The princess loved to play with her golden ball. It was surprisingly heavy for its size, so tossing it up in the air and catching it was a really good workout. She was very careful never to drop it, because she’d heard horror stories about other princesses who had to make terrible deals with amphibians. Besides, she’d scratch the lovely mirror-like surface and she wouldn’t be able to check her hair and makeup every time she caught the ball.
Unfortunately, despite her fabulous reflexes and careful tosses, the princess did drop the ball one day. When the princess tripped over a chair leg on the furthest balcony while checking her eye shadow, the ball had flown over the railing in a graceful arc.
The princess briefly admired how the sun glinted off the lovely golden surface before racing to the railing. Sadly, the balcony jutted out over a very steep hill. The princess shrieked in anger when she saw her golden ball hit the rocky hillside.
“The scratches,” she said. “The scratches!”
The servants came running. She ignored them, watching the sparkling toy disappear from view. Then, she turned, shaking in anger. “Who was responsible for placing this chair?” she asked. The unfortunate servant who hadn’t correctly pushed in the chair was fired within the hour.
However, the man’s loss of employment didn’t bring the ball back, so she glared at the assembled company. “Fetch me a frog,” she said. “Now!”
The frightened servants ran. They checked the fountains and the koi pond and the well. The boot boy, more adventurous than the others, trekked out to the creek. He managed to catch a large frog that had been sunning itself on the bank.
He rushed the frog to the princess without changing out of his muddy boots. Two servants hurried behind him, mopping the floor. “Here you go, princess,” the boot boy said.
The princess put on her gloves and took the frog. “Frog,” the princess said, “I have lost my golden ball.”
“I’m sorry to hear that, princess,” the frog said.
“I am ready to make a deal for its return,” the princess said. “I have of course called the royal lawyer in order to protect myself from your tricks.”
“Will you put me back in the river when we’ve found your lost ball?” the frog asked.
The princess looked at the lawyer. The lawyer nodded. “Yes,” the princess said.
“That’s good enough for me,” the frog said. “Let’s get this over with.”
The lawyer nodded again and wrote out some forms. The princess signed them and the frog left a handprint. An hour later, the legalities were complete.
“All right, where did you last see it?” the frog asked. The princess held the frog over the edge of the balcony and described the path that the ball took. “That’s not going to be easy. I may have to hire some help. I’ll make the arrangements, but you’ll need to pay them for their work,” the frog said.
“You’ll have to talk to my lawyer again,” the princess said.
“Very well,” the frog said. He whistled loudly several times. A magpie flew down and settled on the edge of the balcony. They conversed for a few moments in chirps and whistles.
“She says her flock will look for your ball, but they want a penny each. And she says that they must be shiny pennies,” the frog said.
“How many are in her flock?” the princess asked.
The frog spoke with the magpie. “Twelve,” he said.
The princess looked at the lawyer. The lawyer nodded. “Very well,” she said.
There was another hour where the frog, the magpie, and the princess signed forms. Then the magpie gathered her friends and the flock of magpies departed. A half hour later, the magpies returned. The leader hopped forward and chirped to the frog.
“She says that it’s embedded in a tree at the bottom of the hill,” the frog said. “Don’t worry princess, I believe I know someone who can help.”
“Who is it and what will they want?” the princess asked. She sounded annoyed.
“A local beaver should be able to rescue your ball. He’ll probably want some limited logging rights and a house building permit,” the frog said.
The bird whistled, and the frog nodded. “The magpie is willing to deliver the message and guide the beaver to the tree. However, in return she’d like another penny.” The bird whistled again. “Ah, yes, of course,” the frog said. “She’d like it to be shiny please.”
The princess sighed and looked at her lawyer. The lawyer fished a penny out of his pockets. “It’s on me,” he said. “Let’s cut out some paperwork where we can. My hand is starting to hurt.”
The magpie took the coin and flew away. The lawyer massaged his hands and then started preparing the paperwork for the beaver’s possible requests. A half hour later, the beaver appeared on the balcony. He was happy with the offer and agreed to do the work without any additional bargaining.
Once the paperwork was complete, the magpie led him away. The magpie returned with the ball an hour later and requested yet another penny. The lawyer sighed and handed it over. “Why do they need shiny pennies?” he asked.
The magpie chirped. The frog nodded. “She says that’s a secret.” The magpie picked up her penny and flew away. The princess ignored everyone while she looked over her misshapen, scratched up golden ball and scowled.
“Will you return me to my home now, princess?” the frog asked.
The princess looked at the lawyer. The lawyer nodded. “Very well,” she said. “I’ll send for you if I need your help in the future.”
“Unfortunately princess, I will not be available. I have just decided to move to a new home far, far away. Farewell,” the frog said. “I’ll find my own way home.” And he hopped away.