Story and pictures by Jackie Mondalimare
Once upon a time, in a land where the hours passed like seconds and the minutes went by like days, there was an old king ruling over the desert that was known by the name Shifting Sands. It was known that the last days of the king had come and so his family gathered around him to accompany him on this very last journey. He made one last request that his mother, his brother, his son and his son’s woman witnessed – he wanted his son to get married before he would rule over the kingdom.
The two younglings, having been in love for quite a few years, spent hours and hours talking about the old king’s request before he died, and then promised to fulfill his wish. He died minutes later, a satisfied smile on his lips as he went on to a place without the sorrow that had pained his old body. In the meantime, while the prince and his woman planned their wedding, the king’s brother took care of the business of the land from his tower by the border to Nu Orne. Many a rumour had spread that he was under the influence of the Wizard of Nu Orne, but the prince was so overwhelmed with what he was facing, that he hardly noticed the change in his uncle.
The preparations for the royal wedding soon were disrupted by rather strange happenings. The gown of the soon to be bride suddenly burst into flames right in front of her. The flowers in the garden withered away, even though the gardeners gave them plenty of water. And it was one of these days when the prince didn’t return from his journey to bring the princess a new gown. The woman, with such sorrow in her heart, nearly grew mad as the days passed and no word from her prince reached her. It was then that she felt the deep relationship between them – deep down, she knew that her prince couldn’t have died.
But something was wrong and something was different and soon, on a walk through the royal gardens, she felt a strange attraction to one of the camels in the stables. Thinking she must be going crazy, she stepped closer, eying the camel with some suspicion – as she suddenly heard the prince’s voice in her head! She turned around, looking for her prince, thinking he must be right behind her. But there was nothing here but the camel.
That was when it came to her, and the voice of the prince in her head explained every detail. While the prince was out to get her gown, the king’s brother had attacked him, defenseless as he was, he didn’t stand a chance and so did his uncle turn him into a camel to forever live in the stables and watch him rule over the kingdom that was said to be his.
The princess stayed with the camel as often as she could without raising suspicion, making sure her prince got the best care she could give him. But the kingdom around them changed and they felt powerless. It was rather obvious by now that the king’s brother and the wizard of the bordering realm were plotting together. What they were plotting, nobody could say. But as more and more strange creatures from Nu Orne wandered through the desert that was Shifting Sands, they knew something had to be done.
The princess sat down to think, to try and find a solution, find a way to end this madness. What the king’s brother didn’t know was that she, too, had royal blood running through her veins. There was no human kingdom that she was the heir of. There was no land she could claim for a new beginning. But she was a daughter of the snakes, an ancient tribe that had always lived in Shifting Sands.
She went to seek her ancestors and they held council. The changes in the land hadn’t gone unnoticed by them and they taught their youngling in the arts of their very own magic. Over the next days, the princess sneaked into the uncle’s tower, bribing his personal cook, who was nothing more than a slave to him, to put an extra ingredient into his food. She didn’t want to kill him right away, but weaken him, and so, with every meal, the king’s brother ate the poison of the snakes.
It was one day that she finally saw her chance to destroy the uncle. He came to the palace of sand in the middle of the land to cold-heartedly inquire about the search for the seemingly lost prince. The princess went on a walk with him, to the wheel of lost time in the center of the palace. As they stood next to it, the princess confronted him with everything she knew. Of course, the uncle became angry and called her a dirty jezzabelle, but he had no power over her anymore. With the magic she had been taught by her elders, she threw the uncle into the deep dark hole so he would disappear forever.
With the uncle’s death, the curse that lay on the prince lifted and the young lovers were finally united again. Of course, the story can’t simply end that way. There was still the wizard of Nu Orne to fight, who most likely wouldn’t be happy to have lost his partner in crime.There were the strange creatures wandering their lands. But first, they got married on the spot, right next to the hole that had freed them from their suppressor. And as they sat together in the evening, overlooking the lands, they knew that now that they were together again, they could overcome all obstacles, united in their love.