Nisha placed a saddle on the horse, attached the basket on his back with a shiny leather rope, led him outside on the smooth cobblestone walkway. As they passed the ponds encircled by flowerbeds, the Princess jumped on Atash. She had him walk down the short steps built for the sake of horses walking up and down the mount, before making him trot away in the meadow. As she rode her strong stallion through the forest, she experienced euphoria as if she had left the disciplined life of home-schooling for another dimension of time. Although she rode over unsteady ground, she enjoyed the ride, sucking in all of the smells from the moist soil of the path, the wet leaves, the not-yet-ripe fruit of different trees, and late flowers on blackberry shrubs. The metallic clinks of grasshoppers mixed with the hum of the wind from the treetops washed over her as she galloped deeper and deeper into the forest. In the thick of the trees, the mid-day temperature was cool and perfect. The stress of the last many months began to melt away.
She slowed her horse’s gallop down to a relaxed walk as she reached the forest clearing. The sun had turned the clearing quite warm. Nisha delighted in noticing the cool breeze from the lake. She dismounted from the horse, hitched him to a tree at the cool mouth of the forest. She detached the basket, carried it to the smooth rock by the blue lake under the beautiful lime-tree, and took out the collection of stories on rodent reincarnation. She read all kinds of topics, from poetry to “how-to-dissect-a-frog-without-causing-him-pain”. Her nanny had advised her never to say a book must not be read, while her mother had continued to cajole her to dislike all shadowy creatures in or out of books.
At the same time, unbeknown to the Princess, the smoky Frog-Prince led a lonesome life at the bottom of the lake. At all times, he missed his best friend, Princess Nisha. He ate a whole heap of insects, for the most part the big ugly ones, to calm himself. He also pulled down many unfortunate little birds that flew down close to the surface of the lake, for the purpose of afflicting pain before eating them. Indeed, he now enjoyed torturing smaller creatures. With the passing of time, he became crueller, bigger, and uglier. Now the smoky Frog-Prince appeared too big in size for a frog and stood too small in status for a prince.
At some point, on that serene summer day, the Princess lost interest in reading her manuscript. Wishing to do something different for entertainment she sauntered to the other side of the clearing, whirled around, took a deep breath, rubbed the bridge of her nose upwards with gentle strokes of fingertip to squeeze her soul out of the middle of her forehead. It had the form of a silver, transparent ball. Nisha threw the ball back and forth between her two open hands. Her heart raced with excitement, as she deemed her soul her favourite plaything. All of a sudden, she dropped the silver ball, watched it roll fast on the ground, and rush straight into the lake. In a nervous flutter, she ran to the lake, took off her footwear, waded into its shallow border to look for the lost ball. But the lake’s profundity had made its bottom invisible. Her soul had vanished into the depths of the lake of her tears. Swimming down that abyss would have been foolish without some kind of magic protection she knew nothing about.
At the loss of her plaything, Nisha sensed something ominous sneaking up into her head, replacing her soul. Something dark grey, heavy, sticky, bleak like a nuclear winter morning. Something tasting bitter, unpleasant. A gripping work of wickedness.
Knowing too well she could not live more than a day without her soul, she broke into tears for a long time, unable to comfort herself with other thoughts. As she lamented, a deep voice spilled into the air.
“Why do you cry your heart out? What makes you suffer in such extreme way?”
The Princess jerked her head up, ”Who is that?” Turning her head about the clearing, she saw a huge smoky frog sitting on the edge of the lake, watching her with a set of big red eyes.
“Ah, big fat frog”, said the unsuspecting girl in a mournful voice, “I am crying for my playful soul, a sentient silver ball, which has rolled into the blue lake.”
“Do not cry any longer, dear Princess; I can help you,” said the smoky Frog with intent. ”But what reward will you offer me, if I bring up your soul to you?”
“Whatever your heart desires, giant frog,” said Nisha. “My fragrant soaps, my jar of scented herbs, my many enlightening manuscripts of stories.”
“I do not need fragrant soaps or jar of herbs; nor do I want manuscripts, entertaining or enlightening as they may be. “
“In exchange for bringing back to you your indispensible silver ball, you must promise to marry me. You must love me enough to help me kill your horrid mother, Queen Opal, in order for me to become monarch. You must make all the Royal treasures in my name. You must supervise the kitchen staff, but serve me in person at our dining platform. And you must always sleep with me in our cosy fresh bed!”
Taken aback, Nisha’s head span, her knees weakened, her heart flipped. Frozen in time, her mind wrestled with the cruelty of the options laid by the frog before her. But she had to make a quick decision before the nasty frog jumped back to the lake to disappear.
“Alright,” said the Princess in a lethargic tone, “if you bring my lost soul back to me, I promise to do everything you desire.”
As the Princess had found the frog a cruel, gross, cunning creature, she had no problem lying to him. “He shows up at my most vulnerable moments,” she reviewed, “gives me an order to marry him later, while planning to kill my mother, rob us of our riches, and become Monarch of our land! He doesn’t seem to realize a merciless, ghastly creature like him does not deserve the companionship of a princess.”
In contrast, the Frog-Prince upon obtaining the Princess’ promise, dove to the bottom of the lake, came back with the sentient ball in his mouth. He dropped the shiny soul on the ground, before the feet of the Princess. Ecstatic to see her soul rescued, she gathered the ball, held it up on her face, rubbed it in soft motion on her forehead, let the soul inside her head. As Princess Nisha’s soul pushed out the ominous dark cloud out of her head to settle in comfort, she became a soulful maiden again >>> Part 5