Word Count 499
The Sardonic Princess
“Who did your hair, Ella? Madame Medusa?”
“At least it’s my hair.”
“Girls! You sound like Princess Penelope of Sardonia.”
“Was her hair all tangled and snaky like Ella’s?”
“No, but her tongue was serpentine. Stop your sniping, and I shall tell you about her.
Long, long ago, far, far away, Sardonia-by-the-Sea was a shining example of all a kingdom should be.
The king and queen ruled honestly and wisely. Wisely— except where their daughter, Princess Penelope, was concerned. They doted on her from the moment she was born. Their devotion doubled daily. By the time she was twelve, with chestnut ringlets cascading to her waist, eyes like the stormy sea, dainty hands and feet she was the ideal to which all aspired. And she was charming despite being coddled, cooed over, celebrated, and feted. Then, at her thirteenth birthday party, she loudly remarked that the tiered cake would make a good castle—it was hard as rock. She smirked. Mortified guests chuckled uneasily, but when the king laughed, they all laughed and applauded her wit. Then, Penelope said the music was like a lullaby—so boring she was falling asleep. And where did the guests come from—the pig sty, by the smell! The guests laughed louder. Even her mother fell to the princess’s scathing tongue. “You have beautiful teeth—but must you show them all when you smile?”
Her birthday party became the most talked-about event of the season. So scandalous! Did you hear, she even insulted the queen! And the queen laughed! Soon, it became de rigueur to mock all and sundry, as the princess did. The more disdainful and derisive the remarks the better. Sarcasm crept into daily life like fog, slowly, subtly, wrapping its snaking tendrils around everything until courtesy and respect were obliterated.
All that year, it continued. Until the princess’s fourteenth birthday. Dignitaries arrived from neighboring kingdoms for the celebration. Handsome Prince Donnelly of Honestor was the honored guest—she was to be betrothed to him. The finest foods and entertainment were readied. Penelope was coifed, polished, perfumed.
The prince was seated. The crowd hushed to hear the insults Penelope would heap upon him. “Your beauty takes my breath away,” he told her. “Thank you, Prince Donkey. Your odor takes my breath away.” Her lips twisted mockingly. The Sardonians chortled. The visiting dignitaries coughed in embarrassment. “Is that a tablecloth you are wearing?” The Sardonians doubled over with laughter. The king and queen stopped laughing when the prince stood up, tipping his chair to the floor. “I have never been so insulted,” the prince said. “I am the best,” Penelope replied. “Perhaps you deserve a real donkey. Your Sardonic humor befits a barnyard, not a palace.”
“You misunderstand!” the king said. “Compliments like this are Sardonia’s highest praise.”
“Keep your compliments. And your daughter.” Penelope vowed she would never utter another Sardonic word, but too late—Prince Donnelly had stormed out.
“Sorry, Ella. Your hair looks nice.”
“And yours is real.”