In the morning, Ruby awoke to godly rays of light pouring into her window. This happened because she was a princess. When she got out of bed, she looked well rested and clean, and her hair was untangled. This happened because she was a princess. After breakfast, she flashed her smile of dazzlingly white teeth at the guards. This happened because she had excellent dental hygiene.
After the animals made her presentable, a messenger informed Ruby that she was to meet Sir Gregory that afternoon. She felt a tingle of anticipation and excitement that ran down her body, back up, and down again. Why did she have feelings for the handsome man now, when yesterday she couldn’t stand him? Hormones. In the meantime, she had to go to her singing lessons.
It is common knowledge that princesses have melodic voices that bring tears of joy to everyone’s eyes. Not true for Ruby. She was the only tone-deaf princess, and thus the only one who had a horrid voice. Every Monday and Wednesday, from 10:30 a.m. to 11:45 a.m., she went to voice lessons, taught by the illustrious Antoni Signoretti. But try as she might, and she honestly did try, her singing did not improve. When her vocal cords began vibrating, anyone in the vicinity had to clamp their hands over their ears to protect their delicate ear bones. Normally everyone has to be respectful of a princess, but in this case, the king graciously made a single exception. After today’s failed attempts at the kingdom’s national anthem, Princess Ruby needed some time to unwind and calm herself before her courting in the afternoon. Luckily, Squealer gave the world’s best back massages.
“Relax, just relax. You’re too tense, honey. You need to breathe.” Squealer’s soothing commands repeated like an incantation. Which brings us to
Queen Hazel was saying incantations of her own, but hers were actual spells. Her plan was simple. She would trick Sir Gregory into giving Ruby a potion that would turn her permanently into a stork. With Ruby gone, Hazel could finish what she started and kill the king so she could become the ruler of the kingdom. Bwahahahaha! Ahem. Sorry, I got a little carried away.
When the sundials showed it was some time between dawn and dusk (that’s as specific as sundials can be), Hazel went to the grand castle gates to intercept Sir Gregory. She had decided to look like an old hag so the knight would not recognize her as the queen. Lucky for her, she didn’t have to put on a disguise. When Sir Gregory approached the castle, not carrying a dragon’s head this time, Hazel stopped him.
“Why hello, young man. Going to the castle?” she asked.
“Get out of my way, old hag. You’re not the queen, so you can’t stop me,” he replied curtly.
“Are you going to see the princess?”
“I—yes! How did you know?”
“Let’s just say I’m a wise, old hag. Would you care for a present to give her?”
“Anything to make her love me.”
“Then spray her with this perfume. It smells like love.”
“Thank you, old hag. How much does this product cost?”
“For you, handsome man, it’s free. Think of it as an engagement gift.”
With Hazel cackling under her breath, Sir Gregory took the bottle of perfume and entered the castle. Ruby was waiting for him, looking pretty as always, at the base of the grand staircase. Sir Gregory gave a small bow.
“Welcome, Sir Gregory. I have been looking forward to your visit,” said Ruby.
“As have I, your highness. And please, call me Gregory,” said Sir Gregory, er, Gregory.
“As you wish. Come, let us go to the other grand staircase, where it is quieter.” They moved to an adjacent room that looked identical to the first. Funny people, royalty.
“I have a gift for you,” stated Gregory.
“I hope it’s not another dragon head,” replied Ruby seriously.
“No, it’s a perfume that will make you smell like love,” Gregory said dreamily.
“I don’t know what love smells like, but I bet it smells like pig slop.”
“Yes, at least that’s what Squealer always told me love would smell like.”
“Who is this Squealer?”
“Oh, just a friend. Please, spray some love perfume on me.”
Gregory happily obliged and puffed two puffs of Hazel’s concoction toward Ruby. It did indeed smell like love—or pig slop, depending on your preference—but that was all that happened. Ruby was still a pretty princess, not a plain stork. But Gregory was staring at her, wide-eyed.
“Do I smell that good, Gregory?” Ruby giggled.
“Your—your hair…” was all he could get out.
“Oh yes, the platypuses fix it up every morning. Don’t they do a wonderful job?”
“Yes, they do…but your hair, it’s…it’s growing!”
And as sure as princesses are spoiled, Ruby’s hair was growing. Quickly. In less than a minute, her hair had grown as long as the staircase they were standing on. And it hadn’t stopped.
“Quick, do something!” shrieked Ruby. Gregory drew his sword—luckily he was a knight and always carried one—and sliced most of her hair off.
During this time, Queen Hazel had been watching from behind a tapestry to see how her plan would play out. When the potion made Ruby’s hair grow instead of turning her into a stork, Hazel knew she had made a mistake in the brew.
“I must have switched the tail of newt for tongue of wombat. Curses!” she said, but muffled by the tapestry covering her mouth. “But that means if—”
Princess Ruby leaned in to kiss Sir Gregory for saving her from the growing hair. It was still spreading, but he was keeping it under control.
“—then my potion might still—”
Work was something Gregory was accustomed to as a knight, but kissing was not, due to his pledge to chivalry. As they kissed, each owner of a pair of smooching lips thought, “I’ve found my one true love.”
Then Princess Ruby turned into a stork.