The Ugly Princess
By: Mark Kodama

I.

Once upon a time, in the Kingdom of Goldfarben, there lived Princess Emma, famed for her beauty. She was so beautiful that birds would sing and squirrels dance when they cast their eyes upon her. When she came of age, she married Crown Prince Alexei of the great Kingdom of Rus.

The Crown Prince Alexei was a cruel and intemperate man. In a fit of jealousy, he accused Princess Emma of adultery, cut her face with a knife and returned her home to her father in disgrace. Her father King Oskar banished his disfigured daughter to the highest tower of his castle and then hung himself with a rope.

And there Princess Emma in the tower lived alone for five years.

#

The coronation of Catherine was a magnificent affair. The Queen in her purple and white carriage was followed by government and military leaders on magnificent high stepping black horses riding from the royal palace to the cathedral. The one thousand–man palace guard chosen for their good looks and height marched behind the men on horseback as commoners strew the cobblestone road with petals of freshly picked flowers.

The bishop, dressed in purple and white, with a large gold cross hanging from his neck, placed the gold crown, studded with precious stones, upon the young Queen's bowed head as government leaders, military generals and courtiers looked on.

Queen Catherine vowed to rule faithfully and in accordance with God's laws. The Bishop anointed her head with holy oil. The bells from the cathedral tolled as the crowd of commoners outside the cathedral cheered. The new Queen came out to the balcony of the cathedral to waive to the crowd. She could see the towers of the palace in the distance. A tear came to her eye.

Afterward, the Queen and her entourage feasted from delicacies prepared by the royal kitchen on silver platters.

#

Queen Catherine often thought about her unfortunate younger sister Emma. One of her first orders as the new Queen was to release her sister from prison. Even though Princess Emma was now free, she chose to remain in the tower.

"Sister, beauty is only skin deep," Queen Catherine told Emma. "Even the beauty of a Queen fades with age. Outer beauty is ephemeral. But inner beauty is eternal."

One afternoon, Queen Catherine walked alone in the royal garden. Far off in the distance, the royal gardeners were planting new flowers – red, lavender and yellow, in the newly dug flower beds. Bees and butterflies danced from flower to flower as birds of all kinds darted from tree to tree.

She heard a ruckus on the other side of the hedgerow. Some soldiers in her army were beating a commoner with sticks. "You shall bow to me, you insolent cur" the officer shouted.

"Shall I strike him again?" another soldier asked.

"Beat him until he screams in pain," the officer replied.

The Queen interceded. She recognized the officer as the captain of the guard. He was a tall handsome man about twenty–five, with a perfectly trimmed black mustache. "What is the meaning of this?'

The captain and soldiers knelt before the Queen.

"Your Majesty, we were teaching this man some manners," the captain said eyes downcast.

"What do you say?" the Queen asked the bloody man.

"I bow only to the Queen," he replied.

"With your permission, I will teach this man how to respect others," the captain said.

"I do respect others," the bloody man said. "I respect that others should know right from wrong."

At this the captain laughed and lifted his stick.

But the bloody man did not flinch. Instead, he laughed.

"Why are you laughing at yourself?" the soldier demanded to know.

"I'm not laughing at me," the bloody man said. "I am laughing at you. You have all the power; I have none. You have a stick and I am unarmed. You are trained in war. I have no such schooling. So why do you insist I acknowledge you are more powerful than I?"

"Stop!" the Queen said. "Release this man. Now, go," she told the soldiers.

"Are you hurt?" the Queen asked the bloody man.

"I'm fine your majesty," he replied, eyes downcast.

"What is your name?" the Queen asked.

"Josef," he replied.

"Are you a steward?" she asked.

"Yes, I work in the kitchen. I make the pastries."

"Ah, yes," she said. "At my coronation."

"Yes, I made them."

"Try to stand," she said. "Let me help you."

She held her hand out to him. He hesitated.

"Come on," she said. She took his hand.

He was surprised at the strength of her grip.

"Now, walk, " she said.

He limped.

"Oh, you are hurt."

"No, I am lame."

Several men came running from the castle.

A man with an umbrella shaded the Queen. Two other men helped Josef walk.

"See that my doctor helps this man," she ordered.

II.

The next day, the royal cook ordered Josef to make the dozen cakes he made for the coronation again for the Queen. Josef was told to bring the pastries to the Queen's chamber.

Josef made delicate cream cupcakes with a Sabayon frosting sweetened with honey from the royal honeycombs and crowned with assorted berries. He made light butter cookies made with egg whites and castor sugar and a coffee mocha drink from the vanilla plant and bitter beans grown in the New World.

"Ah, Josef," the Queen exclaimed. "They look absolutely wonderful."

She bit into the pastries, trying each kind before drinking the mocha coffee.

She smiled. "Well done, Josef.

"Thank you, your majesty."

"How are you feeling?"

"I am completely recovered," Josef lied.

"Mmmm," the Queen said. "You face looks a little swollen. You are a courageous man with spirit."

Josef was silent.

"I need you to do something," she said. "Please take these delicacies to my sister. The messenger will take you there"

#

When Josef took his cakes and cookies to the Princess, she refused to open the door but she told Josef to leave the pastries on the tray outside her door. The next day she left the empty plates on the tray for Josef to bring back to the royal kitchen.

The next morning, Josef brought cheese souffle, homemade cinnamon raisin bread and coffee. And so this went on for one week, Josef delivering meals he prepared for the Princess and the Princess leaving empty dishes on the tray for Josef to bring back to the kitchen.

One day, when Josef brought the Princess her breakfast, the Princess opened the door to her chamber and asked Josef to come inside. Josef opened the door and then bowed to the Princess and kept his eyes down cast. The Princess hid her face behind a fan. She had long auburn hair was long and fell down her shoulders. The smell of lavender perfumed the air.

"Steward, you cook well," Princess Emma said, her eyes above the fan. She had the most musical of voices.

"Thank you, your highness," Josef said.

"Steward, why do you walk with a limp? Were you wounded in the war?

"No, your Highness," he said. "I was born like this."

"You mean lame?"

"Your Highness, I am not lame. I just walk differently."

"What is your name steward?"

"They call me Josef," he said.

The next day, the royal messenger told Josef he was to be the Princess's personal servant. He would live in the tower and attend all her needs. He was also given a short sword to protect her.

#

One morning after breakfast, Josef scrubbed the Princess's bathtub. It was a hot day so he was naked above the waste. He felt someone's eyes upon him. Lavender perfume filled the air. He turned and the Princess was watching him behind her fan.

Embarrassed, Josef apologized and quickly covered himself.

"As you were," the Princess said and she left the room.

That night, all Josef could think of was the Princess.

#

The next morning after breakfast, Josef again scrubbed the Princess's tub. This time, he kept his clothes on. Again, he felt her eyes upon him. This time, he did not turn to look at her but filled her tub with warm water. He could hear the Princess breathing. He smelled her perfume.

"Joseph, look at me," the Princess said. "I order you."

When Joseph turned, the Princess was completely naked, except she covered her face with her fan. Her young body was perfectly shaped, curved hips, medium breasts with raised pink nipples. But raised scars marked her body.

"Steward, do you like the way I look?" she asked.

"Yes," he stammered, eyes to the floor.

"Look at me," she said. She lowered her fan. She had large hazel eyes, a perfect aquiline nose and perfect white skin. She was perfect except for the raised white scar than ran down her right cheek.

His gaze met her gaze, tears flowing from his eyes.

"What is wrong with you?" the Princess demanded.

"I cry tears of joy," he said. "I have never met a more beautiful woman in all of my days."

The Princess looked away.

III.

Queen Catherine was pleased. From her bedroom window in the palace she could see Princess Emma and Josef walking in the garden together. Josef was animated, talking quickly and moving his hands. Emma smiled and nodded her head. Emma was becoming the person she once was.

"What is it like outside these palace walls?" the Princess asked.

"There is the hustle and bustle of the town," Josef replied. "People going to and fro, selling their products and services to one another. Taking their children to the market. Haggling over prices. Then there are the farms along the river. And further out your have the forest and mountains."

"And what are in those mountains?" the Princess asked,

"The mountain people and their goats," Josef said.

"Have you seen these people?"

"Yes. I am one of them."

"What are they like?"

"They are a simple honest people. They do not have kings and Queens but rule themselves. They have no armies but when there are invaders, the people fight for themselves."

"Are the women beautiful?

"Yes. They are."

The Princess seemed hurt and looked sad.

"But none as beautiful as you," he said. "They are a simple people."

The Princess smiled, her eyes were lit with fire. "I want to see what is out there," she said.

"Out there?"

"Yes. I want to see the world outside these walls."

"It is a wild and dangerous place, not ordered like here. There are only rough low stone walls, dirt roads and thatched houses. The grass grows wild and the trees do not grow in rows. You see these red and black ants? Do you not see how they fight one another. That is how the people are outside of these walls."

"I want to see that." She looked at Josef. "I want you take me there."

#

Josef, disguised in peasant's clothes, and the Princess, dressed like a boy, ventured from the palace. The palace guards did not recognize them and let them pass the palace gates over the drawbridge that spanned the moat and onto the road that passed into town. The Princess smiled. She wore a feathered cap and carried a knapsack over her shoulder.

"You shall call me Heinrich," she said. "You will be Paul. Now, let's go to the market. "

Men, women, children, old people, young people and sellers of all kinds gathered in the market. The smell of baking bread from the local ovens and roasting meat filled the air. A one–eyed man roasted a skinned lamb over an open fire, its face frozen in a macabre smile. A blind beggar with a scar on his cheek asked for coins. A lame blacksmith shod horses.

Farmers sold their fruits and vegetables. Butchers sold their meats. Fishmongers sold fish. Goldsmiths and Silversmiths sold their wares. An old woman sold blankets. They sampled the freshly made Muenster cheese.

Meantime, when the Queen discovered Emma had left the palace, she sent the captain of the guard to find her.

Princess Emma wanted Josef to take her across the bridge to the opposite bank of the river. "We can't go there," Josef said. "That is where the poor people live."

"I want to go there and you shall take me there."

"I must refuse," Josef said. "It is just too dangerous."

"Shall I go alone then?" the Princess asked.

#

Emma and Josef crossed the bridge and followed a narrow road that wound up the hill. The streets were dirty. The tenants hung their clothes on lines that were strung across the balconies. Children –some naked and others dressed in rags – played in the streets.

When they reached the top of the hill, there was an old stone and brick tavern–inn. They stopped there for a meal. The long crude wood tables were filled with dirty customers drinking beer.

"What will you have?" asked the busty waitress.

"How about the meat pies," Josef asked.

"We are out of them."

"How about the sausages?"

"We are out of them too."

"Well what do you have?"

"Lamb stew," she said.

"We'll have that," Emma said.

A fight broke out. The bartender, a huge man, threatened the men with a large stick.

"Take it outside," he said. The men left.

As Emma and Joseph returned to the bridge, they met the captain of the guard on his horse. He had a spare horse for Princess Emma. "The Queen demands you return at once," he said curtly.

Emma and the captain left on the horse. Josef walked back to the castle alone.

#

Princess Emma was appointed to the Queen's advisory council. The council met once a month to propose new legislation to the Queen. The Princess eagerly put forth new ideas about cleaning up the poor areas of the town, compulsory education for all children in the kingdom, a standing army drawn from the people and establishing a people's advisory council elected by the people.

The Captain of the Guard oftentimes accompanied the Princess to and from the council meetings. The captain regaled her with his stories about his military prowess and dashing exploits against the mountain people. The Princess soon fell in love with the captain.

One day, the captain asked Princess Emma to marry him. She said she needed a day to think about it. When she asked Josef what she should do, he said "Marry him if he really loves you."

She sent Josef with a note accepting his proposal. The next day, Josef disappeared. When the Princess learned Josef left, she cried for days.

IV.

The news spread like wildfire. Invaders on horseback were making their way toward the kingdom from the east. The Kingdom of Rus called upon all its allies, including the Kingdom of Goldfarb to send troops. Queen Catherine had died, falling off her horse. Now, Emma was Queen.

The invaders from the east in a great battle defeated the Kingdom of Rus and their allies. Prince Alexei and half the army was destroyed.

The Captain of the Guard was badly wounded but returned home with the remnants of his army. He quickly organized a defense of the city. He called upon the citizen army to muster all its men. He also personally sought the help of his old enemies – the mountain people.

To his surprise, Josef had become their leader. When the Captain of the Guard revealed his plans to fight the invaders in an open battle, Josef refused to join the venture,

"To fight the invaders from the east in a trial of strength was sheer folly," Josef said. "You must retreat into the castle and hit their supply lines. To do otherwise will only result in death and disaster."

The Captain of the Guard refused to listen. "It is a matter of honor," he said.

The invaders from east destroyed the Captain of the Guard and most of his army.

Queen Emma came to visit Joseph with her two young sons.

#

When the Princess met with Josef she was surprised to find that he looked the same as he had ten years ago.

When Josef asked her what her plans were to defend the city, the Princess said. "What should we do?"

"Send your old men, women and children to me here. Then bring all the able bodied men within your walls to defend the city. I will attack their supply lines and wear them down."

Queen Emma sent her old men, women and children to Josef. However, she and one hundred other women stayed behind to feed the defenders and take care of the wounded.

Food and water was stored to withstand a long siege and livestock was brought within the castle walls.

The invaders from the east destroyed the surrounding farms and town. They then laid siege to the city.

Josef led raiding parties against the invaders' supply trains and burned siege engines in a night raid. One month turned into six months with the invaders and defenders fighting for control of the castle.

Finally, Queen Emma sent a note to Josef the defenders could no longer hold out. Josef led one hundred of his best men on horseback to defend the castle.

The defenders had eaten all their stores and drank all their water. They had even eaten wall paper, leather shoes and rats to survive.

Josef made a desperate plan. They would let the invaders batter down the palace front gate. They would pour hot oil and sand upon the invaders as they entered the castle.

Josef and his men then would ride out on horseback and try to kill the enemy general.

#

The next day, the invaders gathered their army for a final assault. Red banners waiving, the enemy army began their attack. The defenders threw off the ladders of the enemy but did not try to stop the enemy from battering down the front gate with their battering ram.

Finally, the enemy army broke through the front gate and flooded the court yard. The defenders poured cauldrons of hot oil and sand upon the enemy as archers and slingers shot missiles into the confused mass of attackers.

Josef then attacked with his horsemen as the enemy army fell backward in a panic. Then the Queen burst forth leading her horsemen. The enemy army began to flee in a panic.

Josef headed straight for the enemy general who was desperately trying to rally his men. As the enemy general turned to face Josef, Josef planted a spear into his chest.

Josef dismounted to cut off the general's head. The general's chief body guard stood over his general's convulsing body.

The seven–foot giant met Josef sword drawn. The body guard swung his giant sword shattering Josef's sword.

Josef fell backward. As the body guard raised his sword, Queen Emma dismounted and threw herself in front of Josef. The body guard's blow broke the Queen's collarbone and cut deep into her flesh. She fell mortally wounded.

As the giant tried to remove his sword, Josef repeatedly jabbed his own shattered sword into the giant's face until he fell dead. The enemy army then fled throwing down their weapons.

As Queen Emma lay dying on the field, Josef came to see her.

As tears filled his eyes, the Queen smiled. "You know you are the only one I ever loved" she said as she passed from this life.

-

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