Our March 2023 Flash Contest was based on Prompt #244 (provided by Stone Soup intern Sage Millen), which asked that participants write a fairy tale with a twist: the princess had to be the villain. With such a fascinating prompt, it's no wonder we got over 40 submissions! Among those 4o+ submissions were a story about a tiger-poaching princess, a story about a space princess, a story about a princess willing to blow up her betrothed, and a story about dueling Disney princesses. As always, thank you to all you participated, and please keep submitting next month!
In particular, we congratulate our Winners and our Honorable Mentions, whose work you can appreciate below.
“Birthright" by Asha Akkinepally, 12
“Her Carmine Eyes" by Eiaa Dev, 13
“Princess Preservation" by Rhea Kachroo, 12
“The Sun Shines Again" by Pranjoli Sadhukha, 13
“The Princess's Tiger" by Melody You, 12
“The Princess Who Didn't Want to Marry" by Isabella Bhagwandin, 12
“A Land Frozen in Time" by Aaron Duan, 12
“Within the Tower Walls" by Juwon Ha, 11
“Warrior Princess" by Kaia Lee, 9
“Damsel of Distress" by Emily Tang, 13
Asha Akkinepally, 12
He lay on the hard, cold floor.
He led his sister to the dance floor.
His clothes were ragged and overlarge.
His clothes were perfectly tailored and brand-new.
The ceiling dripped with a reeking, unidentifiable liquid.
The ceiling was hung with glowing chandeliers.
He winced as someone cried in pain.
He laughed as his sister twirled around.
Someone shoved a tray of stale bread and unripe pear at him.
The table was set with a feast of the finest culinary delights.
He raised a tin water cup to his lips.
The king drank from a crystal wine goblet.
He coughed, sputtering at the foul taste.
The king let out a strangled cry as his eyes rolled back and his throat turned blue. With a final scream the ruler collap—
He closed his eyes. He did not want to relive those moments–those moments when his father died. Those moments that cruelly threw him into this prison, stripping him, too, of his life. Of all he had ever known.
Honestly, he wasn’t sure who had it worse.
His father’s passing was supposed to be his rebirth. He was supposed to be in the palace, preparing for his coronation. Instead, he was in the kingdom’s most infamous prison, sharing air with its most infamous criminals.
“Get up,” a guard barked. All the deference he had once commanded had vanished, replaced by an almost inhumanity. “You have a visitor.”
He rose to his feet, blinking matted hair out of his eyes. Only one person remained from his old life—one person believing his innocence, that he did not poison the king, that he did not wish the worst for his own father.
A girl entered into his line of sight then, looking out of place in the damp, dark prison, with her layers of tulle and glittering tiara.
“Leave us,” she commanded the guards.
“But, Your Highness—”
She threw them an imposing glare. “I said leave us.”
They scurried off, and he had never felt more grateful to his sister.
She looked him up and down, examining his wretched state. He expected her to exclaim at how they were treating him, to demand reprisal from the injustice, but instead—“You are rather disappointing.”
He recoiled. “Excuse me?”
She eyed him disgustedly. “Look at you, reduced to this pathetic mess.”
What was wrong with her? “Pathetic? The throne is my birthright! I’ve been working my whole life for it, and it’s wrested from my grip just as I am finally about to taste it! Of course I’m going—”
“It’s your birthright,” she repeated softly. “Yes. You did nothing more than exist and the throne was yours.”
She advanced closer. “Do you know what you are right now? Useless. Do you know what I’ve been my whole life? Even though I am, by far, the more deserving between us? Even though I am the one who knows our exports and imports by heart, who is fluent in 10 languages, who memorized all the foreign ambassadors’ names?” They were inches apart, and there was a rage simmering in her gaze that he had never seen before. “Useless.”
His world was dying more and more with every drop of venom she infused her words with. Or perhaps he was dying—he felt little more than an empty vessel at the moment.
She stepped back, smoothing her gown and her expression. “Until now. I’ve always been an excellent multitasker.”
Realization dawned. “You killed Father! You framed me!” He was filled with an emotion he’d never experienced before. How could his sister do this? When had she planned it? “All so you could have the crown!”
She tsked softly. “Unfair, isn’t it?” She laughed. “I know the feeling. In my experience, when a game’s unfair,” she said, smiling callously, “you change the rules.”
She sauntered out. “Never trust anyone, dear brother. Especially your own family.” It was the last thing she ever said to him.
The guards scampered back in, and he had never felt more hateful to his sister.
He fell back to the floor.
His threadbare clothes spread around him.
Wet splattered on his face.
Someone moaned in agony.
The bread and pear nearly broke his teeth.
He didn’t touch the water.
It tasted bad.
Her Carmine Eyes
Eiaa Dev, 13
Chirps, croaks, and caws echo throughout the vast, endless forest. The grass glimmers under the sun’s harsh, unrelenting glare. Drops of the early morning dew cling to its fibers, glistening with a keen freshness. Flowers of all kinds, from the extravagant hydrangea to the lethal aconitum, dance in the soothing breeze. But behind its façade of beauty, the forest holds the deepest and darkest of secrets. Obscured by aging vines, a pair of carmine eyes glow with murderous intent. Who would have thought that the bane of the kingdom’s existence was a lot closer than one could imagine?
A few miles down, a thriving village had once blossomed with activity. From the bustling of carts and chatty workers to the bubbly laughter of children, the community was a picture-perfect example of... happiness. However, this was a week ago. Now? The atmosphere has changed. All that used to be of the colorful, bright town was ruined, shards of broken gaiety buried deep under the wilting grass. A dull, unsettling air hangs over Melville, one filled with grief and moroseness. No sound can be heard, except for the anxious and weary footsteps of exhausted workers. There have been six deaths over the course of the last six days. An expecting mother, an eight-year-old boy, the local harvester, a grandmother of two, a policeman, and, most recently, a father of four. Death creeps around this village, lurking in the shadows and pouncing on prey. It swirls and wraps around each victim’s throat, taking them to the gates above, whether it be Heaven or Hell. Outside a candy shop, a little girl sucks on a lollipop, her eyes innocent and carefree. She wanders behind her mother mindlessly, before catching sight of a fallen toy. An illusion, but how was she to know? She runs for it, bending over to pick up the molded piece of plastic. In just a second, the Creature pounces on her, clawing at her face. It drags her away with its sharp canines while her screams slowly drown as Death takes its newfound win. Her frightened mother screams inhumanely, her voice laced with agony and heartbreak. A nearby shopkeeper hurries to drag the wailing mother away as townsfolk gather in the square, hands covering their mouths in shock. These days, the Creature was getting closer and closer to the inner works of the village. It was only a matter of time before mass murder. Yet, there was one being that fueled hope in these villagers. This person gave them a foundation, a lifestyle. She has protected them from war and all brutality. She is the one who can save them, they insist.
A person who is so revered, she could be mistaken for a deity. The Princess of Boutara.
Click. Clack. Click. Clack. The Princess paces across the large room, her eyes vigilant yet thoughtful. She stops in front of her mirror, sighing deeply. Her features are sharp, from her slim nose to her narrow jawline. Raven-black hair cascades down her shoulders, swishing every time she moves her head. Bright blue eyes provide a piercing stare. She is perfect, in every way one could imagine. Yet that was the glamour she wanted people to see. As the glamour wears o and the scene changes, the Princess clenches her jaw. In the glass is now an older-looking woman, with frizzy hair and dark bags under her eyes. A scar is etched on her cheek, gnarly and a symbol of great pain. The Princess steps back as the mirror changes once more. This time, it shows her true self. The authentic essence of her being. The reflection depicts a colossal beast, one with razor fangs and killer claws. Blood drips down its crooked mouth and there is something wild embedded in its eyes. Those carmine eyes. The Princess stumbles back, kneading her forehead. “Your Highness, it is time,” A voice calls from outside her door. “I’m almost ready!” The Princess responds, her voice taking on a sugary tone. Switching her glamour back on, she exits her room and leaves all the twisted truths behind.
“My People, it has been a devastating week. I believe that we should take a moment to express our grief and mourn in silence to honor those whose lives have been lost,” The Princess instructs, then commences to close her eyes. Others follow, and an eerie quietness takes over the large group of people. After a moment, the Princess begins to open her eyes. She smiles a little, but not in the way one would think. The smile is filled with malice and scorn. “You may open your eyes.” At the command, everyone blinks awake from the trance of sorrow that had fallen over them. “This Creature, as many of you know, has become a problem. A devastating and heart-wrenching one. I promise with all the sincerity in my heart that it shall be addressed immediately. While my Counsel and I shall deal with this issue, I instruct everyone to continue working as normal.” This results in a rise of angry roars and ruckus. “Your Majesty, we are in grief!” “How do you expect us to work?” “This is ridiculous!” “It’s too dangerous to work!”
“SILENCE!” The Princess yells. Just like that, all cacophony disperses. “I understand that this is difficult, yet I have a perfectly good reason for this request. If we give in to the grief and pain, we shall lose our flourishing economy. The one which we have just created! This will only lead to more deaths, and not the type that the Creature causes. We must maintain a strong workforce in order to keep this kingdom going, do you understand?” A chorus of yesses emerges from the crowd. “Good. Now, I must leave, however, I have great gratitude for your perseverance and courage. We will get through this!” The Princess cried joyfully. “Yes!” “Thank you, your Highness!” “ALL HAIL THE PRINCESS OF BOUTARA!”
The Princess watches her people, plastering on a fake smile. Now that everyone has fallen for her trick, she will soon break free from the curse that binds her and claim the throne once and for all. Blinded by admiration, not one person could see the streaks of carmine that color her eyes.
Rhea Kachroo, 12
Once upon a time, there lived a king and his daughter who ruled over a small swamp. The animals and insects all lived happily with each other, building their homes and families on their land. The king made sure his subjects’ needs were met – he cared for them as if they were a part of him.
The love he gave his own daughter, though, was unrivaled.
One particular night, the princess was having a difficult time sleeping. “Father!” the princess called. “Father!”
She stopped yelling as the rumble of heavy footsteps came her way. Soon enough, the light from the doorway was shadowed by a tall figure.
“Father, these sheets are too rough!” she cried. “How am I to sleep like this?”
He sat down next to her, running his hand over the white cloth, soft as the fuzz on a peach. “Surely not? I made sure these were made from only the finest cotton.”
“Well, they simply aren’t good enough!”
She began to cry, a tear slipping down onto the ruffled-up bed beneath her. Pained by her sobs, the king tried to think of what to do. He scanned the room, desperate for ideas, until his eyes fell on the open window by the door. It displayed a perfect view of the pond. He realized how beautiful it looked under the moonlight, dotted by lily pads and flowers. Trees surrounded the area, as though they were guarding the beauty. His daughter looked up at the sound of his long sigh, following his gaze.
Her eyes widened.
“Of course!” the princess exclaimed, grasping her father’s hand. “The best cotton does not work – perhaps I need something else! Like...the lily pads!”
She stood up, rushing to the window as the king trailed behind her.
“Dear...” he began with uncertainty. “They’re so little in size and number, we would have to take nearly all of them to fit onto a bed like yours. Others need them as well.”
The joy drained from her face almost immediately. “Well, then goodnight, father...” she sniffled. “I will prepare to brave the next month of sleepless nights...”
His eyes softened.
“No! Of course not. Tomorrow, I will send the guards to gather the softest lily pads. Anything for you, daughter.”
The next morning, the guards did just that. The king himself placed each individual pad onto the bed, ensuring nothing was out of place. As the moon began to rise in the sky, the princess slipped into bed, silently slumbering for the rest of the night.
The king smiled as his daughter greeted him in the morning, looking rested and refreshed. Months passed like this. Word spread quickly about the needy princess, but the king didn’t let it faze him. He knew it was worth it.
That is, until the night he heard his daughter crying out for him again, wailing with displeasure.
He rushed to her bedroom. “What is it, dearest?”
“Father, these lily pads have gotten all ripped and dirty! It’s irritating my skin, I need new ones.”
He glanced at the shredded bits of green behind her.
“But daughter, there are no more left in the pond.”
“Then what can replace them?”
The king thought, glancing out the window once again. The pond looked empty and exposed now. The trees weren’t protecting their gold anymore, they were hiding an embarrassing sight.
“Wouldn’t the leaves have a similar feeling?” the princess wondered aloud, noticing the pond too.
“Yes, but the critters need those leaves.”
“How does it matter? We don’t live amongst them.”
The king held her pleading gaze.
Finally, he sighed. “Anything for you, daughter.”
The leaves satisfied the princess, but were much more delicate than the lily pads. They tore apart from their stems and made a mess of her pillows. Every evening, she began to holler for him, requesting fresh leaves.
The animals’ negativity towards the family was growing with every bare branch. It wasn’t unfounded, either; after only just a week had passed by, the land had run out of leaves to take.
By now the king anticipated her nightly call, and arrived quickly. He spoke in a low, tired tone.
“Dearest, we’re out of leaves, if that’s what this is about.”
“But I’ve already thrown out the other ones. I can’t sleep on a bare bed.”
He stroked the beard on his chin. The fluffy feeling on his fingers relieved any stress he had, helping him think more clearly. The princess looked at his hands, distracted by their movement.
She straightened her back. “Why, that’s it! The clouds are as soft and fluffy as it gets, and they never ruin!”
“Perhaps...” he murmured. “Though I do wonder about the birds...”
“Please, I only ask for a good night’s rest.”
The king sighed.
“Anything for you, daughter.”
And so it went that he ordered the guards to bottle the clouds the next morning. The sun beat down on the creatures of the kingdom, with no promise of shade.
That night, the clouds were laid out upon her mattress, and the princess fell sound asleep.
She rested so well, she didn’t hear the bugs from the pond crawl through her window, or the frogs hopping around the palace into her room, or even the birds as they flew inside her room, carrying animals of all kinds on their backs. She didn’t hear it when her father in the room next to hers decided anything wasn’t everything.
No; the last thing she heard was the sound of her own screams.
The Sun Shines Again
Pranjoli Sadhukha, 13
Six years ago today, my mother kissed me while I played. She promised me a playmate, her deepest dreams spilling as whispers in my ear. She remembered the small smiles and babbles, and the tiny hands that clung to her finger. Barely four years old, my hand was already too large to hold her the same way.
Five years ago today, my little brother, the young prince, was born. The stars frolicked in the sky, and the colors and lights of the celebration could be seen for miles. The overjoyed king and queen proudly stared down at him, snuggled in his little blue blanket. Like my mother had promised, he was radiant. He had taken the hopeful stars in her eyes and hung them all throughout the sky with his giggles, and my feeble blinking moonlight couldn’t compare.
Four years ago today, he took his first, stumbling steps, right on his first birthday. The queen cried and laughed, wiping bits of cake off his pink mouth. All over the kingdom, people who had never met him cried with her and spoke with pride about the intelligence of the young heir. He was a brilliant shining sun, blinding everyone with his easy childish charms.
Three years ago today, I was in my room, drawing, and hiding from the relentless birthday planning. I wandered aimlessly out in the hall and found my doted-over brother miraculously left alone by the overwhelmed staff. Better still, the window was left open by a careless, busy maid. I watched silently as he slowly climbed the curtain, trying to see out the window. The sun sparkling on his bright hair, and his gaily laughter, suddenly broke a dam inside me. The waves of resentment and jealousy crashed to shore. My conscience drowned out by bitterness, my hands reached out, a perfect fit on his little back, and in a daze, I watched him fall.
Two years ago today, grief held dominion over the kingdom. The night sky was starless, pitch black, without him. The moonlight was obscured by clouds on the night we crowded around the ornately carved gravestone. Through her tears, the queen told me again and again that none of this was my fault. In the darkness, the crowd couldn’t see my soft smile. I felt a twinge of guilt for the poor maid who had opened the window on that fateful day, and had happened to be there when the queen was desperately looking for someone to blame. Nobody told me what had happened to her that day, but I never saw her again. Now I was the new heir but within the castle walls, my parents were lost in the haze of him, like nothing had changed.
One year ago today, I made my first address to the kingdom. I spoke about the pleasant harvest season this year, and congratulated the resourceful farmers. I reassured the kingdom about the dangers of the nearby dragon cave, and toasted to our luck. I told them about the improved trade relations with a nearby kingdom, and listened as they cheered. The applause, and giddy laughter fueled me, and adrenaline coursed through my veins. But when I ran to my mother, she only asked why I didn’t speak of my brother, and I could see his sunlight still shining through her foggy tears.
Today I smile, feeling closer than ever to my dream. Suddenly, a sense of unease comes over me, as I see that familiar happy smile and my mother’s loving hand resting on her stomach. Shining brighter than she had in years, she comes over and whispers in my ear. She laughs, stealing the future I had spent years aching for with a few fleeting words, an ecstatic promise of a new heir. The sun shines brightly again, refusing to be snuffed by the vengeful moon.
The Princess's Tiger
Melody You, 12
Tall firs, interspersed with thick gray oaks, towered above the peasant girl as she walked through the forest. The girl shielded her eyes from the viridescent sunlight spilling in through the leaves as she walked. Soil caught in the ends of her loose hemp clothes, but she paid little attention. The rustle of her clothes was some of the only sound in the entire forest, aside from her soft footsteps and the quiet call of the wind.
“Boo,” the girl sang, twirling as she sat down on a half-rotted log. This clearing in the forest was not unfamiliar; it was a place the peasant girl visited often. The girl loved animals—she was the one to tend the family’s buffaloes, and she rarely ate meat, usually preferring fish over beef. When she was done with her chores, the forest was always a sanctuary, a place for her to see her friends.
Long ago, when the peasant girl had first met her first friend deep within the forest, she had peeled away a small piece of mossy bark to reveal a clean slab of wood on which she could comfortably sit. The girl didn’t mind getting dirty, but she didn’t like rotten, damp bark sticking to her plant-fiber clothes. Her parents already didn’t like her hanging out with animals, and would definitely kill her if she returned home with a dirty bottom.
The girl wished she was a princess. Living in a majestic palace with clean clothes and lots of food at her hands. But then I wouldn’t have Boo, the girl thought.
Right on cue, a small furry head popped out of the branches with a rustle of leaves. His fur bright vermillion like autumn leaves with dark mahogany apple-stem stripes, Bamboo was the cutest, roundest little ball of fur in all of China. Boo was a red panda, and the peasant girl adored him with all her heart.
“Boo!” the girl grinned, waving at the red panda. Joyous, Bamboo swooped down and hurled himself into the peasant girl’s lap. “Good afternoon, sir!” The girl wasted no time in scrubbing Bamboo down with hungry fingers until the red panda chirped in delight. Giggling, the girl said, “Now, where’s Honey?”
Honey wasn’t quite as round or as small as Boo. As a matter of fact, if you saw her striped golden silhouette among the trees, you’d probably run for your life. Honey was a tiger, and the girl, aware of the animal’s nature, didn’t usually approach the tiger like she did Bamboo—especially because the tiger was nursing cubs. However, the peasant girl was pretty sure that the tiger was warming up to her. The big cat could be heard in the distance, approaching at the sound of the peasant girl’s voice.
“Hi, Honey!” called the peasant girl, but before she could start towards the tiger, she heard a sound.
“There she is!” A male voice rang through the forest, and the whoosh of ten arrows followed soon after.
The loud groaning growl of a tiger came next, and then a thump.
“Hey!” The peasant girl yelled and ran in the direction of the tiger. Bamboo, startled by the unfamiliar humans, disappeared into the leaves as quickly as he came.
“The tiger’s down, Princess!” Another male yelled as the first one shouted, “Peasant girl! What are you doing?”
“You can’t take that tiger!” the peasant girl yelled back. “She’s done nothing to harm you!”
More men arrived at the scene, and soon, there were a dozen uniformed men standing around a collapsed Honey. The men parted as two sleek horses crunched through the trees, followed closely by four elegant wheels.
A girl, dressed in the most magnificent gold dress the peasant had ever seen, stepped off the wagon.
“I can’t believe it,” the girl cried. “It’s so... beautiful!”
“You can’t take that tiger,” the peasant girl repeated, looking the other girl in the eye. “Or her cubs. It belongs to the forest.”
“Pfft!” the other girl snapped. “It belongs to me now. The cubs. I’m the princess. The cub’s are mine and you can’t do anything about it, you dirty peasant.”
“This tiger is a her,” the peasant girl said angrily. “You can’t take her!”
“I’M THE PRINCESS!” the princess screamed. “I CAN HAVE WHAT I WANT!”
“You can’t!” the peasant girl shot back.
“Stop,” one of the men called out. “We were ordered by the princess to get a tiger. So we shall. No peasant shall stop us.”
The peasant girl looked around hopelessly. They couldn’t take Honey. Not while she was still there. But suddenly...
WHAM! An orange and black shape dropped from the trees, straight into the princess’s face. Every single man in the forest screamed, rushing to their princess’s side.
“I don’t want the tiger anymore!” the princess wailed, fuming. “Leave it for this dumb peasant! The forest is cursed!”
The peasant girl stared, agape, as the men disappeared back into the forest and left her there with Bamboo retreating to her lap.
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