by Christina Banks
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Once upon a time there was a princess who was afraid of many things. Princess Jennifearful was afraid of heights and small spaces. She feared penguins, bears, and snow. Some said she was even afraid of her own shadow. But above all else, Princess Jennifearful was afraid of the Ann Sisters who lived in the Meringue Mountains high above the Princess’s peaceful kingdom of Confectioneria.
Because of her great many fears, Princess Jennifearful found the strongest woman in the kingdom to be her companion. Lady Kimburly took care of all the tasks that scared the princess. She would climb to the top of ladders, look for things in dark closets, and kill spiders hiding under the princess’s bed.
Not only did Lady Kimburly have a strong body, but she also had a strong mind. She loved to read. She would often tell Princess Jennifearful tales of adventure and talk about wonderful places that the princess was too scared to visit herself. The princess loved hearing about Cape Custard, the Sherbet Sea, Carmel Canyon, and the dangerous Dark Chocolate Forest.
One day, while Princess Jennifearful sat on the throne petting KitKat, the fluffy white feline that loved to sit beside the crown, and listening to Lady Kimburly read, a Confectionerian was ushered into the princess’s presence.
“Christeeny of the Fruit Growers Guild,” the crier announced before disappearing through the throne room doors once more. The small personage was a commoner, dirty and unkempt.
“Your Royal Highness. Your Ladyship.” The short woman curtsied low to the two women.
“Speak,” Princess Jennifearful encouraged.
“I bring distressing tidings from the Halvah Hills. The great Fondue River no longer flows. The river bed is as dry as graham cracker crumble. Our cherries on the trees and strawberries in the fields are losing their chocolate coating.” The little woman wrung her hands. “Something must be done before the crop goes bad.”
Princess Jennifearful was in shock. How could the mighty river simply dry up? The Fondue River was fed by the Hot Cocoa Springs at the very top of the Meringue Mountains. Had the springs failed? Were the notorious Ann Sisters somehow responsible? Just the thought of the Ann Sisters made Princess Jennifearful quake with dread.
“Worry not, Christeeny of the Fruit Growers Guild,” Lady Kimburly said when the silence had grown too large. “Your princess will bring this situation to right.”
The princess opened her mouth to contradict her compainon’s response, but the tiny commoner was already bowing down at her feet in gratitude.
“Oh thank you. Thank you, Your Highness! The Fruit Growers knew we could trust in you.”
Princess Jennifearful felt their trust was misplaced.
Lady Kimburly helped the woman to her feet and herded her out the door, spouting promises that the princess knew she could never keep.
“Why did you tell her that?” Princess Jennifearful demanded as soon as they were alone again. “You know I can’t put the situation to right.”
“And why not?” Lady Kimburly asked.
“Because I would have to leave the castle.” The princess replied.
“And I can’t do that. Who would take care of KitKat while I was away?” Princess Jennifearful rubbed the kitten under her fluffy white chin. “Besides, no one ventures into the Meringue Mountains.”
“But the mountains are part of your kingdom.” Lady Kimburly reminded the princess. “Remember, without the fruit crop, many of your people will go hungry. Some may even die. As their princess, you have to put away your fear and figure out what is going on.”
“Can’t I just send you?” Princess Jennifearful asked.
“No. The people need to see that their princess is brave enough to stand up for them.”
“But I’m not brave enough.”
“I’ll be right by your side the whole way.”
Sundae morning, Princess Jennifearful mounted her unicorn, Mochaccino, and followed Lady Kimburly out of the castle and down Peanut Brittle Path. They did not stop to rest until they crossed Butterscotch Creek at edge of the Halvah Hills. In the distance, the Meringue Mountains were clearly visible.
So far the trip had been an easy one, but that was all about to change. “We need to get through the Dark Chocolate Forest before nightfall, or we won’t be able to see our way.” Lady Kimburly urged the princess back onto Mochaccino.
Princess Jennifearful hated the dark. “Can’t we just go around the forest?”
“It would take too long.” Lady Kimburly motioned to the chocolate covered cheery trees with the dark red fruit gleaming through the thinning chocolate. “If the Fondue River doesn’t start to flow, the crop will be ruined.”
The princess guided Mochaccino forward and braced herself for the dangers ahead. Having never been this far from the castle, she imagined all kinds of terrible things out in the wood, ready to devour her. Images of wild gummy bears, menacing marzipanzees, and rabid tiramisupials ran through her mind.
The Dark Chocolate Forest was darker than Princess Jennifearful ever imagined. While her limbs quivered with fright, she never stopped until they made it out on the other side. As the setting sun burst through the trees, Princess Jennifearful found herself at the very foot of the Meringue Mountains.
“We’ll stay here tonight.” Lady Kimburly said, sliding off her steed and then helping the princess. Princess Jenifearful did not have the courage to argue.
That night, with the horse and unicorn picketed just outside of the firelight, Lady Kimburly and Princess Jennifearful ate smores and planned for the next day.
“We’ll follow the dry riverbed clear to the top of the mountain, if we have to.” Lady Kimburly said.
“What if we run into the Ann Sisters?” Princess Jennifearful whispered, afraid even the mention of the name would bring the notorious pair into their camp.
“Then you’ll have to face them.”
“Yes, you can.” Lady Kimburly placed a reassuring hand on the princess’s shoulder. “You are stronger and braver than even you realize. Now, get some sleep.”
Princess Jennifearful lay down on her blanket and gazed into the Milky Way. If she didn’t figure out what happened to the Fondue River, her kingdom would be in terrible trouble. She had to save the crops for Christeeny and the Fruit Growers Guild. She couldn’t let her people starve. Her gaze moved to the mountains. If the Ann Sisters were behind the river drying up, they would have to be confronted. Princess Jennifearful owed it to her people.
With a new resolve in her heart, the princess fell into a deep sleep.
The dawn was just breaking with Lady Kimburly woke Princess Jennifearful from her slumber. Cotton candy clouds covered the top of the Meringue Mountains as the two started the trek up the dry riverbed. The steep cliffs of the Caramel Canyon rose on either side as they ventured higher. The chill of cool whip and iced cream hung in the air. Princess Jennifearful shivered. How she disliked the cold.
All too soon, the riverbed narrowed, and boulders blocked the way. Princess Jennifearful followed Lady Kimburly around the boulders and out of the riverbed. The trail became so steep they had to leave their steeds and continue on foot.
As they neared the top of the mountains, Princess Jennifearful noticed the dam raising high out of the riverbed ahead.
“That would explain what happened to the river.” Lady Kimberly said.
The princess and her lady-in-waiting worked their way to the top. The Fondue River had created a lake, and in the center of the lake was an island with a castle. It was the stronghold of the notorious Ann Sisters. Ruthless and Merry were visible on the top of the castle wall.
“I am Jennifearful, Princess of the Realm. I demand you remove this dam at once.” She called across the lake.
“You can’t make us.” Ruthless Ann called back.
“You’ll have to bake us,” Merry Ann’s singsong voice followed.
“Now what?” Princess Jennifearful asked Lady Kimburly.
“Stand back.” Lady Kimburly said, jumping down from the top of the dam to the dry riverbed below. The princess moved to the bank, waiting to see what Lady Kimburly would do.
“What do you think you’re doing?” Ruthless Ann yelled.
“You’ve got my sister stewing,” Merry Ann added.
Princess Jennifearful ignored the sisters and watched with fascination as the strongest woman in the kingdom singlehandedly undermined the structural integrity of the dam. Lady Kimburly ran up riverbank as the dam came crashing down.
Princess Jennifearful started to cheer, but then realized that the Fondue River, fed from the Hot Cocoa Springs, was not flowing down the riverbed. Instead, it stood like a sheer cliff where the dam had been. The princess moved forward and stuck her fingers in. The Fondue River was icy cold.
“It all turned to ice cream,” Ruthless Ann moaned.
“It’s like a terrible dream,” Merry Ann intoned.
“We’re stuck here in the castle,” Ruthless Ann explained.
“It really is a hassle,” Merry Ann exclaimed.
“The lake won’t support our weight,” Ruthless Ann declared.
“Was it something we ate?” Merry Ann despaired.
Princess Jennifearful listened to the sister go on and on, and realized that sometimes things are not as scary as she first believed.
“I think they’ve probably suffered enough from their miscarried plan.” The princess said to Lady Kimburly. “Shall we get some help to dig them out and start the river flowing again?”
Lady Kimburly nodded to the princess and together they started down the dried riverbed to gather all available Confectionerians for the biggest ice cream social in the history of the kingdom.
Subjects from across Confectioneria brought their spoons and dug out the Ann Sister. The Fondue River began to flow, and the citizens of the kingdom related the brave deeds of their princess, who would from that day forward be known as Jennifearless.
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This article is lovingly dedicated to four of the wonderful ladies at my church. Jennifer, Kimberley, Ruth Ann and Mary Ann, thank you for your friendship.