“BSaT 8” or “And They All Lived Happily Ever After. …Or Did They?”

Prince Jaron’s assignments completed back during Part 7, it’s back to the Enchantress to liberate Princess Terren and make his requests. But will all going according to plan? Find out in the much-anticipated serial finale of “Blood, Sweat, and Tears”!

<<<>>>

Not surprisingly, Terren had lost all track of time. She could not tell if she had been awaiting the prince’s return for minutes or months or a millennium or what. Either way, she was pleased as punch when Jaron finally materialized in the cave in front of her.

“Ah, so you’ve returned,” said the Enchantress. “You made good time. Only…” – here she checked her watch – “…two days, seventeen hours, and twenty-five minutes.”

“Hey, wait ye just one stinking minute!” cried Terren. “Last I checked, wristwatches – and especially digital wristwatches – have yet to be invented!”

“Sometimes it seems as though nothing has yet been invented,” Jaron muttered.

The Enchantress shrugged. “Well, when you’re a powerful Enchantress, as I am, sometimes you get the prototypes for these things sooner than do others. But back to business. Prince Jaron, have you done as I have asked?”

“I have,” said Jaron. Proudly, he presented the bowl-shaped rock he himself had carved from the volcano. Looking around, he asked, “Have you a container durable enough to… well, contain this?”

“I do,” said the Enchantress, producing a small jar.

“Good.” Without ceremony, Jaron smashed the rock upon the cave wall and then held the largest piece over the Enchantress’s jar. Much of the lava collected had since cooled into rock, but more than a tablespoon of it had remained hot and liquid. This did Jaron pour into the jar.

“Behold,” said Jaron. “This lava did I take from the veins of the Fire Maiden. Lava, molten rock, was her life’s blood. And so I give you… blood from a stone.”

“Very good,” approved the Enchantress. “One payment received. What is your first request of me?”

“At an inn more than a day’s journey from here,” said Jaron, “I slew a drunk sitting by the side of the road. This man had done no wrong save take a sip too many, yet I killed him, for I had need of his clothes. My first request is that you bring him back to life, for the death dealt him was by no means a fair one.”

“I grant your request,” said the Enchantress. “Here, take this bottle of suspect fluid. When you leave the Forest on your way back to your kingdom, stop by the inn where this deed was done. Find the body, and pour the contents of this bottle upon it. Then he will be restored to life. Now, where is my second gift?”

Jaron showed her his vial. “Behold,” said he. “This sweat did I mop from the brow of Prince Osmar of Mayers. Ask any one of his peers and they will tell you truly of his decidedly porcine qualities. And so I give you… sweat from a pig.”

“Well done,” praised the Enchantress. “Two payments received. What is your second request of me?”

“The King and Queen of Liaralay and the Queen of Mayers have conspired to marry Prince Osmar and Princess Terren,” said Jaron. “Neither prince nor princess (nor Osmar’s previous betrothed) wishes this union to take place. My second request is that you change the minds of the king and queens, bringing them back to their original plan to marry Osmar to Princess Emmalyn of Caspion, and Terren to no one yet.”

“I grant your request,” said the Enchantress. “Here, take this pouch of mysterious powder. When you leave this Forest, go to the highest tower of the castle of Liaralay and sprinkle the powder into the wind. Then the minds of the rulers of Liaralay and Mayers will be as they were before. And lastly, what of my third gift?”

Jaron brought forth his other vial. “Behold,” he said. “These tears did I gather from the faces of many quote-unquote ‘damsels in distress’ by the sea. None of them were in real need of rescue, and all cried merely to gain something from a studly passerby like myself. Fake crying; crocodile tears. And so I give you… tears from a crocodile.”

“Bravo,” congratulated the Enchantress. “All three payments received. So, what will your final request be? Up ‘til now, they have been quite unselfish; restoration of life for someone else, happiness for others… Surely now you would like to ask for something for yourself? Like… the love of Princess Terren, for instance? That was your plan, was it not?”

Terren nearly choked on her royal spit. “Thou would do that to me?!” she shrieked.

“That was my plan,” Jaron nodded.

“Vile wretch! To make me fall in love with a son of a yet-to-be-invented gun like you…! Have you no sense of morality?!”

“I would think he does,” said the Enchantress. “Why else would he have done what he did that night at the inn?”

Terren narrowed her eyes. “Why? What did he do?”

“Nothing,” said the Enchantress. “That’s the point. What is your third request, young prince?”

“On my way to acquire the crocodile tears,” said Jaron, “I stopped by my castle. Turns out the rulers of Liaralay have decided to wage war upon my kingdom. Something about me running off with their princess. This war will no doubt mean countless lives thrown away – women and children left without husbands and brothers and fathers. Me, I care but little about this. But a soldier told me this war was created so that my father the King would have to pay for my misdeed. Well, guess what: He has already had to pay a hefty price for my own childish behavior of eleven years ago. He will continue to pay it for the rest of time. He should not have to pay again. And so my third and final request is that you cause the King and Queen of Liaralay to call off their war on my kingdom.”

“Are you sure?” said the Enchantress. “Because I could make Princess Terren fall in love with you, no problem.”

“Do not tempt him!” cried Terren, aghast and enraged.

“I am not tempted,” Jaron assured her. “True, if thou had caught me before I hit the seashore, things might have been different. But whilst I was collecting the tears of pathetic pretender girls, I was given the opportunity to rescue a maiden who actually needed rescuing – she was going to be sacrificed to an ogre, don’t you know – and darned if she is not more fair than art thou, Terren of Liaralay! I have decided to woo her instead. So it looks like you missed your chance with Prince Jaron the Cool, Terren, baby.”

Terren was undecided whether to whoop for joy that Jaron would now finally leave her alone, retch up her last meal over Jaron’s ego, or throw a tantrum because someone traversed the earth who was fairer than she. She was still mulling over the possibilities when the Enchantress dumped some sweet-smelling concoction over her head.

“HEY!” sputtered Terren.

“I grant your request,” the Enchantress said to Jaron. “Merely return Terren home and the war will cease. Now leave my cave! I haven’t had a moment alone since you two barged in through mine rainbow!”

<<<>>>

Image credit: Tracy Milkay, Milkay Photography.

Thus did the adventure end. Jaron and Terren made the uneventful journey home. They stopped by the inn on the way. The drunk was still in the bushes where Jaron had left him, looking none too good, as one would imagine. But a few drops from the Enchantress’s bottle and he looked as good as new – albeit in naught but his underwear, until Jaron returned his clothes.

The war was called off the instant Terren entered her castle, and then she and Jaron sprinkled the powder from the Enchantress’s pouch, causing the King and Queen of Liaralay and the Queen of Mayers to nix Terren’s engagement, and freeing Osmar to marry Emmalyn once more.

A few months later, Terren became betrothed again – this time to Prince Vincent. Everyone from the kingdoms of both Liaralay and Baylee were pleased with this match. And Jaron returned to the area by the sea, where the princess he had saved from the sacrifice had been pining for him ever since he’d gone. They were betrothed to each other before the sun went down on the day. It happened also that Jaron’s princess had a mighty good-looking mare who took quite an interest in Jaron’s horse/father/king.

And so, true to fairytale form, everybody lived happily ever after.

<<< THE END >>>

“BSaT 6” or “Is It Getting Hot in Here, or Is That Just the Volcano?”

The last segment of “Blood, Sweat, and Tears” saw Princess Terren the Fair left in the keeping of the Enchantress, there to stay until Prince Jaron’s successful return from three seemingly impossible tasks. Given how little cause we’ve been given to fully trust Jaron, what are the odds Terren will be stuck there forever?

<<<>>>

Several minutes passed. Of course, since she was in the Enchanted Forest, it felt like hours to Terren. Couple that with her anxiety at being left alone with some strange Enchantress, and it felt even longer. At last, the Enchantress spoke.

“You are wondering how it came to pass that the King of Nikos is a horse,” she said.

Terren didn’t much like having her mind read by creepy Enchantresses, but whatcha gonna do? “I am,” she nodded.

“Eleven years ago,” the Enchantress began, “King Jakob came to me, the young Prince Jaron with him. He wanted me to tell him what lay in his son’s royal future.”

“What, art thou all-knowing or something?”

“Nah, I just get these random bursts of information. Anyhoo, after I had received payment for my services, I informed him that Jaron would never rule as king. This upset Jakob a bit, but it upset Jaron much, much more. He threw quite a tantrum about it; you know what five-year-olds are. I told him he’d best get control of himself, else something ill-fated happen to him, but of course he did not listen; you know how Jaron is. In his boisterousness, the young fool knocked over a bottle containing one of my curses.”

Terren frowned. “Who keeps curses in a bottle?”

“Uh, Enchantresses? Duh? May I finish my story, please?”

“Sorry, sorry, by all means.”

“I thank thee. So, Jaron breaks my bottle, and out pops the curse.”

“Um, begging your pardon, but what exactly does a curse look like?”

“Not unlike a pox,” said the Enchantress impatiently. “Do not interrupt me again. So the curse comes out and it incants:

Four hooves, flowing tail and mane,

A horse for all time you’ll remain,

And never human form regain.

Then it leapt at him, for to bring the curse to pass. But Jaron was a quick lad, and with his small dagger deflected the curse away from him. Curses are much akin to light in that you can turn them away with a reflective surface. Unfortunately – or not, depending of your point of view – Jaron set his dagger at such an angle that the curse bounced off of the dagger and onto the king. And so it was that King Jakob was changed into a horse; an immortal horse, but a horse nonetheless.”

“So who— Oh, sorry, were you finished?”

“More or less.”

“Oh, good. So who has been ruling over the kingdom of Nikos all these years if not King Jakob?”

“Why, Prince Jaron of course. And a fair job he’s been doing too, take it all ‘round.”

“But you said—!”

“I said he would never rule as king. Since King Jakob is not dead nor has he formally passed down the crown, Jaron can never officially be king. He will forever be a prince. So, I was right, ha-ha.”

If Terren hadn’t much liked having her mind read, she liked even less being ha-ha-ed. She determined to change the subject. “So, these things Jaron is to bring you… You were not in earnest about them, I hope? For how can one draw blood from a stone that hath no blood, or sweat from a pig, when swine sweateth not? As for the tears of a crocodile, surely ‘twould be a dangerous thing to attempt to gather them. What’s your angle, lady?”

“Tasks assigned by magical folk and spoken in riddles are always 100% doable,” the Enchantress said pompously. “Jaron is a moderately intelligent and very resourceful young man; he will find a way to do what I ask of him. Either that, or you can stay here with me forever. But I believe he will find a way.”

“One can hope and do no more,” Terren sighed.

<<<>>>

“Elements – Fire” by CassiopeiaArt, as seen here: http://browse.deviantart.com/?qh=&section=&q=volcano+woman#/d32tnkv

Jaron reigned in his horse, a.k.a. his father, a.k.a. the King of Nikos. “Whoa, man,” he said. “This is as far as I will make you go. Do not move from this spot unless it is entirely necessary that you do so. I will return as quickly as I am able.”

Carrying nothing but his sword, the prince pushed forward alone. Before long he reached the foot of a relatively small mountain and began to climb. On and on he climbed. Roughly halfway up, a band of the mountain’s rock was soft. Here he stopped a moment, for to hew from the mountainside a fair-sized chunk of this soft rock. This chunk he carved with the tip of his sword until he had made it into the shape of a bowl. This bowl he placed upon his head like a helmet, and then he continued his ascent.

The nearer he came to the top of the mountain, the hotter the air and stone beneath him became. For this was no ordinary mountain. Very little in the Enchanted Forest was ordinary; most things in it were enchanted. (Huh, figure ye that). This mountain was a volcano, home to the deadly Fire Maiden.

Jaron knew all about the Fire Maiden, for there was a chapter on her in the required reading at Prince School. (Princes must be taught about these things, or how else are they to do their jobs properly in magic-infested society?). Jaron remembered every word from the Fire Maiden chapter – indeed, he remembered every word from every chapter from every book concerning uncanny and weird fairytale beings. How did he remember it all? Easily: He had a portrait memory. And so armed with this knowledge of the Fire Maiden did Jaron seek her out.

The Fire Maiden, sensing the heat of another creature, rose from her magma chamber to meet whatever this other creature was. When she saw it was a young man – and a prince, at that, if his noble bearing meant anything – she smiled a sultry smile. The Fire Maiden’s favorite prey was princes.

“Hey, you…” she called to him seductively. “Get over here, baby, and get in on some hot lovin’.”

This was the Fire Maiden’s allure. She was hot; in every sense of the word. Her long hair was blue flame, in her mouth was a tongue of fire, and her eyes smoldered like burning coals. Men found her simply too much to resist. And so she drew them to her… where they were devoured in her fiery passion.

“Come on…” she called again, and Jaron listened. The Fire Maiden assumed she had him, just as she had so many others before him. But little did she know, Jaron had the edge. First, his eyesight being what it was, the stunning spectacle that was the Fire Maiden was little more than a bright but blurry sort-of-woman-like shape. Second, he was wise to her tricks, and therefore better prepared to resist them. And third, he was on a quest, and a prince on a quest was not a thing easily sidetracked; especially if that prince was Jaron.

As Jaron drew closer, of course, it became more difficult to stay focused. Particularly because the Fire Maiden was coming more into focus the closer his nearsighted eyes came. Plus it was getting hotter by the second (which, in the Enchanted Forest, seem like years).

At last, Jaron and the Fire Maiden were but a hand’s-breadth away from each other. The light from the Fire Maiden’s burning eyes reflected in Jaron’s dark ones. Her breath caused the perspiration on his face to evaporate before it had a chance to dampen his brow.

“Kiss me,” she whispered, for if they kissed, all would be over for him.

But Jaron had only just the other night discovered in himself the power to resist a woman he really wanted if he made up his mind to do it. His mind was made up now. He did not hesitate, but plunged his sword into the Fire Maiden’s belly. With a hiss like steam, the Fire Maiden fell.

Now Jaron had to act quickly; for without the Fire Maiden to keep it at bay, the volcano would erupt. According to the book Jaron had memorized thanks to his portrait memory, he had ten minutes before the volcano blew. In an instant, he slit the Fire Maiden’s throat. Hot lava gushed out, for that was the blood that flowed in her veins. With the bowl-shaped rock he had cut out of the mountain, Jaron collected the lava as it poured out, filling his rock not quite up to the brim. That done, he high-tailed it down the side of the mountain like his life depended on it; for as we know, his life did depend on it.

Jaron’s feet had scarcely touched the foot of the volcano before it erupted. Not out of danger yet, he fairly flew to his horse (his father, the king…), leapt on, and cried, “Get outta here! Go! Go! Go!” They raced for almost an hour (which seemed like but a second) before the prince was satisfied that they were safe from harm; in volcanic form, at least.

Jaron checked his bowl to be sure that it had not been damaged. He was pleased to see that it had not broken, and the surface of the lava had cooled off and hardened into rock, sealing the still liquid lava inside.

“Score,” said Jaron, wiping the perspiration from his brow.

Ah, perspiration. That reminded him of his second task: To fetch the sweat of a pig.

“Where the heck,” Jaron muttered to himself, “am I going to get that?”

Jaron mulled over this for a minute or two (which felt like… oh, you know the drill). And then came the notorious gleam in his eye.

<<< End of Part 6 >>>

“BSaT 5” or “Cue the ‘Some Enchanted Evening’/‘Rainbow Connection’ Music Mashup”

When we last left the world of “Blood, Sweat, and Tears”, there were grumblings of inter-kingdom war over the presumed kidnapping of Princess Terren the Fair. At first she wasn’t technically kidnapped, then she briefly was, but Prince Jaron saved her before continuing to force her against her will on a quest to seek the aid of an Enchantress. Let’s see what comes of all that, why don’t we…

<<<>>>

The sun was scarcely up before the King and Queen of Liaralay sent emissaries over to King Jakob of Nikos, officially declaring their intent to wage war on his kingdom for his son’s abduction of their fair princess. Surprisingly – or perhaps not, depending on who you are and how easily you allow yourself to be surprised – the king did not give the emissaries an audience. Nor did he send a reply via crier or in any other manner.

People from all the kingdoms in the district were perplexed as to the eccentric behavior of King Jakob. Why, they wondered, did he do nothing about the threat to his domain? Why did he hide in that dark, forbidding castle of his? Indeed, when was the last time he had made an appearance? The general reckoning was ten years; maybe twelve, but at the very least ten.

There were any number of theories about his hiatus from the public eye. Some said he was simply shy. Others said he was simply mad. Still others said he was madly shy, though they couldn’t decide if the shyness was caused by madness or vice versa. Many grew suspicious over the years, doubting whether there was any king at all.

Some murmured that they would not put it past Prince Jaron to have orchestrated an assassination against his own father. But surely ten (possibly twelve) years ago was too soon for the prince to have done such a thing? Even were it only ten, Jaron would have been a lad of just six years; a mere babe in arms, really. Whoever heard of a child committing such a heinous act? And so the speculation continued.

Meanwhile, oblivious to the commotion back at home, Jaron and Terren came to the edge of a thickly wooded area.

“I do not know this place,” said Terren. “Where are we?”

“This, Terren,” said Jaron, “is the Enchanted Forest.”

“You jest.”

“I do not.”

“You would go into the Enchanted Forest? And you would drag me in with you?!”

“I would.”

Why?!”

“Uh, where else would one find an Enchantress if not in the Enchanted Forest? Wake thee up, stupid.”

“Have you not heard the tales of the Enchanted Forest?” Terren said tensely. “’Tis a place fraught with danger and rife with peril. Few go in who come out alive. And even those who live are often changed, and for the worse.”

“Yes, yes, I’ve heard the stories same as you,” Jaron said, losing patience. “I am fully aware of what hazards may await us if we take but a few more steps. Even so, we will press on. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. You need not fear for your safety, princess – you have with you a prince both daring and bold. Not to mention incredibly smart, good-looking, and witty, and I enjoy long walks by the shore and romantic candle-lit dinners.”

“All dinners are by the light of candles, you simpleton. It’s not like anyone’s invented the light bulb yet.”

Having no reply to that, Jaron urged his horse forward, under the trees. Terren, however reluctantly, followed after.

Not three steps into the Forest, things became very dark. The sun, you see, had no power there, except at select times. It would have been impossible to see a thing were it not for the countless fairy lights that twinkled on almost every flower. The air was thick with the breath of a million trees. If it had been invented yet, the Forest floor could have been likened to a treadmill, for it ever so slowly shifted backwards, so that any who stood still would eventually find himself right back where he started from. This was done to encourage people not to stand about all day, if they could help it.

Since minutes seem like hours in the Enchanted Forest– and hours like seconds, and seconds like years, and years like a day – Jaron and Terren had no idea how long their trek had been when they came to a colossal waterfall. Three things were strange about this particular waterfall. The first was that, although waterfalls tend to be rather noisy affairs, this one was perfectly silent. The second was that, even though in general a waterfall is part of a river, there was no river to be found, just the falls. And thirdly, while most waterfalls you encounter will be flowing down, down, down (hence the name “waterfall”), this particular waterfall flowed up.

Jaron pointed to the top of the waterfall. “That is our destination.”

“Way up there?” said Terren skeptically. “What, are we to climb?”

“Of course not, ding-a-ling damsel. The falls go upward, and so to go upward, it would make sense, would it not, for us to ride the falls?”

“No, it would not! We would get all wet!”

“A little water has never a man killed.”

Terren arched an eyebrow. “Unfamiliar with the concept of drowning, are we?”

Jaron gave her a dark look. “JUST JUMP ON YON STINKING WATERFALL, OKAY?!”

Terren obeyed, but not before expressing exactly how she felt about riding up waterfalls in enchanted forests.

If theme parks had been invented then, you can be sure that Jaron would have pulled for the addition of an Upward-flowing Waterfall Ride. Forsooth, the trip to the top of the falls was a blast-and-a-half.

“Well,” said Terren, once they’d arrived at the top, “we’ve arrived at the top. So where, pray, is the Enchantress?”

“Not here, if that is what you wish to know.”

Terren’s face grew crimson with anger. “Thou said this is our destination!”

“Aye, but not our final destination. But be calm, Terren, she is close by.”

How close?”

“A stone’s-throw; no more.”

“So throw a stone and let’s get this show on the road!”

Jaron sighed and shook his head in a longsuffering manner. “You know naught about dealing with magic.”

“Oh, and I suppose you consider yourself an expert on all things magical?”

“Even if I did not, I would never admit it to you. Now, I am unsure precisely how much time we must spend in wait…”

“In wait?” interrupted Terren. “Why is there in waiting? Why can we not simply go see the Enchantress?”

“The Enchantress can be visited only at the mystical hour of Midnight. Or, y’know, during a Blue Moon. But methinks Midnight comes sooner than does a Blue Moon.”

“And how many hours until Midnight?”

Jaron shrugged. “Who can tell? In the Enchanted Forest, minutes seem like hours, and hours like seconds, and seconds like years, and years like a day. Get comfy, princess; we could be here for what seems like the rest of our lives.”

Terren heaved a deep sigh of resignation and obediently got comfy. She needn’t have bothered, however. In what seemed like only a moment, Midnight was upon them. Of course, this was before the invention of wristwatches, so the momentous occasion would have gone by completely unnoticed by Jaron and Terren, had not the sun suddenly burst forth in all its sunny glory. Midnight, you see, was one of those select times when the sun was permitted to shine in the Enchanted Forest.

“Guardian Spirit” by Tula Top, as seen here: http://photobotos.com/tamanawas-falls-tula-top-featured-photographer/

After their eyes adjusted to the sudden light, Jaron and Terren beheld a beautiful multicolored prism created by the light of the sun refracted in myriad water droplets that made up the mist generated by the waterfall. In other words, a rainbow.

“There!” cried Jaron. “That is our final destination: Through the rainbow!”

Jaron and Terren urged their horses forward, and with mighty leaps on the parts of the animals, beasts and riders sailed through the rainbow and landed on the other side, in a cave that dazzled their eyes with its colorful light.

In the midst of the light stood the Enchantress. It is a difficult thing to describe her, for she looked both young and old, beautiful and ugly, light and dark. And if you think that makes one difficult to describe, it makes one even more difficult to look at.

“Welcome,” said the Enchantress, her voice seeming to echo from very far away. “Welcome, Princess Terren the Fair of Liaralay. Welcome, Prince Jaron of Nikos. And welcome to you, Your Majesty, King Jakob of Nikos.”

Terren looked sharply at Jaron. “King Jakob of Nikos? Your father?”

Jaron smiled slightly and nodded once. “That,” he said dryly, “would be my horse.”

Ignoring his lady companion’s look of shock, Jaron addressed the Enchantress. “Mistress of magic,” said he, “I would ask three boons of you.”

“Would you?” replied the Enchantress. “Three boons given requires three payments received.”

“Name your price.”

The Enchantress looked hard at the prince. “I do not believe in sloth,” she intoned. “I value hard work. Anything worth having is worth earning by blood, sweat, and tears. That is my price: Blood from a stone; sweat from a pig; and the tears of a crocodile. Bring these to me and I shall grant your three requests. And,” she added, “to ensure your diligence as you perform your tasks, the Princess Terren will remain with me until your return.”

Terren, to be frank, was not overly pleased with this arrangement. She mouthed the word “no” to the prince several times, but he paid her no heed.

To the Enchantress he said, “Very well. Is there like a time limit, or what?”

“Take as long as you need,” said the Enchantress. “I’m in no hurry. The Princess might be, but that’s okay, ‘tis not all about her.”

“True doth be dat,” Jaron nodded. “Well, I am off. Later, Terren, baby.”

“Thy mother, Jaron of Nikos!” Terren muttered after him.

<<< End of Part 5 >>>