After a Once Upon a time and a Happily Ever After, Prin was born to Queens Mikaylah and Cala in a beautiful, peaceful land. The kingdom sat in a valley between two rolling rivers and two magnificent mountains. And there was nearly always a rainbow hovering above the valley and the sun was nearly always shining. All in all, it was a happy place where nothing at all happened to anybody. Which was, quite frankly, boring.
“Tell me an exciting story, pleeeee-ase,” Prin begged, eyes barely able to stay open.
“There once was a prince and a princess,” Queen Mikayla began. “But the prince was trapped in a body that did not belong to her. She felt ugly and wrong all the time. But then she met a princess who helped her feel beautiful . . .”
“Romance ugh. Skip that part,” Prin groaned sleepily. “I want to hear about flying.”
“Hush, now. We’re getting to that,” Queen Cala chided gently. “The prince needed to wake up. Sometimes it take a kiss, but sometimes it takes a little magic, like a spell from the mage in the flying house. So they set out on a quest . . .”
“Mmm, thas’ the good part.” Prin’s eyes fluttered shut.
Queen Mikayla picked up the story: “The prince and princess happened upon a magical flying house and travelled around in it adventuring. They befriended dragons and fought terrible foes. They crossed a wide ocean and met many a magical creature. The two fell in love, and the prince became a princess. And then you were born, Prin. Not prince or princess, just Prin . . .”
By now, Prin was already deeply asleep, dreaming of dragons and houses that fly. But the next morning, Prin woke up to find everything quite the same as before, lacking problems of an extraordinary nature that require a long journey, a jot of danger, and a touch of magic.
“It’s time,” Prin decided.
The time had come to leave the valley.
First, Prin decided to interview potential adventuring partners. Prin spoke to villagers, friends, and even a few animals (who had little to say). But not a one had any desire to leave.
“I guess I’ll have to go alone,” Prin said in what was hoped to be a brave-sounding voice.
Prin visited the librarian last, a young woman with heavy black glasses who always seemed to be smiling. She pointed Prin in the direction of the wilderness guides and maps. “Good luck on your adventure, Prin. I can’t go with you because the books need me. But please take whatever you need.”
Prin scurried to a far-off wing of the castle and climbed up a tower to a room with a sign that read “Prin’s Adventure Room” over the door. Inside, Prin had practiced tying knots; finding the cardinal directions while blindfolded; learning how to tell trees, fungi, and plants apart by their leaves, bark, or stems; dowsing for water; building simple useful machines; weaving baskets; and making fires. But the time for experiments and research was over. Now was the time for doing.
Prin put on a pair of loose brown pants, a scratchy purple shirt, and a pair of stompy boots (for one always need a good, strong pair of stompy boots) made of soft leather. Then came the knapsack packed to the brim with adventure supplies: bread, dried fruit and meat, a canteen of water, a soft blanket, a map, a journal, a skinny wilderness book, matches, a small knife, a waterproof jacket, two outfits, and extra underwear.
Once Prin was all packed and dressed, it was time to say goodbye. Queen Mikayla hugged Prin tight and gave her child a thick sleeping bag, a short spear, and a shiny silver compass that would lead the way home. Queen Cala pulled her child’s hair into two big puffballs (adventuring hair, Prin called it) and gave Prin a sturdy comb, coconut oil, and a small mirror. That night, the small family dined on Prin’s favorite foods: spicy roast fish stew, baked yams with honey, and tangy mango tarts topped with mounds of whipped cream.
The very next morning, Prin woke at first light, had hearty breakfast, and set out in the crisp dawn air. The path to adventure followed the river into a mountain pass. Up and up and up Prin climbed, past the tree line and onto the snow, to the very tip top, and back down the other side again. Prin stopped twice to sleep, six times to eat, and twelve times for potty breaks. With the wild wind above, the gnarly forest ahead, and a rainbow lighting the sky behind, Prin stomped down the winding path in what was hoped to be an impressive manner.
“This is an adventure!” Prin shouted to the sky and then back to the village.
On the third morning, the weary traveler came to a lone cottage in the woods. I’m sure you’ve heard of forest cottages and the nasty things that can happen there. Children become meals of witches or wolves, turn into all manner of wild creatures, or become prisoners until their hair grows longer than towers are tall. For these very reasons, you should almost never approach secluded cottages. But Prin hadn’t heard any of those stories and was curious to see if this particular house could sprout feathers and take to the skies like in the queen mothers’ stories.
Prin marched straight up to the door and knocked three times. Someone on the other side knocked back, the same three sharp raps. So Prin knocked again, but the door just knocked back.
Prin and the door went back and forth like this for a little while, until the little traveler shouted a frustrated “Hello!? Is anyone home? Can I come in?”
“Goodbye!? Is nobody home? Can I come out?” asked the door.
“Let me in!” said Prin.
“Let me out!” said the door.
“OPEN UP!” shouted Prin.
“SHUT IT DOWN!” shouted the door.
“AAAAAAH! AAAAARG!” shrieked Prin.
“HAAAAAA! GRAAAAA!” shrieked the door.
Prin and the door went back and forth like this for a little while, until Prin tried the handle. The door chuckled merrily and swung right open to let the traveller inside. A plaque on the floor of the foyer read “Room Without Windows.” The room was entirely made of glass or metal. Huge crystalline shapes hung from the ceiling bouncing light that seemed to come from nowhere. The room sparkled, momentarily blinding the traveler. Prin, mouth falling open in awe, rubbed each eye and ventured further inside.
Without warning, the house began to rock, and Prin grabbed onto the nearest stationary object: the gold banister. Prin sunk to the floor and held on for dear life.
“YOU’VE DONE IT NOW!” said the door.
“I didn’t do anything!” Prin squeaked.
“You might want to hurry on up,” called a voice from upstairs. “If you can. The turbulence can
be quite impressive.”
Prin struggled with the stairs, even as the house pitched and rolled like a ship at sea. The silvery stairs were surprisingly soft, carpeted to look silver. Prin’s stubby fingers scrabbled at the carpet and small hands pulled at each post as firmly as Prin could muster. When Prin finally reached the final step, a brown arm reached down to pull the child up. A person with a soft-looking face and billowing purple robes grinned into Prin’s face.
“Who are you?” Prin blurted before thinking of manners or politeness.
“The mage,” said the mage, grinning. “You can call me ‘Mage’ or ‘The Mage.’ It makes no difference. Oh, and you can call the house ‘House’ and the door ‘Door.’ I find it easier if you call things what they are, don’t you?”
“I’m Prin,” said Prin.
The house gave another violent shake, pitching Prin and the mage against the far wall, which happened to be covered in pillows. Now that Prin looked, the entire room was covered in them, even down to the the back of the door. A loud tinkling came from below, but nothing sounded like it was crashing or shattering. The glass room must be made for the house’s enthusiastic movement.
Clinging to the pillow wall for dear life, Prin called out, “What’s happening outside?”
“Oh, House is just showing off,” said the mage, clinging to pink and yellow. “It likes to swoop and flip. I built this room for in-flight safety, but I’ve lost the seatbelts.”
Prin dug around in the pillows and pulled out a few black straps. “These?”
“YES! Magnificent work.” The mage let go of the far wall and fell with a loud whump beside
Prin. The two quickly strapped themselves in before the next flippy-tastic-loop-dee-doo, as the mage called it. “Ah, much better. You arrived just in time! My sister said you’d need a ride.”
“Sister?” Prin’s teeth chattered as the next loop-dee-doo rocked the house.
“How do you think your parents found me all those years ago?”
“I don’t know! How did they?”
“They already knew the way!” the mage yelled over the sound of whooshing air. Outside, it sounded like the house was coming apart, like this room was the only thing left in the sky. “I’m your auntie!”