It is nearly dusk at the lake shore. The last rays of the setting sun reflect off the deep still water, the orange tones contrasting with its usual blues. Most of the water is still, except for right at the shore, where a large shaggy dog is bounding enthusiastically through the shallows to the shore, sending spray, sand, mud, and the occasional weed everywhere. On shore, the car is packed, and the family is mostly aboard.
Everyone’s hopes are writ large in their expressions.
The dog has simple desires, and knows that he just got one last duck chased away before heading back to the land of fences and squirrels.
The children wish the week at the lake could last longer, and now clearly wish they weren’t about to spend several hours dozing in the car along with a large happy wet dog.
The parents also wish they were driving home a large happy dry dog; tempered by twin desires for a longer vacation, and a somewhat welcome return to their normal routine.
The duck’s desire is being realized below as the giant loud fluffy thing is loaded into the strange mobile box and driven away.
We all know that too many Princes are born without any innate sense of the value of things, and their typical upbringing does nothing to remedy this lack through training or example.
The puppy watched the pomp and ceremony outside, and wondered if this was going to be its lucky day. She was a good dog, if young and untrained, and knew that the right human was what she needed. Every day she watched the world wander by, and wished that some of it would stop and look at her.
Naturally, a few did stop at her shop. But all too many were after kittens or bunnies. Or even, shudder, birdies or fishies. She knew that birds and fish were popular pets, but they were much more interesting to her as prey.
When they did stop, she did her best to look happy, wag her tail, and exude an aura of confidence. All at the same time. Which usually ended with her tail and feet tied in a knot as she fell over herself. But it seemed that the hope died when they saw the price on her pen, and when the shopkeeper seemed unwilling to budge, they always moved on. If only she could read, she thought, she might understand why they were leaving her in her pen.
But today was different. Today’s the day, she told herself.
Then the fuss began outside, and she was captivated by all the pomp as the royals made their way past her window.
This time, she was determined to find her human.
And a Prince with a generous allowance was going to be just her ticket.
She walked the ramparts, admiring the view of the valley below. In the far distance, she could see the latest version of Swamp Castle rising once again from the wreckage of the previous version. One of these times, they might manage to have sunk enough stone into the swamp to make a castle stable. But probably not this time.
She had to admire their stubbornness, though. The family had been at it for generations, hauling stone from quarries farther and farther away in their quest to build on their nearly worthless estate.
It made as much sense as her situation, stuck as one of many young beauties held ageless in her well-concealed and invisible castle until a prince should find it. After a century of watching her neighbors sink into the swamp, she was certain she was doomed to watch for centuries more.
Watch as castle after castle fell over, burned down, and sank into the swamp.
Watch as none of the handsome young neighbors gave up their fixation on castles in the swamp to notice her or her sisters thanks to Raven’s meddling.
The last prince to pay any attention to matters outside of his swamp had been cursed to roam the land shunned by all as he turned into a werewolf every full moon. The beastly curse was almost broken when he stumbled into the forecourt of her castle, but then he panicked and fled. That was two swamp castles ago, and none had come as close since.