Prince Arnold sighed and looked up at his advisors. “That did not go well,” he said.
“Perhaps if you’d been more tactful, this could have been avoided,” the foreign minister said.
“Is there a tactful way to tell someone that the gift they just offered you is illegal?” Prince Arnold said. “If I’d accepted it, the press would have shredded my reputation.”
“This modern transparency is completely disruptive. Your grandfather would have never allowed foreign visitors to attend sessions of open court. It’s a safety risk,” the head of security said. “Obviously.”
“Well, I’d seriously consider any proposal for more rigorous background checks,” Prince Arnold said.
“I’ll write one up when we’re done here,” the head of security said. “Along with a proposal to ban the sessions of open court all together.”
“Try not to get your hopes up,” Prince Arnold said. He looked around at his advisors again. “So, I’m a frog,” he said. He turned to face the court magician, who was muttering and waving his arms around in the air. “Kevin, what are we dealing with?”
The magician dropped his arms and frowned. “It’s not too bad. You have to convince a princess to kiss you.”
Arnold groaned. “Like that doesn’t bring its own problems. All the princesses I know are married or related to me. Do you think that I could get one of them to kiss me and it would count?”
Kevin muttered again. He snapped his fingers a few times and did a little tap dance. “Nope,” he said. “Unmarried, unrelated princess.”
“I was afraid of that,” Arnold said. “Can I make the witch remove the curse?”
“If you can find her, that might work,” Kevin said.
Arnold looked at the foreign minister. “She lives underneath a live volcano. I assume she went back there when her gift failed to impress you.”
“She did vanish in a big ball of flames so I guess that makes sense,” Arnold said. “Well, it’s time to do some research. Let’s meet back here tomorrow.”
Prince Arnold met with the foreign minister to learn more about the live volcano. It was on a small island hundreds of miles away and unapproachable by sea or air. “I suppose we could build a bridge to the island. Or tunnel there,” Arnold said.
“And risk having all the workers turned into frogs?” the foreign minister said.
“Good point. What would you suggest?” Prince Arnold asked.
“You could apologize,” the foreign minister said.
“For offending her?” Arnold asked. The minister nodded. “Try it and see if it works. Any luck on finding a princess?”
“Not so far,” the foreign minister said. “Perhaps we’ll have to send some knights out on a quest.”
“Don’t they usually marry any princesses they happen to find?” Prince Arnold asked. “That hardly seems helpful. Half the time they don’t even come back to resign in person.”
“I’ll send out some messages to our allies to see if they have any information,” the foreign minister said.
The next day, the Prince’s council met. “The king sends his regards and has cut short his trip. He’ll be home within the week,” the head of security said.
“I need to have this cleared up before then,” Prince Arnold said, “Or I’ll never hear the end of it.” He turned to the foreign minister. “How did the apology go?”
“She’s demanding you send her a thousand pounds of cut gemstones,” the foreign minister said.
“That’s not going to happen,” Arnold said. “Any news from our allies?”
“Nothing so far,” the foreign minister said.
“Keep looking. Did you find anything Kevin?” Arnold asked.
Kevin smiled and dropped a large, dusty book on the table. “A thousand years ago, a princess was cursed to sleep until she was kissed by a prince. She and her court are still asleep.”
“Where are they?” Arnold asked. “Would a kiss from a prince that was also a frog work?”
“They’re in the middle of a forest not that far away. When the royal family disappeared, the country was split in pieces by its neighbors. You can take the royal jet there,” the magician said. “And technically, you are still a prince. It will work.”
“It sounds like a plan,” Prince Arnold said. “We’ll leave within the hour.”
The Prince and his advisors flew to the forest and hiked to a wall of thorns. “Kevin?” Arnold asked. Kevin called down fire and burned a hole through the wall. “Thanks,” Arnold said.
The castle was eerie. Everything seemed frozen in time. Everywhere, people had fallen asleep where they stood. “Where will they go?” Arnold asked. “It’s a court without a kingdom.”
“Perhaps we can grant them asylum?” the foreign minister said.
“I think so,” Arnold said. “They will need somewhere to go. If I wake them, I should be responsible for them.”
They found the princess, asleep on a bed in the main hall. Kevin hummed and spun around in circles. “Yep, that’s her,” he said.
Arnold hopped up and kissed her cheek. Her eyelids fluttered and she sat up suddenly. “What happened?” she asked.
“You were cursed by a witch,” Arnold said.
“Are you really a frog?” the princess asked. “You can talk.”
“He was cursed too,” Kevin said. “He kissed you to wake you up. Would you kiss him too?”
“I can do that,” she said. She kissed him on the nose. Arnold was himself again. All around them, the people were waking up.
“What happens now?” the princess asked.
“Well, we have a lot to talk about. You’ve been asleep for a thousand years,” Prince Arnold said. “Luckily, I think the worst part is over now.”
Kevin leapt and spun and waved his arms. “Yes, I think you’re right,” he said.