The thrill of having regained her soul did not change the Princess’ determination to break her promise to the ugly frog as she had found his demands abominable. Without showing any gratitude, she ran away from the clearing in such a hurry, tumbling over the forest path several times before reaching the Castle. The more the Princess distanced herself from the jet-black gigantic frog, the more the greedy creature cried his croaks from the top of his lungs.
“Wait for me! You must take me with you. You cannot break your promise, imperfect Princess.”
But his cries availed him nothing. The Smoky Frog had no choice but to dive back into the depths of the lake made of his beloved Princess’ tears. On the other side of the blade, the character of the frog did not leave Princess Nisha’s mind.
That evening, the Princess lapsed into a nightmare-haunted sleep. Her Shadow-Prince changed into a frog right before her eyes. He then told her about her mother’s spell and her lies on his whereabouts. In her nightmare, the Princess became angry with her mother, stole the Queen’s special dagger and gave it to the Smoky Frog, who then killed the Queen and made himself King. Nisha served him supper in the Castle’s dining quarters, even though plenty of servants stood around. As the new Monarch thanked her for having kissed him into a Prince at the beginning of their ambitious adventure, she saw her mother’s severed head in a dish. She gasped, found herself falling into a dark, bottomless abyss, which threatened to engulf her. The Princess woke in tears, in sweat, screaming, “No, no, no!”
Servants and guards ran to her bedroom doors, knocking on them again and again, calling her name. Mother Simorq appeared at once, pushed everyone aside, and let herself in. She found Nisha in the dim-light of the half-moon, grasping the curtains to frame her face against the too narrow, too olden window of the back wall. They sat together on the edge of the bed, Mother Simorq’s comforting hand placed over the girl’s shoulder. Reaching into the maelstrom of her mind, where dreams break upon memories, the Princess confided in her nanny amidst sobs.
“I … I met my old playmate today, my Shadow-Prince … the boy whom Mother said had left Hyrcania.”
“That boy, yes I remember him. I mean you told me about him when you were, what, seven or eight years-old?”
“Today I met him again after all these years, but I did not recognize him. You know why?” screamed Nisha. “Because Mother had turned him into a frog.“
“Oh, did she? When? How do you know this?” said Mother Simorq.
“He came into my dream, turning it into a nightmare, made me realize the ugly frog I met today was no other being but him. My Shadow-Prince now lives in the forest’s blue lake as a smoky Frog-Prince. He told me the truth about what my mother had done to him, how much he hated her for separating us. I now recall my shadow’s voice talking, although as a frog he has aged, gained plenty of weight. He has turned darker than ever.”
“I did not expect the Queen to do such a thing!” said Mother Simorq under her breath.
“Mother turned my Shadow-Prince into a frog only because she hates shadows. Why doesn’t she know she has a problem?” said the Princess, hitting her thigh hard. “Why must I pay for my mother’s warped vision? She used my absent-mindedness, my laving left my Shadow-Prince in the forest alone by mistake, to act on her hatred. My Shadow Prince did not even look like an ordinary frog. He appeared much darker, bigger than what you …”
“Where is he now?”
“Back to the depth of the blue lake … in the forest clearing,” said Nisha, sobbing again.
“What does your heart say about the Smoky Prince?”
“As a little girl, I liked him as much as my regular friends. But his character has changed in every way. Maybe as a consequence of what my mother did to him, or of his long separation from me. He is now a brutal, greedy frog. He wants to kill my mother, make me his servant-wife, and become monarch. I’m afraid of him. “
“Not hard to understand,” said Mother Simorq as she moved her head, comforting Nisha. ”As luck would have it, nothing in our lives lasts forever.”
Mother Simorq left the Princess for a while, came back with a gourd of warm milk in a serving tray. Nisha refused to touch the gourd.
“I’m trying to understand why such a terrible incident in my life had to happen,” said the confused Princess as her restless pacing took her back to the small window. The full features of the Smoky Frog floated in the frenzied waters of her psyche all the time.
For the next seven years, the Princess had reoccurring dreams of the Frog-Prince. Some troubling dreams in the beginning, which later became less and less upsetting. She became accustomed to the Smoky Frog’s nocturnal presence, developed an interest in knowing him more. At the same time she had less and less irrational impulses in her daily life. In her dreams, she tossed out some questions in a gentle voice, indicating she had not fallen in love with him, but showed him she cared about him. The enamoured frog answered them with generosity, croak- laughing in a loud bass or smiling like a Cheshire cat. He sometimes had a face similar to hers, which displeased her to some extent.
With a quill feather pen she dipped in a small bottle of plant ink, the Princess wrote every dream of her Shadow-Frog in her Dream-leather-Scroll, whose title was “To Kiss or Not to Kiss… the Frog.” In vivid details, she described the Frog-Prince’s wishes or demands, her interactions with him, her changing perception of him. Upon Mother Simorq’s advice, in her writings she amplified what bothered or intrigued her the most, using as much detail as possible. She wrote of the Frog’s intentions, character and appearance to bring her resentment of him to light. She signed and dated each dream narrative with her own blood from a pin prick to her finger.
The Princess reached the age of twenty-one without having met her Smoky Frog-Prince in person since their separation. She had been in touch with him only through her dreams, which in tandem helped her experience a sense of closeness towards him. Now, she looked on the ugly Shadow-Frog as someone she could never love, but could deeply understand, sympathize with as a friend.
On the Spring Equinox, the beginning of the Persian New Year, Nowruz, the Princess sat on a round ceremonial platform opposite the Queen in the living quarters. They burnt wild-rue incense, exchanged kisses, swapped New Year’s gifts, complimented each other on their new dresses made for the occasion. On that day, Nisha had a peculiar intuition about her Shadow-Prince appearing soon, but she didn’t share it with her mother. As Queen Opal left the chamber to entertain her guests in the Castle’s main hall, Mother Simorq ushered Nisha to her dining quarters.
The Princess sat on her large dining platform to have her lunch, inviting Mother Simorq to come up and sit beside her. Within a couple of minutes, they heard the shouting voice of a man followed by the appearance of a group of Castle guards who seemed confused, curious, at a complete loss. Mother Simorq dashed to them, engaged in an animated whispering match before disappearing for a while to rush back to Princess Nisha >>> Part 6