Lucinda whispered fiercely, “The only reason I’m here is that my father had me shut in the tower when I told him I was going to rescue Princess Luna.” “Oh, well-“ Lafcadio started. “Now there is someone down in my room, and if we don’t get out of here right now I’ll never get away.” “How are you going to get off the top of the tower?” asked Lafcadio. “I hope you’re not going to jump. There’s no way you could hit the moat from here.” “You’re going to carry me,” said Lucinda. Lafcadio looked at her. “Well, that’s some news. That’s very interesting. I didn’t know you were crazy.” “Lafcadio, sir, stop your impertinent yammering this very moment and carry me away from here!”

Lafcadio looked her up and down. Lucinda had never seen a bird smirk before. It was very ugly. “When I say what I am about to say, I am by no means impuning your beauty, which has been remarked upon by individuals far more discerning than myself.” Princess Lucinda suspected that she was about to find out how it felt to be angry enough at someone to want to actually kill them. “But your most gracious and lovely majesty is, to put it bluntly, a bit of a load. Speaking strictly in terms of weight, bulk, that sort of thing, you know. Not some abbreviation for an insulting vulgarity. Of course. A load in the technical sense of the word.”

Lucinda’s suspicions had proved correct. Struggling with her temper she said, “I just need to get down from this tower! You used to carry Princess Luna across the world every night!” “That’s different,” said Lafcadio. “Princess Luna is very light.” A voice came from below. “Lucinda! Is that you?” It was Sylvia. “Of course it is. Now get her down before I have to drag her down and get scolded half to death in the process.” That was Hugo.

“Well, we have to try,” said Lucinda. “But-“ “Stop flapping your beak and grab my shoulders!” said Lucinda with a great deal of force. There was a sound of footsteps on the stairs. “Your highness?” said Sylvia, “May I come up?” “Lafcadio!” said Lucinda. “Oh, well, if you say so,” said Lafcadio, and leapt up onto Lucinda’s shoulders. She was amazed at how light he was as she stepped up onto the edge of the tower. She grabbed his ankles, and held on hard. “My lady?” said Sylvia. “Let’s go!” said Lucinda. “Oh, well,” said Lafcadio, and they launched off the edge of the tower.

Lucinda gasped as Lafcadio’s claws tightened on her shoulder, going through the cloth of her dress and piercing her skin. Lafcadio flapped desperately, but he wasn’t able to lift Lucinda up. They were flying, but they were flying down at a steep angle. The castle rushed by underneath them as the wind whipped Lucinda’s hair against her face hard enough to hurt. It was going to hurt a lot more when they slammed into the ground. “The moat,” said Lucinda, “Aim for the-“ and then they hit the water.

When Lucinda hit the water, for an instant she thought she had hit the ground. The surface of the moat slapped the breath out of her, and then she was in the filthy water and it was in her, up her nose, in her mouth, down her throat. She struggled to the surface, dogpaddling awkwardly. She had never swum before, and she was frightened half out of her wits. She choked up mouthfuls of dank, scummy water, and headed for the far edge of the moat. From above, she could hear Sylvia calling out. “Your Highness! Your Highness!” and then “Oh, come quick, Hugo! I think she jumped!”

The moonless night was dark, so Lucinda wasn’t worried about being seen, but she knew they had to get away. “Lafcadio!” she hissed. “Lafcadio! Help me!” From the shore, she heard him say “I am afraid that I can’t, your majesty.” “What do you-“ she got out before a mouthful of rancid algae convinced her to shut up and paddle. When she reached the edge of the moat, she was barely able to pull herself out of the water. She could just make out the Lafcadio’s shape in the starlight, one wing held straight out, and one cocked crookedly.

As Princess Lucinda was catching her breath, Lafcadio asked “And how is your royal person? Are you all right?” Lucinda said “My hair is wet. My clothes are ruined. I hit the water with my face, and it feels as though I’ve washed my face in hot coals. My clothes are absolutely ruined. Of course I’m not all right, you ninny. Now let’s get going. The guard will be out here any minute.” She thought for a moment. “I think you should stay here and watch what’s going on from a tree, and then catch up with me later, or sooner if you think I need warning.”

“That sounds like a splendid idea,” said Lafcadio, “but I’m afraid that I cannot comply with your royal wishes.” “What do you mean?” said Lucinda, crossly. “I mean that I’m not going to fly any time soon.” There was a moment of silence, while Princess Lucinda restrained her temper, knowing that if she shouted someone might hear them. “Why not?” she said. “Because,” said Lafcadio, “my right wing is broken. Quite badly. Thank you for asking.”

There was a sudden flood of light as the gate opened, and they heard the clanking and squealing of the drawbridge being lowered. “Lafcadio, we have to get out of here,” said the Princess. “Can you walk?” “Yes, I can walk. It’s my wing that’s broken,” said Lafcadio. “Well, then, come on. Follow me,” said Lucinda, and started off across the bare stretch of ground that surrounded the castle. “If we’re lucky, they’ll be too busy looking in the moat to spot us,” she said, and then “Can’t you go any faster?” “You asked me if I could walk,” said Lafcadio, “and I am walking. But nature did not intend for me to run.” They both stopped and looked back. They could see men with torches milling around the edge of the moat. “Go on without me,” said Lafcadio. “I’ll catch up with you eventually. Or not, as fate decrees.”

“Don’t talk nonsense. I need you to help me find Princess Luna,” said Lucinda. “Oh, just climb onto my shoulders and let me carry you.” “I certainly could not impose on one of your station-“ started Lafcadio, but Lucinda said “Hurry up, we don’t have long before they start searching for me.” She crouched down, and Lafcadio stepped onto her shoulders. She rose, he hunkered down, and off they went.

In which Lucinda and Lafcadio
Get a meal, and more perspective
Than is comfortable.

When they were safely away in the woods, and out of sight and earshot of the castle, Lucinda said “Do you have to claw at my shoulders like that?” “Are you asking me whether or not I need to hold on to you? Well, let’s see,” said Lafcadio, and loosening his grip, fell off backwards. “Oh, my wing!” he cried, and Lucinda rushed to his side. “Can you get up?” she said. “Eventually,” said Lafcadio. Princess Lucinda bent down to pick him up, and Lafcadio snapped his beak at her. “Are you trying to kill me?” he said, “I mean, haven’t you done enough to me already?” “I was trying to help you, you ill-mannered- were you going to bite me? Bite ME?” said Lucinda. “Look, if your most august and noble person could find it in your infinite mercy to give me but one moment to gather my senses and rise to my feet,” said Lafcadio, “oh. What’s that light over there?”

Had the night been any brighter they wouldn’t have been able to see it, but there it was, a dim red spot that flickered off in the distance. “You know, whoever lit that fire would be one of my subjects,” said the Princess. “They would do anything I told them.” “Unless they were robbers or trolls or that fire was the glow of a dragon’s mouth,” said Lafcadio. “There’s a lot of things in this old world that are best left to themselves.” Lucinda sighed, and said “We’re right in the middle of the kingdom. There are no robbers, trolls, or dragons, just peasants.” “Do you mean,” said Lafcadio, rolling onto his chest, “the type of peasant that will be obliged to tell your family that they saw you, or who might insist on taking you back to the castle?” “I am wet and dirty and tired and hungry and cold and I will not sit here another minute while right before my eyes is a nice warm fire and who knows what to go with it. We can worry about my parents in the morning, but we need to get through the night first. Here.” She put her hands under the bird, and lifted him to her chest. “I’ll carry you like this, all right?”

“Oh, if you must,” grumbled Lafcadio, squirming in her arms. As they made their way towards the light, Lucinda was continually tripping on roots and rocks and stumbling over holes in the ground. With every sudden movement Lafcadio emitted a faint groan or yelp. His body felt strange in her arms, a hot bony framework with a thick padding of feathers that felt both strong and insubstantial. She was scared of what would happen if he fell on top of her, and she was half-dreading his making some comment about the possibility. What an awful bird he was, thought Lucinda. How could something so beautiful be so much of a pain to deal with?

It seemed to take forever for them to reach the light, and as she walked, Lucinda found herself growing more and more uneasy about the sounds she heard in the night. Exactly what sort of animals were there here in the forest? This was her father’s hunting preserve, and he kept it well-stocked, and free of wolves, and what exactly was a peasant doing here in the first place? It couldn’t be a peasant. If it was a poacher, they wouldn’t make a fire for fear of attracting the attention of the warden. If it was the warden, he would surely take her back to the castle. And there was something about the light that made her think that it wasn’t a fire- it was too red, and too dim, no bright spark to it at all. It was like the light that shines through a vellum window, and that would mean a house, which would not be here. She was beginning to doubt the wisdom of her decision, but there was absolutely no way she could change her mind without having to put up with more nonsense from Lafcadio. Why couldn’t he just keep his place and do what he was told?

The light, when they reached it, was shining from a window, a window in the strangest house Lucinda had ever seen. It was a great round coiled shape that looked somehow familiar, and then Lucinda remembered where she had seen it before. It was on her appetizer plate one holiday, and had been filled with spiced butter and a tiny little glutinous nugget of flesh. It was a snail, a house in the shape of a snail’s shell, with a door halfway up the side of it that had a staircase on a rope that could be swung down to the ground. Four round windows like the portals of a ship were set at irregular levels front, back and at each side. As Lucinda walked gingerly around it, she noticed that a glistening nubbly mass protruded from the base of the house. She realized that it was a snail.

Lafcadio, who had been keeping silent for a very long time, weaved his head back and forth, and then whipped it around to whisper into Lucinda’s ear. “I don’t like this. Let’s get out of here.” Just then a window swung open, and out popped a woman’s head. She had a round, motherly face, her hair done up in a bun with wisps dangling across her forehead. She blinked behind her spectacles and said “Who is that? Speak up!” “Pardon us,” said Lafcadio, “we didn’t mean to disturb you. We’ve got to be on our way, sorry again, have a pleasant evening.” The woman pulled her head back through the window, and then opened the curtains and held out a lantern, which shone brightly on Lucinda and Lafcadio.

“I asked you who you were,” she said, “and I want an answer. From the looks of you it’ll be an interesting one, eh?” “Lady goodwife,” said Lucinda haughtily, ignoring the angry clack of Lafcadio snapping his beak in her ear, “We shall require food and lodging for the night.” “No, we shall not!” said Lafcadio, “Please forgive my companions rudeness, she was raised in a pigsty and knows nothing of courtesy. Kindly Dame I-know-not-who, we have no need but to be on our way.”

“Oh, my,” came a voice from behind them. Lucinda turned to look, and saw a woman riding on a strange beast. It was so black that it was impossible to see it clearly, except for its eyes, which glowed red and yellow in shifting patterns. It seemed to have more legs than it needed, and it moved smoothly and in absolute silence. Stretched out on its back was a woman who was more elegant than anyone Lucinda had ever seen before, but she made elegance seem like a curse. She wore a long filmy dress that was worse than no dress at all, and when she languidly poured herself off of her beast, Lucinda instinctively took two steps back and then curtsied. “What a charming young thing you are!” said the woman. “Pray tell, my darling, my poppet, might such a sweet and lovely little morsel such as yourself have a name?” “My friends call me Cinda, good lady. And may I enquire as to your own name?” The woman smiled, and her teeth were white and pointed and even, except for her canines, which were like bone needles. “I do beg your pardon, how unforgivably rude of me to have forgotten. I,” she said, “am Lady Serpentine.”

“This is just delightful,” said the woman at the window, “I do love to see those proper courtly manners. But if you stay out there much longer, you’ll start to stiffen up, Serpentine dear. Come in and sit by the fire, and bring your pet with you.” “A very kind offer, and one that saddens me to have to refuse,” said Lafcadio. “I’m afraid it’s true,” said Lucinda, finding that her feet were moving away from the woman quite independently. “We still have quite a way to go before dawn, good ladies, and thus-“ Lady Serpentine reached out one arm longer than arms should go, and rested a strong boneless hand on Lucinda’s shoulder. “Poppet-“ she said, just a touch of impatience in her voice. Lucinda lunged the other way, only to run into her beast, which had been maneuvering itself around during their conversation. The impact made Lafcadio squawk with pain. The beast moaned softly, and drooled luminous yellow slime from a mouth as round as a drainpipe. Lucinda was about to wheel around and run when she heard a thump on the ground behind her.

The thump had been a big black cauldron with four legs landing on the ground. Inside the cauldron stood a fierce looking old woman that Lucinda thought was a man for a moment. That was because of her long mustache, which was braided. The ends hung below her chin, and had tiny skulls with glittering green eyes tied to them. Her arms were bare, and ropy muscles showed under the sagging crepe of her skin, and she held an enormous wooden spoon which she used to vault out of the cauldron. “Grandma!” cried Lady Serpentine delightedly. “I was starting to think you’d never get here!”

Quick as a bat flaps its wings, Grandma rapped Lady Serpentine under her jaw with the wooden spoon so that her sharp white teeth clicked sharply together.` “What insolence! I’ve been watching you since you left town, so let’s have none of your snottery. Soot and cinders, girl, have you been among the sons of men for so long that you’ve forgotten the courtesy due your elders?”

Smooth as water pouring out of a jug, Lady Serpentine dropped to one knee and bowed her head. “Please forgive me. You are right, it is hard to remember one’s place when one dwells among folk so lowly as mankind.” She looked up. “But Grandma, I have remembered you. I’ve brought you the eyes of a hanged man, and a jar of pure white fat that I rendered from a baby I stole before its mother could give it suck.” “Oh, that’s lovely, that’s my sweetie girl. Just the thought makes my mouth water. Now come. Give your Grandma a kiss,” said Grandma.

While this was going on, Lucinda, still holding Lafcadio in her arms, tried to sneak away. But when she backed slowly away from the beast, something hard and heavy butted up against the back of her legs, almost knocking her over. It was the cauldron. It backed away on its stubbly little legs, and then lunged forward again, knocking Lucinda to the ground. “Mercy!” cried Lafcadio as he rolled away from Lucinda, “Oh, my poor wing!” The cauldron rushed at him, and he kicked at it with a hollow clang. “Stop that this instant!” shouted Grandma, and began beating the cauldron with her spoon, bang bong bang! “You horrid disobedient ill mannered brute! I should have you melted down and ride in a donkey cart!” Bong bing bang! “At least a donkey does what it’s told sometimes!” The skulls on her mustaches jeered at the cauldron. “Stupid cauldron!” “Bad and stupid cauldron!” they said in their tiny squeaky voices. “How many times,” shrieked Grandma, “have I told you not to play with our food?”

Lady Serpentine, who was now standing, extended a hand to Lucinda.

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