Home > Tales of the Peculiar (Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children 0.5)(6)

Tales of the Peculiar (Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children 0.5)(6)
Author: Ransom Riggs

It was a lonely life for the princess, as she rarely spoke to anyone for fear they’d catch a glimpse of her forked tongue. But her real trouble was this: she was to be married to a prince from Galatia.4 They’d never seen each other, but her beauty was so renowned that he’d agreed to the match anyway, and they were to meet for the first time on their wedding day, which was fast approaching. Their union would cement relations between Frankenbourg and Galatia, ensure prosperity for both regions, and create a pact of defense against their hated mutual enemy, the warlike principality of Frisia. The princess knew the marriage was politically necessary, but she was terrified the prince would reject her once he discovered her secret.

“Don’t worry,” counseled her handmaiden. “He’ll see your beautiful face, come to know your beautiful heart, and forgive the rest.”

“And if he doesn’t?” the princess replied. “Our best hope for peace will be ruined, and I’ll live the rest of my days a spinster!”

The kingdom prepared for a royal wedding. The palace was hung with golden silks, and chefs from across the land came to prepare a lavish feast. Finally, the prince arrived with his royal entourage. He climbed out of his carriage and greeted the king warmly.

“And where is my bride-to-be?” he asked.

He was shown into a reception hall where the princess was waiting.

“Princess!” cried the prince. “You’re even lovelier than your reputation had me believe.”

The princess smiled and bowed, but would not open her mouth to speak.

“What’s the matter?” said the prince. “Have I struck you dumb with my good looks?”

The princess blushed and shook her head.

“Ah,” the prince replied, “then you don’t find me handsome, is that it?”

Alarmed, the princess shook her head again—that wasn’t what she’d meant at all!—but she could see she was only making things worse.

“Say something, girl, this is no time to be tongue-tied!” hissed the king.

“Pardon me, sire,” said the handmaiden, “but perhaps the princess would be more comfortable speaking with the prince for the first time in private.”

The princess nodded gratefully.

“It isn’t proper,” the king grumbled, “but I suppose under the circumstances . . .”

His guards showed the prince and princess to a room where they could be alone.

“Well?” said the prince once the guards had gone. “What do you think of me?”

Covering her mouth with her hand, the princess said, “I think you’re very handsome.”

“Why do you hide your mouth when you speak?” the prince asked.

“It’s my habit,” the princess replied. “I’m sorry if you find it strange.”

“You are strange. But I could learn to live with it, given your beauty!”

The princess’s heart soared, but then crashed back to earth just as quickly. It would only be a matter of time before the prince discovered her secret. Though she could have waited until they married to reveal it, she knew it wasn’t right to deceive him.

“I have something to confess,” she said, still speaking with her mouth covered, “and I’m afraid that when you learn what it is, you won’t want to marry me.”

“Nonsense,” said the prince. “What is it? Oh no—we’re cousins, aren’t we?”

“It isn’t that,” she said.

“Well,” the prince said confidently, “there’s nothing that could stop me wanting to marry you.”

“I hope you’re a man of your word,” said the princess, and then she took away her hand and showed him her forked tongue.

“Stars above!” cried the prince, recoiling.

“That’s not all,” said the princess, and slipping one arm out of her dress, she showed him the scales that covered her back.

The prince was flabbergasted, then furious. “I could never marry a monster like you!” he cried. “I can’t believe you and your father tried to trick me!”

“He didn’t!” she said. “My father doesn’t know anything about it!”

“Well, he’s going to!” the prince fumed. “This is an outrage!”

He stormed out of the room to go tell the king, and the princess chased after, begging him not to.

It was just then that five Frisian assassins, who had disguised themselves as chefs, pulled daggers from their cakes and ran from the kitchens toward the king’s room. The prince was just about to reveal the princess’s secret when they broke down the door. While the assassins killed his guards, the cowardly king dove into a wardrobe and hid himself beneath a pile of clothes.

The assassins turned on the prince and princess.

“Don’t kill me!” the prince cried. “I’m just an errand boy from another land!”

“Nice try,” said the lead assassin. “You’re the prince of Galatia, and you’re here to marry the princess and form an alliance against us. Prepare to die!”

The prince ran to a window and tried to force it open, leaving the princess to face the assassins by herself. As they came toward her with their bloody daggers drawn, she felt a strange pressure building behind her tongue.

One after another they lunged at her. One after another, the princess launched streams of venomous poison into their faces, and all but one fell writhing to the ground and died. The fifth assassin fled from the room, terrified, and escaped.

The princess was as surprised as anyone. It was something she’d never known she could do; then again, she had never been threatened with death before. The prince, who was already halfway out the window, pulled himself back into the room and regarded both the dead assassins and the princess with amazement.

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