In a time long gone by, lived a King. He wasn't much as Kings go, but he was a good King and a wise King. His people loved him. But that his castle held a pass in the high mountains is worth but little note. A pass by which none who entered ever returned, I might add, but that is another story. Like all good Kings he had a young daughter which he loved dearly.
One day a great magician came and stood before the castle's moat and demanded to see the king at once. Of course the guards at the drawbridge laughed at him, but they did not laugh long. The magician threw lightning bolts at the drawbridge that melted the chain that held the drawbridge against the castle wall. Cut free of its chains the drawbridge fell across the moat.
Once again, standing on the drawbridge, the magician demanded to see the king, and that the portcullis be raised at once to admit him. No one could have moved fast enough even if they had intended to raise the portcullis, which they did not. No sooner had the magician finish his speaking than he threw another bolt of lightning at the portcullis, melting the iron gate.
"I am the wizard Razar," said the wizard as he stepped into the outer courtyard. "Take me to the king at once," he demanded.
A knight was sent with all dispatch to bring the magician to the King. Doors were hastily opened, curtains flung aside, as the magician was brought before the King.
The magician burst through the doors of the throne room trailing his knight escort. "You are the King?" the wizard asked in a voice that sent chills down many a backbone of those in attendance of the King at that moment.
"I am," replied the King. His tone was equally as icy.
"I want you to give me your fortified outpost near the Dark Forest," the wizard demanded.
"Who do you think you are to make demands of me? Do you think I'd hand over my outpost to the likes of you?" the King asked, somewhat angered.
"I am your death old man," the wizard replied. "Give me the outpost and I will let you live."
"Oh, I have no doubt that you can kill me magician. But, will you live long enough after my death to leave this castle remains to be seen."
"Perhaps. Perhaps I could kill you, destroy this castle, and take the outpost. Maybe I won't kill you. Maybe I'll just turn you into a frog..." The King turned white. He had not thought about being turn into a frog. "...and everyone else into snakes that eat frogs."
"Perhaps you can do what you say..." the King began.
"You doubt me?!" Just then both men heard a noise behind the throne.
"Rose," the King exclaimed as he looked around behind the throne to see his youngest daughter hiding there.
"Your daughter, how interesting," said the wizard, with a wicked gleam in his eyes. "Do you love your daughter?" The wizard pointed his staff at the girl and a blue light engulfed her.
Rose screamed until she could scream no longer. She watched as her body contorted as it changed form. Her screams were from the pain as her body was transformed into a bullfrog, female of course.
It was over in a few beats of a heart. No one moved.
The King picked up the still convulsing frog. Tears were running down his face. "Change her back," the King pleaded.
"Do I get the outpost," the wizard asked.
"Yes, just change her back," sobbed the King.
"The spell doesn't work that way. She will have to be kissed by a prince."
The magician got the outpost and the King sent out letters to all the princes he knew asking them to come save his daughter from remaining a frog forever. None of the princes ever came. Word had gone out that any prince that entered the kingdom would be turned into a frog also, and no one wanted to be turned into a frog and that was that.
One day in a town not far away from the kingdom where the frog princess lived sat a young knight at a table in the pub near the inn where he was staying. His cloak was pulled tight around himself. He adjusted his hood to better hear those around him.
"The King built her a little garden to live in," said one man.
"I heard it had a pool for her to swim in," said someone who the young knight could not see.
"He just turned her into a frog," said a man from one of the other groups in the pub.
Eric didn't need to hear more to know it was more of the wizardry of the man he was hunting. Still, he forced himself to sit and listen to the rabble around him long into the night.
Early the next day Eric could be found on horseback making his way through the forest on his way to the castle where lived the frog princess. On a narrow part of the trail through the forest an old man blocked his way.
"Excuse me old man, but would you step aside so that I may pass?” Eric asked.
"Why? Are you in a hurry to meet your fate," the old man asked, Eric.
"Yes, I am."
"Then meet it you shall," the old man said as he transformed into the magician. Light from the staff struck Eric even as he grabbed for his sword. He screamed as his body began to change.
The magician had thought to capture the knight once he was a frog, but the knight's horse bolted past the magician taking the still transforming knight with him. "No matter, frogs can't kiss," the wizard said to himself as he watched the horse run down the trail.
At first the princess lay in shock from being transformed for nearly a full month. Then came the madness from understanding what had been done to her. At first her father, the King, kept her in a big box until he could build a small indoor garden and a large pool. But, all this had happened so long ago.
Now she wondered if she had ever been human. Maybe she was someone's pet frog who had nightmares about being human. I'm slipping, Rose thought, one day I'll slip for good.
The King visited Rose every day in her little garden. Sometimes he'd read her stories; other times she'd walk with him as he tended the garden. The King was Rose's only link to who and what she once was.
What if no one ever comes and I have to stay a frog, Rose wondered. What if the magician lied and I can't be changed back? Please, God, I don't want to be a frog, she cried out in her mind. Send someone who can help me.
The rain beat out a pattern on the chest plate of the suit armor that lay in the brush. Deep inside the armor a small green hand moved. The rain had revived the young knight turned frog. It still hurts to move, he thought. With great effort he pulled himself up to one of the arm holes in the armor and then he hopped out.
Why do wizards always got to turn a body into frogs. I hate frogs, Eric thought to himself. The young knight turned frog hopped up to the edge of the road, looked both ways, and then hopped off down the road toward the castle in the pouring rain.
It had been many years since the magician turn the princess into a frog. There was very little of the princess left now. It had been so long since she had been changed into a frog it was hard to see herself as anything but a frog. A frog I am and a frog I'll always be, she thought. Perhaps once Rose understood why she was a frog, but now, having been a frog for so long, the reasons why she was a frog were no longer clear to her. Still some part of her wanted to be human again. It was like a dream that kept slipping away from her grasp.
Lately she thought she heard someone call her name. The voice seemed to come from the moat. She would look down from her window and see a large frog sitting on the edge of the moat.
After many nights of listening to the voice call her name and plead with her to come out to him; she decided to leave the safety of her garden and go out to the moat and find the voice.
The servant that brought her food always came early. It was an easy matter for Rose to hide by the door and hop out when the servant came in. Down the hall to the stairs she hopped. Down the stairs and over to the great door that opened out to the inner courtyard. Rose squeezed under the great door and hopped down the stairs to the ground. As she was about to pass the fountain in the inner courtyard a voice called out to her. "Princess, if I could trouble you for a kiss." Out of the fountain leaped a frog.
"Why should I kiss you? You’re just a frog," Rose asked.
"No, I'm not just a frog. I'm really a prince who was changed into a frog when I tried to come to your aid," was the frog's reply. "We need to kiss each other to break the spell put upon us."
"I bet you use that line on all the other female frogs you've come across. Does it work?" ask Rose.
"Having no real experience with females of any kind, I wouldn't know," the frog replied.
"My life, such as it is, is just fine. What do I need you for? I can do what I want, when I want. I have a nice place to live. I have friends that come and see me from time to time. What more could I want?"
"To be human again," replied the frog. "What harm could a little kiss do? What are you afraid of? Getting warts?"
"Ok, one little kiss, but that's all."
So they tried to kiss each other, but frogs can't kiss. The best they did was look like they were trying to eat each other. Both frogs sat on the edge of the fountain looking hopelessly at one another.
How could they kiss each other, if frogs didn't have lips? If they could kiss, would they be transformed? Did one of them need to be human first? If they did find a way to kiss and were transformed, what then? Would they get married and live happily ever after? Suddenly, Rose found herself thinking, perhaps being a frog isn't all that bad.
The frog that sat next to her was deep in thought. What constitutes a kiss, wondered the frog. How many ways are there to kiss? Can frogs kiss? I must find a way. It would be too much trouble to find another princess without risking life and limb in the search, he thought.
"I think I'll go home now," said Rose as she hopped down off the fountain. "Let me know if you figure out a way for us to kiss."
The frog watched as Rose hopped away. "There must be a way," he said to himself. So there on the fountain he sat thinking. He sat there the rest of the day and all that night thinking how they might kiss. The next day he was still there thinking.
Sitting on a lily pad in the fountain the frog dozed off thinking of what people in his life had told him of kissing. He remembered what the Lady of the Lake had said on the subject. "...Anybody can pucker and press their lips together with someone, that does not constitute a real kiss Eric, or at least not a good one."
"It's always worked well enough for me..."
"Merlin, stay out of this conversation for once. I'm trying to teach the boy the proper way to treat women in this matter."
"I'm just trying to give the boy a different perspective on life," Merlin retorted.
"You're not a bad kisser Merlin, but you’re not a great kisser ether," the Lady of the Lake replied. "Eric, when two people kiss most of the time neither of them are thinking about the act, they're just putting their faces together. The man is thinking about how to get the girl in the hay. The woman, on the other hand, is thinking about how to keep the man's hands from roaming all over her body without offending him."
"Unless of course she wants him to."
"Merlin, I'm not going to tell you again." The Lady of the Lake let the threat hang in the air before she continued. "Most people go through life thinking of kissing in this manner. Even after a man and woman are married the kissing doesn't change much. It gets better for a while and then kind of stops except during love making.
To be a great kisser you only need to do one thing and that is kiss. Don't think of anything else. Put your entire self behind the kiss. If you limit your courtship to proper hugs and kisses you will find that the girl can relax into your kisses and will be more responsive. Practice hugs and kisses all the time even after your married. In time and with practice you will be able to express your emotions and yourself in a single kiss to your mate."
"Then true kissing is spiritual,” Eric as a young boy said.
"It can be," the Lady of the Lake replied.
"There is a dozen different ways to kiss that I know of. I find it hard to believe that philosophy would work with all of them," Merlin said sensing the Lady of the Lake had finished for the moment.
"In the frozen wastes of the far north countries some of the tribes rub noses as their form of kissing."
"It would still work. After the boy has gone to bed I'll be happy to show you," the Lady of the Lake said smiling.
The frog woke from its dream with a start. That's it, he thought, frogs have nostrils and therefore noses. By rubbing our noses together we could be transformed. He had to get in to see the princess.
Getting in the castle was easy. Most of the doors were meant to keep out people not frogs. Finding the right room was another matter altogether. Searching the castle room by room it was well into the next day before he found the garden room near the top of the castle's keep. This was one door he could not crawl under.
The frog waited in the hall across from the door until late evening, when a servant came to bring the princess her evening meal. Hopping into the room after the servant was a simple matter. The room was filled with plants and near the window was a small pond. After the servant left he spoke. "Princess, where in this jungle are you?"
"It's the frog you were talking to the other day."
"Oh, I suppose you come to tell me you've found a way for us to kiss."
"As a matter of fact I have,” Eric said.
"What happens once we change back, if we change back?"
"You go back to being a real princess and I go on to find and kill the wizard that did this to us."
"I don't have to marry you," Rose asked.
"No, what ever gave you that idea?"
"I always thought that's the way these stories go."
"Only in fairytales Princess."
"Ok, how do we do it?"
"To make a long story short, a wizard once told me that in the far north countries there lives a group of people that kiss by rubbing their noses together."
"That's dumb," Rose said.
"I know, but if a kiss is a kiss, then we will be free of this enchantment,” Eric, replied.
The two frogs began nozzle each other. Crudely at first and then passionately; desperately they rubbed their noses and heads together. At first nothing happened. Then their bodies began to get warm; then warm became hot, and then hot became hotter still. Rose was the first to begin screaming as their frog bodies transformed back into their human shape. When it was over their naked bodies laid sprawled on the floor of the garden room. They were both unconscious when the King found them moments later after hearing their screams.
Eric awoke to find himself in bed and a young boy looking down at him. No sooner had he opened his eyes than the boy turned and hurried from the room. Moments later the King entered the room. "I see your awake, feeling better I hope."
"It's a damn sight better than waking up inside my armor."
"I can't thank you enough for saving my daughter from the horrible fate that had befallen her. Whatever you wish it is yours. You have but to name your reward," the King said.
"How long have I been unconscious,” Eric, asked.
"About half the night has passed since I found you and my daughter."
"Has anyone left the castle since you found us?"
"No. The drawbridge is raised at night and we do not let it down again 'till dawn."
Eric thought quickly. "This is what I wish you to do for me as my reward. First, no one is to leave or enter the castle until I have had time to recover my belongings. Second, I will need a horse and some clothes. Third, I need to know everything about the outpost you gave the wizard. Secret passageways, tunnels, everything. The longer I can keep the wizard from finding out that the princess had been changed back the better my odds of taking him by surprise."
"I think you need to rest a bit longer. What you ask is madness."
"If he were a true wizard I might agree, but he is not. This would be necromancer is using magic not his. A crystal stolen from Merlin the magician, which I was sent to retrieve. Without the power source, which he could not take, the crystal's power is limited. There is a steady but slight drain on the crystal's power even when not in use. It may well be that he has no power left to use and does not know it."
"Then I should take an army..." the King began.
"No, it is best that I go alone. He has had the time and the power to prepare for just such an attack. If I can recover my belongings I will be well protected,” Eric said to keep the King from sending many good men to a useless death.
"I will do as you requested. The joyous news of this day will not go forth until you have had time to complete your quest."
It was not yet full light when the young knight entered Rose's room. He could see that she was awake and walked over and sat at the foot of her bed. "You feel alright? No carvings for flies?" Rose laughed.
"No, I feel fine. You’re going after the wizard aren't you?"
"Don't go," Rose pleaded
"I have to, but I'll be back to make sure that you have suffered no ill effects from your transformation," Eric said quietly. "Rest now." He got up from the bed and started for the door.
"I don't even know your name."
"Eric, my name's Eric," the young knight said looking back with a smile as he stepped through the doorway pulling the door shut after himself.
The wizard looked down the mountain on the land he now ruled with fear. The door to his chamber opened. "Just put the food down on the table and get out," he said without turning.
"No dragons, no demons, no walking dead, not even a small band of frightened peasants, I'm disappointed. I thought I would have to fight my way in here," a voice behind the wizard said. The wizard whirled around to face a young knight in full armor.
"I see that being turned into a frog was not enough to discourage you, but how did you change back? It should not have been possible."
"With a kiss."
"But frogs can't kiss."
"Not like humans true enough, but frogs can kiss,” Eric said.
The wizard walked to the wall where he had leaned his staff with the crystal mounted in the top. "You must be a fool to allow me to reach the thing that is my source of power," the wizard said as he held the staff before him.
"If there is any power left, you may be right."
"Power enough to destroy the likes of you." A light shot out from the crystal and hit Eric. There was a shower of sparks and Eric staggered backward and then slowly sank to his knees. The room was filled with smoke. "Now you understand. My power is supreme! Your death will wipe away any doubt. No one will ever challenge me again," the wizard gloated.
Ever so slowly Eric began to rise. Steadying himself against the wall with one hand he faced the wizard. "You would be wizards are all alike. Petty tyrants with a little stolen power. You create nothing, you build nothing, and you leave a trail of destruction behind you a blind man could follow, and in the end you are done in by your own self-
"You are a fool. Merlin himself aided me in this quest," Eric continued. "He gave me my protection from the crystal. Protection that drains the crystal's power completely, or do you think I am such the fool as to even give you the chance to use the crystal on me."
"You lie, I am all powerful," the wizard said as his ego overcame what should have been the better part of valor. "And you are a dead man."
"Not today I think." The crystal didn't even glow. "See, no power left," Eric pulled a small knife strapped to the back of his armor and threw it at the wizard. The knife hit the wizard in the right shoulder with such force as to spin him around and knock him to the floor.
Eric was atop the wizard in a moment. "I should kill you, but I think I'll leave that pleasure to the King,” Eric said jerking his knife free of the wizard none too kindly.
Rose looked out of the window in the garden room where she had lived as a frog. How different life seemed at that moment. "I think I would keep this room just as it is; indoor gardens are rare and you can enjoy the beauty of green plants year round,” Eric standing behind her said. Rose turned to face him tears filled her eyes. He reached out and took her in his arms.
"I never thought saying goodbye would be so hard. What do you say to someone who has changed your life as you have mine," Rose said as she held on to him for a moment longer and then pulled away.
"It's never easy to say goodbye when you leave friends behind. Words fail, hearts are broken, but life goes on and we make new friends to replace the lost ones and we find joy all over again."
"And when they leave the pain starts all over again," Rose said bitterly.
"No my Lady, the pain doesn't last, but the love that was shared goes on forever,” Eric said as he turned to leave. He paused for a moment and turned back to her. Eric pulled Rose gently to him, looked into her eyes for a moment, and then rubbed her nose gently with his.
Rose watched from the garden room as Eric rode from sight. She rubbed her nose with her fingers. "Yes," she said to herself, "the love does last."