‘Love’s Failed Kiss’
Phinn chewed on his pipe while a bobber floated on the still water of a pond. He sat on a rock, half snoozing, jerking awake whenever his fishing pole slipped out of his claws.
On the grass beside him, Blackfeather had surrounded the unconscious princess with plucked flowers. “Look at her,” whispered Blackfeather in awe. “Is she not the most captivating thing you have ever seen? Her hair. Her pale skin. Her delicate fingers, how they clutch her prized mirror! Her eyebrows, arched as if to say… as if to say…”
“…let me sleep,” said Phinn.
“No, that’s not it. There is a… a dare in her expression. ‘Do you dare to do what must be done?’ Yes, your highness, I…”
“I meant, let me sleep,” said Phinn with a sharp-toothed yawn. “You kept me up all night with your princess-stealing.”
“How can you think of slumber when such an adventure is about?” Blackfeather dropped with great drama to his knees beside the princess and tucked her hair behind her ears. “When such a beauty needs aid? Never fear, my lady. Blackfeather is here.” With that, he bent and brushed his lips against hers.
Susie, perched comfortably on Phinn’s nose, tweeted a morning song.
A red-whiskered carp poked its head out of the pond to peer with suspicion at the bobber.
Princess Malene did not stir.
“That’s bizarre,” said Blackfeather, startling Phinn awake. “Something went wrong with the kiss.”
“Like as not, it’s your technique,” said Phinn, making eye contact with the carp. “Kissing is an art. It’s all in the incisors.”
“I weep for troll women.”
“I haven’t yet had a complaint,” said Phinn as he casted again, landing the bait closer to the curious carp. “Come on, now. Heeeere my little breakfast. Take the juicy worm, now.”
“Your provinciality would drain the romance out of any but this exquisite moment,” said Blackfeather, and again he lowered himself to press his lips to Princess Malene’s, lingering longer this time.
Susie ate a fly out of Phinn’s ear.
The carp nibbled the bait.
Phinn snorted awake and yanked up his pole, piercing the carp through its coquelicot-mustachioed lip.
Princess Malene did not stir.
“Preposterous!” cried Blackfeather. He pouted with crossed arms while Phinn reeled in the carp. “Something is wrong with her, because I am the best kisser in this land.”
Phinn raised up his wriggling catch, but Blackfeather was too despondent to admire it. “Maybe she needs to be awake to enjoy it,” offered Phinn.
“That is the point of the kiss,” cried Blackfeather, startling Susie. “To wake her up.”
The carp died.
“Kisses don’t wake up princesses. Who told you that nonsense?” Phinn bit the head off his breakfast and chewed while shaking his head at his friend.
“Of course not. Only the tickle of a seraphim’s feather will wake a sleeping princess. Blue feathers work best.”
Susie nodded in agreement.
“That … that makes so much sense!” Blackfeather sighed with relief. “Why else would my kisses be ineffective? Now, where do we get this famed azure plume?”
“Beats me. Not as many seraphim about as there used to be. Why do you care anyway? I thought we were her kidnappers, not her heroes.”
“We can’t very well collect a bounty on a princess in a coma.”
“Seems you rather like her.”
“Like her? Dear, sweet Phinneas. The crevasse between heroism and villainy is not wide, but it is deep.”
“Take care not to fall in when you jump over, then.” Phinn swallowed the remainder of the carp and, as was his habit after eating anyway, fell again to napping. Once he was sure that Phinn wasn’t watching, Blackfeather took Princess Malene’s hand.
“I shall be the one to tickle you awake, your highness,” he whispered. “I care not where the adventure takes me.”
‘The Forest Witch’
Through the forest Blackfeather, Susie and Phinn journeyed, the slumbering Princess Malene draped over the troll’s shoulders, until they reached a cottage, roundish and squat, with vines overtaking the stones and pleasant-smelling smoke coming from the chimney.
Blackfeather flourished one arm. “At last! We have found the old witch’s cottage!”
“Which witch?” asked Phinn.
“Whichever witch witches in this forest.”
Phinn flung one of the princess’ flopped arms, the mirror clutched in her grasp, back over his shoulder. “Maybe we should leave a forest witch alone.”
“Normally I would, Phinneas, but witches collect magic items. Unless you have the address of a generous seraphim?”
Phinn shrugged, toppling Malene into Blackfeather’s arms. Blackfeather oofed, then rang the doorbell with his nose.
A gray-haired woman dressed in gray answered, drying her hands on her skirt.
“Greetings, old witch!” cried Blackfeather. “I am in dire need of -”
“No,” she said.
“But, dear old witch, I have not yet made my enquiry.”
“Go on then,” she said.
“I am in dire need of an azure plume from the wing of a seraphim,” said Blackfeather.
“No,” she said.
Blackfeather, who had not been told no often enough in his life, wavered. “But I… I have carried this princess across all of the forest…”
“I carried her mostly,” muttered Phinn.
“I figured,” said the witch.
“What reason could you possibly have for refusing us?” asked Blackfeather, flabbergasted.
“You called me old.”
“I didn’t mean old so much as ugly,” whined Blackfeather. “Of course you understand.”
“I do,” said the witch. “Handsome men like you only keep company with beauties.”
“Precisely,” said Blackfeather.
“Like the dead one there,” said the woman.
“Yes… I mean no!” cried Blackfeather. “She is only partly dead. She was poisoned by…”
“…a Hardy Orange thorn,” sighed the witch. “Those moronic mazes.”
“You must help me.” Blackfeather’s eyes filled with tears. “I have never loved as deeply as this.”
“Then don’t wake her up,” said the witch. “Nothing kills a good love story like a conscious woman.”
“You know nothing about love,” said Blackfeather.
“You know nothing of women.” The witch bent to sniff at the princess’ thin exhales, then lifted one limp royal wrist to peer into the mirror. “Within every beautiful princess sleeps a powerful shadow.”
“There is no shadow inside this girl,” said Blackfeather.
“You’re right, but you don’t know why,” said the witch with a wry smile. “Give me the mirror, and I’ll give you the feather.”
“The mirror isn’t ours to give,” said Phinn.
“Done!” oofed Blackfeather with the desperation of a man whose arms are buckling under the dead weight of a princess.
“Come in,” said the witch.
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Read Phinn’s canon lore: