Home > Tales of the Peculiar (Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children 0.5)(8)

Tales of the Peculiar (Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children 0.5)(8)
Author: Ransom Riggs

“Wait!” the handmaiden said. “There’s still the good news!”

“Oh yes, I forgot,” the prince sniffled, and the antennae stopped growing. “What is it?”

“This is the princess of Frankenbourg,” said the handmaiden.

The princess stepped forward into a pool of light, and for the first time the prince saw her fantastic beauty.

“You’re a princess?” the prince stuttered, his eyes going wide.

“That’s right,” said the handmaiden. “And she’s here to rescue you.”

The prince was thrilled. “I don’t believe it!” he said. “How?”

His antennae were shrinking back into his head and the tubelike mass of his upper body was already beginning to separate into arms and a torso. Just like that, he was turning human again.

“Like this!” said the princess, and she spat a stream of venomous acid into the lock of the prince’s cell door. It began to hiss and smoke as the lock melted.

The prince recoiled in alarm. “What are you?” he said.

“I’m peculiar, like you!” the princess replied. “When my father found out my secret, he disowned me and locked me up, too. I know just how you’re feeling!”

As she spoke, her forked tongue flicked from her mouth.

“And your tongue,” the prince said. “That’s part of what’s . . . wrong with you?”

“And this,” the princess said, and she slipped an arm from her dress and showed him the scales across her back.

“I see,” said the prince, his voice sorrowful again. “I should’ve known this was too good to be true.”

As a tear rolled down his cheek, his arms began to disappear, joining again with his torso in a wobbly mass of slug flesh.

“Why are you sad?” the princess said. “We’re a perfect match! Together we could show our parents that we’re not unmarriageable, and we’re not trash. We can unite our kingdoms, and one day, perhaps, take our rightful place on the throne!”

“You must be mad!” the prince shouted. “How could I ever love you? You’re a disgusting freak!”

The princess was speechless. She couldn’t believe what he was saying.

“Oh, this is so humiliating!” the slug prince bawled, and then antennae sprung from his forehead, his face disappeared, and he became a slug from head to toe, quivering and moaning as he struggled to cry without a mouth.

The princess and the handmaiden turned away, stomachs heaving, and left the ungrateful prince to rot in his dungeon.

“I believe I’m done with princes forever,” the princess said, “peculiar or otherwise.”

They crossed the Great Cataract and the Pitiless Waste once again, and returned to Frankenbourg to find it at war with both Galatia and Frisia, which had united against it. The king had been overthrown and jailed, and the Frisians had installed a duke to govern Frankenbourg. The duke was a bachelor, and once his rule had been established and the country pacified, he began searching for a bride. The duke’s emissary discovered the princess working in an inn.

“You there!” he shouted, calling her away from a table she was cleaning. “The duke is looking for a bride.”

“Good luck to him,” she replied. “I’m not interested.”

“Your opinion doesn’t matter,” the emissary replied. “Come with me at once.”

“But I’m not royal!” she lied.

“That doesn’t matter, either. The duke merely wants to find the most beautiful woman in the kingdom, and that may well be you.”

The princess was beginning to regard her beauty as something of a curse.

She was given a nice dress to wear and brought before the duke. When she saw his face, a cold chill spread through her. This Frisian duke had been one of the assassins who had come to kill her; he was the lone assassin who had fled.

“Do I know you from somewhere?” the duke said. “You look familiar.”

The princess was tired of hiding and tired of lying, so she told the truth. “You tried to kill me once, and my father. I was once the princess of Frankenbourg.”

“I thought you were dead!” said the duke.

“No,” she replied, “that was a lie my father made up.”

“Then I’m not the only one who tried to kill you,” he said, and smiled.

“I suppose not.”

“I like your honesty,” said the duke, “as well as your fortitude. You’re made of strong stuff, and we Frisians admire that. I can’t make you my wife because you might murder me in my sleep, but if you’ll accept the position, I’d like to appoint you as my adviser. Your unique perspective would be valuable indeed.”

The princess happily accepted. She moved back into the palace with her handmaiden, took a position of prominence in the duke’s government, and never again covered her mouth when she spoke, as she no longer had to hide who she was.

After some time had passed, she paid her father a visit in the dungeons. He was wearing grimy sackcloth and not looking very kingly at all.

“Get out of here,” he growled at her. “You’re a traitor and I have nothing to say to you.”

“Well, I have something to say to you,” the princess replied. “Though I’m still angry at you, I want you to know you are forgiven. I understand now that what you did to me wasn’t the action of an evil man, but a common one.”

“Fine, thank you for the wonderful speech,” said the king. “Now go away.”

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