Home > Tales of the Peculiar (Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children 0.5)(7)

Tales of the Peculiar (Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children 0.5)(7)
Author: Ransom Riggs

“Now will you marry me?” the princess said.

“Absolutely not,” he replied, “but as a token of my gratitude, I won’t tell your father why.”

He grabbed a discarded dagger and rushed from assassin to assassin, stabbing their dead bodies.

“What are you doing?” said the bewildered princess.

The king emerged from his wardrobe. “Are they dead?” he said, his voice trembling.

“Yes, Your Majesty,” said the prince, holding up the dagger. “I killed them all!”

The princess was shocked by his lie, but held her tongue.

“Magnificent!” cried the king. “You’re the hero of Frankenbourg, my boy—and on your wedding day, no less!”

“Ah—about that,” the prince said. “Regretfully, there will be no wedding.”

“What!” shouted the king. “Why not?”

“I’ve just received word that the princess and I are cousins,” said the prince. “Such a shame!”

And without so much as a backward glance, the prince slipped out of the room, gathered his entourage, and took off in his carriage.

“This is preposterous!” the king fumed. “That boy is no more my daughter’s cousin than I’m this chair’s uncle. I won’t allow my family to be treated this way!”

The king was so enraged that he threatened to go to war with Galatia. The princess knew she couldn’t allow this to happen, and so one evening she requested an audience with her father alone and revealed the secret she’d been hiding so long. He called off his war plans, but he was so angry with his daughter, and so humiliated, that he locked her in the dankest cell of his dungeon.

“Not only are you a liar and a beast,” he said, spitting through the bars of her cell, “you’re not marriageable!”

He said it as if that were the greatest sin of all.

“But, Father,” said the princess, “I’m still your daughter, aren’t I?”

“Not anymore,” the king replied, and turned his back on her.

The princess knew she could use her acidic venom to burn through the lock of her cell door and escape, but instead she waited, hoping her father might come to his senses and forgive her.5 For months she subsisted on gruel and shivered through the nights on a stone slab, but her father did not come. The princess’s only visitor was her handmaiden.

One day, the handmaiden arrived with news.

“Has my father forgiven me?” the princess asked eagerly.

“I’m afraid not,” the handmaiden replied. “He’s told the kingdom you’re dead. Your funeral is tomorrow.”

The princess was heartbroken. She broke out of the dungeon that very night, escaped the palace, and with her handmaiden she left the kingdom and her old life behind. They traveled incognito for months, wandering the land, taking domestic work where they could find it. The princess smeared her face with dirt so she would not be recognized and never opened her mouth to anyone but the handmaiden, who told people that the dirty-faced girl she traveled with was mute.

Then one day they heard a story about a prince in the faraway kingdom of Thrace whose body sometimes assumed a form so peculiar that it had become a national scandal.

“Could it possibly be true?” said the princess. “Could he be like me?”

“I say it’s worth finding out,” the handmaiden replied.

So they set out on a long journey. It took two weeks to cross the Pitiless Waste on horseback, and two weeks more to cross the Great Cataract by ship. When they finally arrived in the kingdom of Thrace they were sunburned, windburned, and nearly broke.

“I couldn’t possibly meet the prince looking like this!” the princess said, so they spent the last of the money they’d earned and went to a bathhouse, where they were washed and perfumed and anointed with oils. When they emerged, the princess looked so beautiful that she turned the heads of everyone who saw her, male or female.

“I’ll show my father I’m marriageable!” the princess said. “Let’s go meet this peculiar prince.”

So they went to the palace and asked for him, but the answer they got was disappointing indeed.

“I’m sorry,” a palace guard told them, “but the prince is dead.”

“What happened?” asked the handmaiden.

“He fell ill with a mysterious disease and died in the night,” said the guard. “It was all very sudden.”

“That’s exactly what the king said happened to you,” the handmaiden whispered to the princess.

That night they snuck into the palace dungeon, and in the darkest, dankest cell, they found a giant garden slug with the head of a rather handsome young man.

“Are you the prince?” the handmaiden asked him.

“I am,” the repulsive thing answered. “When I’m feeling dejected, my body turns into a gelatinous, quivering mass. My mother finally found out and locked me down here, and now, as you can see, I’ve become a slug almost head to toe.” The prince wriggled toward the bars of his cell, his body leaving a dark stain on the floor behind him. “I’m sure she’ll come to her senses any day now, though, and let me out.”

The princess and the handmaiden exchanged an awkward glance.

“Well, I have good news and bad news,” said the handmaiden. “The bad news is your mother’s told everyone you’re dead.”

The prince began to wail and moan, and immediately a pair of gelatinous antennae began to grow from his forehead. Now even his head was turning slug.

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