A Simple Fairy Tale (part 3)

The royal pool was actually a grotto, a sort of sea cave. Real grottos are often dark and dangerous places. In a real grotto, mysterious sea creatures with many sharp teeth can bite you at any moment and poison you with some deadly poison no one has ever heard of (and that there is no cure for). You could get pulsing red spots all over your body; your throat could close up, you could bleed from the eyes and die writhing in agony unable to even gasp out your last words. This could happen in a grotto.

But the royal grotto was not like that. It was clean and well-lighted. The water was crystal clear. The bottom was made of light golden sand. And even through there were over twenty thousand species of fish in the ocean (potentially: many bites) the royal grotto only had only two small red newts who didn’t bite at all.

Princess Star began to swim laps. Prince William took the lane next to her and soon they were racing. William was a little miffed that Star had beaten him to the pool so he was trying really hard to win. Princess Star had actually worn her bathing suit under her royal cloak which made changing a breeze. William never thought of that. He just thought she was a fast changer.

Robin wandered in and watched his siblings racing back and forth in the clear, healing waters. Both of them were making fast flip turns in perfect unison (because they’d both been taught by the same royal swim coach). Robin sat and dabbled his feet, watching how the ripples crossed the waves, seeing how the lights from the well-lit grotto sparkled, and keeping an eye out for the small red newts. Robin always brought something for them to snack on, sometimes a chocolate chip cookie, sometimes an almond crisp. The newts never ate them, preferring small bits of vegetation and the occasional tiny, aquatic invertebrate. So Robin usually ate the cookies himself.

The edge of the pool where Robin was sitting was a good example of Eulalian stone work. A red brick, a yellow brick, a black brick. Then the pattern repeated. Robin knew from his studies these were the banded colors of the deadly coral snake. “Red next to yellow will kill a fellow,” as the saying goes. For some reason (on this day, at this particular point in time) these colors were bothering him. Robin found himself wishing the masons had used the pattern of the coral snake’s non-venomous cousin. “Red next to black is a friend of Jack’s,” as the other saying goes.

“I’m going to cover these bricks,” Robin muttered. “I hate these colors.” However, he’d left his towel in the changing room. No need to go back, he thought. I’ll just swipe William’s. He strolled over (casually) to where William had left his towel and scooped it up. Just then he saw one of the newts. “Hold up there, little guy,” said Robin, “I’ll be right back.” He rushed to get the newt a cookie.

Prince William snapped off a turn and took a quick peek just in time to see Prince Robin dashing off with his towel. To make matters worse, Star was now a length and a half ahead. Suddenly William was very angry. “Hey!” he shouted at Robin. “Bring that towel back, you…” he paused to consider his next word and somehow come up with, “…THIEF!”

“Say what?” said Robin, who stopped somewhat shocked. The purloined towel was dangling, he realized, like a white flag of surrender.

“I said, Stop! Thief!” shouted William again, allowing the frustrations of the day to overcome his better nature. William left his lane and swam directly toward his brother.

Robin was normally a kind and gentle youth, but he did have a temper. And being shouted at twice by his (let’s face it) slightly dull-minded elder brother, and being called a scurrilous name (also twice) was just a bit too much. So when William shot out of the pool sending a wave of water ahead of him, Robin shoved the towel into his face and said, “Here! Take it!”

Due to William’s forward motion, the shove had the force of a blow. William’s foot slipped and he went backward into the pool, the towel draped around his head. Star laughed. Robin shrugged. Furious, William rushed at Robin again but as he vaulted from the pool his hands slipped on the wet stones. His forehead crashed down on the bricks with a horrible sound. As Robin and Star watched in horror, William slipped under the water.

“Robin! Get him!” screamed Star.

Robin dove in and grabbed William’s arm, amazed at his brother’s sudden and surprising weight. Robin’s perception degraded into a blurred, vibrational fog. He dimly saw his sister’s hands next to his own. They pulled but William hardly moved. Their feet kicked. Their arms flailed. It seemed to take forever to get their brother’s head above water and get him to the edge of the pool. There they saw, as the watery blood streamed across his face, that William was no longer breathing.

But it’s a Sacred Pool, thought Robin. These are healing waters…

“Get him out!” his sister said. “We’ve got to get him out!”

The water, the sacred water, had turned into a strange and foreign substance, drowning their brother, clinging to him, pulling him deeper and deeper. Star wrapped her arms around William and held on to the edge of the pool. Robin jumped out and seized William’s wrists. Then Star jumped out and together they hauled his body across the red, yellow and black bricks.

“Get Rodney!” yelled Star. She turned her brother’s head and pressed on his chest. Water ran out of his mouth. She angled his body so his head dangled over the edge. Then she held his mouth open and used her knee to press on his chest. More water flowed. All at once, the strong arm of the coachman seized William and lifted his upper body. Star held open William’s mouth. A quart of water drained from his lungs.

“He’s still not breathing,” said Rodney, mostly to himself. “Must be knocked out cold.” He began to perform mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

Star got her towel and pressed it on William’s forehead to staunch the flow of blood. Robin said, “Let’s get him to the coach. We have to get him to the palace.”

“In a minute,” said Rodney, who was to receive knighthood from King Bernardino for his actions that day. “I still don’t like his color.”

He continued to breathe for the future king. After William had turned from pale blue to pale pink they carried him to the coach, laying him across the back seat. Rodney began chest compressions. Robin took over the breathing. Star climbed on to the lead horse and drove the team from there. The two small red newts hid at the bottom of the grotto. The sound of hooves was heard dimly for a few seconds as William’s blood mingled with the sacred waters. The waves in the pool lapped slowly, and stopped. The water grew as clear as glass. All was still again.