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The Princess and the Apothecary: Chapter 1 To follow ones heart...

Below is the first chapter of my fairy tale book. This will hopefully be just the first book written in my Perfect Fairy Tale world. This story is meant for younger girls, ages 8 through about 15. It started in 2001 when I was back at UGA getting my Bachelors in Drama and Theatre in writing. For our senior project, we were doing performances with one of the big festivals downtown, Athfest or Twilight. I had a very serious play I had written for this and had an actor and actress and director for it. Then a group of five actors approached me. They wanted to do a children's skit and asked me to write one for them. So, I quickly wrote up what I called The Perfect Fairy Tale. I actually ended up directing it and making the dragon costume, also. It was performed twice at the corner of College Ave and Washington Street.

Later, as my life moved away from the theatre life, I decided the story needed to be rewritten as a book. This first chapter is basically what the play was, with a few changes and additions. I have the book about half way written, but I really want to finish it so I can publish it with Amazon (I will be self-publishing all of my books). If you know me, you will recognize many of the names in the book, since I named them after my family members. Princess Gabi is how I feel like I would have been had I been born as a royal. I really hope that you enjoy it.

The Princess and the Apothecary by Melissa Basinger Green

Book 1 of The Perfect Fairy Tale Series

Chapter 1: To follow ones heart….

Princess Gabrielle Violet Philippa Catarina St. Loren stood in her mother’s bower listening to her parents argue about her as if she was not there. She hated the pink, lacy, rose-smelling bower almost as much as she hated her name. She preferred to be called just Gabi, no Princess, no Gabrielle, just Gabi, but everyone still insisted on calling her Princess Gabrielle. She clenched her fists in the folds of her skirt as her mother continued on her rant.

“She is almost eighteen, Phillip, and she still refuses to act like a princess! She runs around the woods all day long, with that ridiculous beast she calls her friend, and picks plants for the apothecary! She cares more about those plants and animals than she does her fingernails! How are we supposed to find a suitable husband for her if she refuses to look or act like a princess?” Her mother, Queen Linda whined.

King Phillip perched on the edge of the overstuffed pink chair before his wife. He sighed as he leaned forward and placed his head in his hands. “I don’t know what to tell you, Linda! We have been through this same argument repeatedly. I don’t have a solution!”

Gabi wanted to interrupt, to tell them to leave her alone and not worry about her ever getting married, but she knew better. If she tried to voice her opinion, once her mother was in one of these moods, she would just end up in more trouble. She had learned long ago to stand quietly, holding in her temper, and let the argument run out before making a quick exit.

“Well, I do know a possible solution!” Queen Linda crowed, “The Mother Maiden’s Finishing School for Wayward Royals in Calwood City! They take in girls and boys ages sixteen through twenty and turn them into Ladies and Gentlemen! There would be no more tromping through the woods, no more wearing britches under her skirts and no more running around with stinky, dirty dragons!”

King Phillip looked up at this, his blue eyes just a little brighter. “I know I have been opposed to her going away before, but The Mother Maiden’s may just be what she needs! And Calwood City is big enough to attract young royal men, so she would be exposed to them while learning how to be a proper princess.”

Gabi’s face went pale as she looked at her father in distress. How could he even think this was a good idea? She had heard the stories from that school for years, stories of bullying and belittling! Then, to her horror, her mouth opened and she bellowed out, “No! I will not go to that awful school! I would rather give up being a Princess than go to Mother Maiden’s!” With that, she turned on her heels and ran as fast as she could for the forest.

By the time Gabi reached her hiding place in the forest, her heart felt like it was going to explode. She had never before openly defied her parents and it scared her to think what their reaction would be. Oh, she had defied them before, just not so openly. She slid behind the screen of branches that disguised her little retreat, and breathed a sigh of relief. Here, in this little tiny hidden valley, with the spring trickling down into the pool and a large flat rock partially covering a small cave, she could finally be herself.

She quickly shed herself of the cumbersome full skirt, wrapping it in large leaves and tucking it to the back of the cave. She rolled down the legs of her britches, and then unlaced her cummerbund, finally breathing free! The cummerbund went with the skirt as she shook out the folds in her loose undershirt and rolled up the sleeves. Feeling much more comfortable, she plopped down on a moss-covered rock and watched the spring bubble over the pebbles as she contemplated her situation.

It was not so much that she hated being a princess, but she just did not feel like it fit her. All of her older sisters were beautiful, poised and willing to spend hours on looking immaculate. They were perfectly happy to dream of nothing but finding love and having children. She knew there was more to being a princess than just that, but having four older sisters meant that she never was needed to help and, therefore, never learned what they were. Instead, she preferred to spend her days helping animals and learning new ointments and tinctures to help them heal faster. As for boys, she was not immune to them, she had her fair share of crushes, but she really did not even know how to talk to a boy, let alone flirt with one, so all it meant was a flitting thought of a certain male mixed in with her busy thoughts of cures and potions.

She knew that her older sisters all had work they did to help run the Kingdom, but she had never become involved in it. She had been three when her twin brothers were born and somehow had been overlooked. She remembered her mother being very sick after the babies came, and her nanny being very busy. Somehow, she had managed to tag along with Asher rather than her sisters, so she became far better at shooting a bow and arrow than at needlework or flower arranging. Just as her brother was getting too busy to have her tagging along, she met Emmerille and managed to always be off in the forest, or helping the apothecary. She was sixteen when her family seemed to realize that she was not a proper princess, and by then she was not interested in becoming one.

It was not until her legs went numb that she finally moved again; pulling herself up and walking out the numbness. No solution had come to her during her time of meditation, since what she seemed most interested in was considered commoner’s jobs, but at least enough time had passed that no one should be looking for her anymore. She peeked out of the branches and made sure she saw or heard no one, then stepped out in search of her best friend.

About half an hour later, with most of Emerille’s favorite spots being empty, Gabi was starting to get worried. She had met Emerille when she was just a girl of about ten and he was a young dragon. She had stumbled upon him sitting in the forest with big tears running down his swollen, blotched face. Though they should have been enemies, or at the least avoided each other, she just could not let him cry alone. It turned out that Emerille suffered from terrible allergies and it caused him so many problems that none of the other juvenile dragons wanted anything to do with him.

What started out as a chance meeting turned into a deep friendship; Emerille helped keep bandits and other unsavory characters out of Gabi’s father’s forest and Gabi helped Emerille discover what he was allergic to and how to treat the symptoms. Of course, discovering that your best friend, who is a dragon, is allergic to both fire and meat means that you end up spending a lot of time tromping through the forests and swamps to nurse his allergies. Gabi sighed and headed towards the final place he might be. Considering that it was the swamp, it was also the last place she wanted to go.

As she neared the swamp, a sound reached her that prompted her to start running. She broke through some bushes where the sound of a struggle came from to find that Emerille was once again swollen with red bumps poking up between his red and purple scales, but what really caught her attention was the very handsome, albeit muddy, knight in his clutches being shaken so hard by the dragon that his metal armor was clanging.

“Emerille!” Gabi yelled. “Put him down! What do you think you are doing? That is obviously a knight from Calwood, you cannot eat him! And look at you! Have you been breathing fire again?”

Both Emerille and the man froze as she spoke, then Emerille threw the man down at her feet. “Fine! You deal with this idiot, then!” Emerille spat out in his tumbled-up way of speaking. She had taught him how to speak, but he always seemed to slur and trip over the words that did not quite fit his vocal ability.

The young man struggled to sit up, looking at her with eyes wider than lotus leaves. “What is he saying?” He asked. “I cannot understand a word he is saying!”

Gabi ignored the knight, choosing to hear Emerille’s side of the story first. “Emerille! Calwood is our brother Kingdom and we do not abuse their knights without good reason!”

“Well, I had a good reason!” Emerille answered with a snarl towards the knight, who promptly scooted behind Gabi like a frightened child. “He invaded MY swamp and then had the tenacity to laugh at me!”

Gabi sighed, and then turned towards the knight cowering in the folds of her loose pants. “Is this true?” she asked.

“Is what true?” The knight replied. “I told you, I can’t understand a word he says!”

“He says you invaded his swamp and then laughed at him.” Gabi stated.

“No!” the knight answered emphatically, “well, I mean I did laugh at him, but there was no invading going on.”

“Then what were you doing in the swamp?”

The knight blushed, and then admitted. “I was looking for my horse. I lost him.”

Gabi stared at him in disbelief as Emerille let out a low growl that grew into a loud roar as the knight’s words sunk in.

“You lost your horse in the swamp?!?!” Gabi tried not to yell, but her voice felt shrill and tight. “How, may I ask, does a KNIGHT lose his horse, especially in a place as dangerous as this swamp?”

The knight backed up from Gabi, realizing she was also now mad, and stammered out, “I, I, I j-just h-had th-the call of na-nature. When I got back, he was g-gone.”

“What kind of an idiot would just walk away from his horse in a swamp like this?” Gabi spit out, anger making her shake like a leaf.

The knight suddenly seemed to gather enough strength to stand up, albeit he was still shaking, as he responded to her. “I am NOT an IDIOT! I am SIR Dunston of Calwood and I am here to woo and wed the lovely Princess Gabrielle!”

“What?!?” Gabi and Emerille both shouted out! “What makes you think she would want to marry you?” Gabi asked at the same time as Emerille said, “I will eat you before I let her marry an idiot like you!”

Sir Dunston stood, looking from Gabi to Emerille and back again with a look of complete confusion on his handsome face. Finally, he asked, “Do you know Princess Gabrielle? I have never seen her, but I have been told that she is in need of a knight to marry!”

Gabi started having a coughing fit, as Emerille turned nearly crimson with rage. Finally, Gabi pulled herself together enough to answer. “Yes, I do know Princess Gabrielle, but she is definitely NOT looking for a knight to marry! Why would you even think about believing that?”

Sir Dunston looked even more confused, which Gabi did not think was possible, and stuttered out, “B-b-but she is almost eighteen and h-h-has no suitors! What Princess would not be happy to be courted by a knight as brave and handsome as I am?”

“Brave and handsome you may be,” Gabi countered, “but that does not mean you are right for her. I mean, you say you have not seen her, so maybe she is not right for you. What if she is horribly ugly or something?”

“Oh, but that would not matter!” Sir Dunston exclaimed. “For I am a true knight and I would find any Princess beautiful! Well, maybe not as beautiful as Anita, but still beautiful enough for me.”

Gabi got a thoughtful look on her face as he said this, and smiled, but it was not a happy smile. “Do you mean Anita Corina, the scholar’s daughter who has set her hat on the famously handsome Sir Dunston of Calwood?”

“Why, yes.” Dunston replied eagerly, “that is her, but alas, she is not a Princess or a Duchess or even a Lady, and as a knight and future Duke I really should marry royalty.”

Emerille, who had been walking in circles grumbling to himself, suddenly turned and said, “So, the girl who is reputed to be the most beautiful girl in Calwood is not good enough for you because she is not royalty?”

Dunston looked at him in confusion, then over at Gabi for a translation. Gabi sighed, “Emerille is right, if Anita is the most beautiful girl you know, why not marry her? Once married to you, she WOULD be a lady, you know.”

“Oh!” Dunston exclaimed. “She would be, wouldn’t she? But all the tales have knights marrying Princesses!”

“All of the knights?” Gabi asked. “I think not! There are far too many knights for them to all marry royalty! If Anita were a duchess or a princess, would you marry her then?”

“Of course I would! She is just so beautiful! I could just sit and watch her forever, with her long, ebony hair and deep brown eyes.”

“Then forget about this princess quest and go marry her!” Gabi yelled. “Because I guarantee you that Princess Gabrielle would NEVER want to marry you! She has had plenty of suitors, so it is not like she is desperate!”

“Well, then why is she never at the court functions or holidays?” He asked. “I mean, if she truly were ugly, everyone would say that, but all they can say about her is that she is strange and different.”

Emerille chuckled at that, and Gabi turned and glared at him, then turned back to the knight. “She is odd, but that is because she likes things that princesses generally do not like and detests things that princesses generally like.”

“Oh.” Sir Dunston replied, and then stood there awkwardly, not knowing what else to say.

“That still does not explain why you laughed at me!” Emerille quickly jumped into the pause. “A true knight would never be that rude!”

“That is a good question, why did you laugh at him?” Gabi repeated.

“Oh, because he was rolling in this big mud hole with rose petals all over him and making this horrific whining sound. I have seen many dragons but none that roll in mud and roses and definitely none that make that sound.”

Gabi suddenly pictured how silly Emerille would have looked taking the rosebud and mud baths she prescribed for his itchy skin. She also knew the noise that Dunston was referring to as Emerille’s “singing.” She had been just as amused when she had first heard it eight years before, but had long since gotten so used to it that she often forgot how funny it sounded. She tried to hide the smile that spread across her face, but Emerille caught it before she could turn away and got even madder.

“You think it is funny, too, don’t you?” Emerille spat out, around a small flame that shot from his tongue. “What a great friend you are!” Another, larger ball of flames shot across the small clearing, hitting the tree beside Sir Dunston, who jumped away and squeaked. “Maybe your mother is right about ….” Before he could finish that statement, he bent over with a deep cough that ended with a large puff of smoke.

“Oh, no!” Gabi quickly ran to his side, “I did not mean to laugh at you, I promise! Please don’t start one of your coughing fits!” As he continued to cough, Gabi alternated between patting him on the back and digging in the many pockets hidden in her loose trousers, finally coming out with a thick, lavender leaf bigger than her hand, even after being dried.

“Ah, knew I had a porpa leaf!” She shoved the leaf into his hand and pushed his hand towards his mouth, “Chew on this, honey, you know it always helps you stop coughing.”

Emerille quickly popped the leaf in his mouth and started chewing. Almost immediately, his coughing stopped and the red bumps started getting smaller.

“Wow! That is amazing.” Sir Dunston proclaimed. “Does that work for humans, too?”

“No,” Gabi replied as she rubbed Emerille’s back, “just for dragons and…”

She stopped and looked up towards the direction of the path. “Do you hear that?”

Emerille and Dunston both turned towards that direction and listened. “Dunston! Dunston, where are you?” Called a male softly, but getting louder. “Dunston! Dunston!” A shrill female voice joined in.

“Amerin! Anita! I am right here!” Dunston called out, stepping towards the sound of the voices. However, Emerille reached out and caught him by the back of his armor just before he got out of reach.

“Oh, no, you don’t! You are not getting off that easily!” He growled. “You will wait right here for them to come to us.”

So they waited, as three horses broke through the underbrush and trotted towards them. On one horse sat a large young man, with coloring much like Sir Dunston, wavy chestnut hair and bright blue eyes. He was not as fit nor quite as striking as Sir Dunston, with a rounder face and body and wire rim glasses perched upon his nose. Beside him, on a stately all white horse, sat one of the most beautiful women Gabi had ever seen, with her dark brown hair falling in perfect curls down her back, and her large brown eyes rimmed in thick lashes. She sat sidesaddle, her red skirt spread perfectly over her knees, leaving no doubt that she was every bit the Lady that Gabi’s mother wanted her to be.

The third horse was all black and carrying only a saddle, but one fancy enough that Gabi was willing to bet it was Sir Dunston’s lost horse. The whinny it gave when it saw Sir Dunston, followed by Sir Dunston’s rush to it, drawing the horse’s head down to his chest and crooning to it in baby-talk confirmed this guess.

“Dunston!” Anita called out in alarm, “What are you doing here with this beast, and why are you covered in mud?”

Dunston stepped back and looked down at himself in surprise, as if he were just now noticing how muddy he was. “Oh, this dragon tried to eat me.” He answered in a matter-of-fact voice.

The other young man was dismounting at this point and he nearly fell upon hearing those words. “He tried to eat you? Isn’t this Emerille, Princess Gabrielle’s dragon friend? Why would he try to hurt you? Everyone knows he’s allergic to meat and fire?”

Dunston’s eyes got huge as he backed up from his horse and turned to look at Gabi and Emerille. “Princess Gabrielle’s dragon friend? Does that mean that you are Princess Gabrielle?”

Gabi gave him a firm glare, placed her hands on her hips and asked, “So what if I am?”

Anita answered for Dunston, “I have heard that you were strange, but no one told me you were totally unfit to be a princess! Look at you, wearing BRITCHES of all things! In addition, your hair is a mess, you have on no makeup and your fingernails are simply horrific; dirty and not even polished! I would make a far better princess than you, at least I know how to act and dress like one.”

Sir Dunston paled a little, while the other young man covered his face and Emerille growled again. Gabi reached over towards Emerille, hoping to calm him as she retorted, “Actually, a REAL princess would NEVER talk to someone like that! You may look like a princess, but you certainly don’t talk like one. As for how I look, I don’t care if you approve or not! I hate all the dresses and layers of makeup and fake smiles that go on in the court! I am far happier out here in my britches and with nature than I will ever be in any court or castle!”

Anita looked horrified at this, while the young man beside her clapped his hands. “Bravo, Princess Gabrielle! Finally someone willing to address Anita’s sharp tongue!”

Dunston looked at him with anger, “How dare you talk about Anita that way, Amerin! If she has a sharp tongue it is only because she is telling the truth.” He then turned towards Gabi and bowed, “Your Highness, you are right, we are totally unsuited for each other! I could never marry a woman who would even consider wearing britches or running around a forest or swamp with a dragon!”

Gabi raised one eyebrow at him, but did not respond. As handsome as this knight was, he held no attraction for her at all. Anita chimed in, “My dearest Sir Dunston, I have given you my heart, why do you feel that you should still try to court another? I may not have a title, but my father owns a respectable business and my dowry will be enough for us to buy our own castle if we choose.”

Dunston turned towards the beautiful woman, still sitting upon her horse, and brought her hand to his lips to kiss her well-polished fingers. “My dearest Anita, you are SO right! Why I ever thought there was anyone who could outshine you, I will never know! Please accept my apology and allow me to court you again!”

“Oh, my dearest Dunston, of course I will forgive you! Come back to Calwood with me and we will start afresh!” Anita replied.

Sir Dunston quickly mounted his horse, coming up beside Anita, his black horse perfectly matching her white one as they both turned and headed back towards the trail. The whole way they were murmuring sweet nothings to each other, completely oblivious to the three beings staring at them in complete disgust!

Emerille turned and looked at Gabi, then growled, “I cannot think of a better punishment for him than to be stuck with her all of his life! She will one day lose her beauty, and then what will he be left with?”

Amerin laughed at this. “Oh, but don’t tell him that! He thinks she can do no wrong!” He obviously did not have trouble understanding the dragon.

Gabi grimace, “And my mother holds her up as such a lady, even though most of the servants will tell you how awful and mean she is. I just hope his love is strong enough to withstand that sharp tongue and harsh temper.”

“Knowing my cousin, he will never see past her beauty, even when it fades. We were schooled together, since we were close in age, and he has never been the brightest. He could out-fight me every time, but I put him to shame when it came to book learning.”

Emerille looked at him funny, “How is your cousin a knight and you are not?”

“Easy,” Amerin replied, “my mother is his father’s younger sister. She made the mistake of falling for a commoner and married him. So, instead of being a knight or a duke, I get to be whatever I want to be, thank goodness!”

“So, what do you want to be?” Gabi asked.

“Oh, I am just now finishing up my apprenticeship under Steph, the apothecary in Harmony Village, and am leaving tomorrow for my first assignment.”

“You’re Steph’s apprentice! I wondered how that was going. I used to visit him all the time, but mostly stopped when my parents found out. I haven’t seen him, though, in over a year. How is he?”

The smile that spread over Amerin’s face, transformed him from homely to enchanting. “He is doing great, though I think he misses your visits.”

“Yeah, well, my parents threw a fit when they realized I was traveling up the mountain and into another kingdom. In fact, they are now talking about sending me away to The Mother’s Maiden, which is why I was in the forest today.” Gabi replied, looking down at her feet to hide the tears threatening to let loose as she suddenly realized that she would soon have to return home and face her parent’s anger.

“Oh, no, not The Mother’s Maiden!” Amerin exclaimed, “I mean; it is fine for royals who are truly problematic, but not someone like you. You would hate that place; no forest, no dragons and certainly no wearing of britches.” He motioned to her clothing, but in a rather matter of fact way, rather than with contempt or disgust like most people. “You don’t think your parents would really send you away, do you?”

“I don’t know.” Gabi sighed, “They were really upset with me. You would think that with four other Perfect Princesses before me and three Extraordinary Princes, they would be content with letting me just be myself. Not even the distraction of the twins becoming teens has calmed my mother down. My mother acts as if the only thing women should aspire to is to be pretty and find a good husband.”

“Well, for a lot of girls, that is all they aspire to. I seriously doubt that Anita has ever even considered anything other than that for her life.”

Gabi threw her hands up in disgust. “But what about using our brains! We think just as well as boys do. I mean, I know every plant in these forests and how most of them are used in food and medicine. I even know several insects that can be useful in medicine, but I’m not allowed to be an apothecary. If I weren’t already a Princess, I might be able to pursue at least being an apothecary’s assistant, but not as long as I am royalty.” She plopped down on a rock on the edge of the path and wilted in exasperation.

Amerin looked thoughtful for a moment. “What if you denounced your royalty, like my mother did? I know hers was for love, not to pursue a career, but would you consider doing that?”

Gabi looked up, a spark in her eyes, and then it died, “My parents would never let me. In addition, where would I go, whom would I live with? It is not as if I have a potential husband waiting in the wings to support me. I don’t even have a crazy aunt that would take me in and help me out. All my relatives are royalty and would never understand me not wanting to be a Princess.”

Amerin sat down beside her, his closeness making her feel just a little bit nervous, but also warm and safe. He looked up in the trees for a moment and then spoke slowly, as if a plan was forming as he recited it. “I am supposed to leave tomorrow for the Kingdom of Druentea to help them with a problem that you would be very interested in. They are one of the few kingdoms where the dragons are considered spiritual and sacred, but their dragons are having a problem similar to...” he gestured towards Emerille.

“You caught my attention and I am very interested. Please, do tell.” Emerille gladly entered the conversation.

“Anyway, they cannot seem to figure why their juvenile dragons are becoming allergic to some meats and fire. From what I understand, they have not even figured out as much about how to treat it as you have, and some of the juvenile dragons have become so sick, they have died.”

“Oh, no!” Emerille wailed, “That would be devastating to the whole pride! How did you find out about this? Druentea is far away and it will take weeks by horseback to get there.”

“Well,” Amerin continued, “I’ve sort of gotten a reputation for being able to work well with animals, especially the more intelligent magical creatures such as dragons and unicorns. I guess some travelers heard of this and told the dragon king and he requested that the royal family there bring me in to help. Of course, if they knew about you two, they would probably be biting at the bit for you to come, also.”

“Alas, I am stuck here; being someone I do not want to be.” Gabi opined.

Emerille looked at her and tilted his head the side, like an inquisitive dog, and replied, “Or you could leave a note for your parents, denouncing your royalty and leave with me and Amerin in the morning.”

Gabi straightened up, “I could, couldn’t I?”

“Yes, my dear,” Emerille continued, “You are your only real obstacle here. At your age, you should be going off to get married or for finishing school or some other trip, but you have always been a little afraid of leaving home. I think it’s time for you to spread your wings. And as long as they do not know beforehand, your parents cannot stop you.”

Gabi stood up and walked down the path a little way, looking through the trees at the sun that was quickly disappearing below the horizon. Her heart felt as if it were going to beat out of her chest. In three weeks she would be eighteen, the age of flight as it is often called because so many of that age leave home, yet she had not even considered doing so. She should be at home, planning a large birthday party and getting ready for finishing school like the one all of her sisters had gone to. However, her mother refused to throw her a party because she refused to give up her un-princess-like ways and Gabi had not even contemplated going away before her parents became set on The Mother’s Maiden.

The voices of Emerille and Amerin were just low enough to give her thoughts clarity. She knew if she stayed that her parents would go through with their threat and send her off to finishing school, or somewhere worse. If she left, she would, for the first time in her life, have complete control of her destiny, but would lose the security that being a royal allotted her. The choice on the surface appeared difficult but her heart knew otherwise. She would be leaving, not in the morning, but tonight trusting to her best friend and an almost stranger to keep her safe. She turned and looked back at them. When they looked up at her, she simply nodded and walked out of the forest towards the castle. The family should be at dinner, and she would be able to get in and out without too much trouble.

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