The Princess and the Pea

 

Queen Jennifer yawned and looked over at the next throne where her husband sat. "Simon dear, you know what the doctor said."

He sighed. "Maybe it's something to consider, Jenny. I wouldn't mind going golfing and fish hunting, just like the days when I courted you! And our honeymoon! I never had gone to a honey moon before. Non-stop rides! The perfect carnival for a lovesick bear and his new bride."

"It was really sticky. Who would think the honey factory would explode at the time we were taking our honeymoon? Ah, we could go back and do it again. It would be healthy for you to retire from being king. But who would watch over the kingdom?"

"Nidhiki..." Simon thought for a minute. "That doesn't seem quite right."

Jennifer admired her fingernails. "I know what you mean. He can't do it by himself."

"Maybe we should stay for a while..."

"We can't. You should at least take a break. I'll talk to him, we'll find him a princess, and he'll fall in love..."

"And get married. The kingdom will be saved. If he needs help, we'll be back in a couple months. Perfect idea, darling," Simon smiled. "You always know exactly the thing."

"He hasn't gone outside much since Krekka went to college. This is the perfect opportunity for him to come out of his shell."

Jennifer got up and went to find her son.

[insert photo of Nidhiki's production studio]


Jennifer arrived in Nidhiki's production studio, where he was ordering people around and eating Rolaids out of a bowl.

"No, no! Benny needs to be wearing my Eatable Adjusting Chocolate Bow in the after picture. I won't have it get dirty." Nidhiki cackled to himself. "Double advertising. Sometimes I surprise myself."

"Catch him!" yelled Moonlight, one of the stagehands. "He's getting dirt all over it!"

Flip, another stagehand, tried to get the bow off Benny, but he barked and knocked over the bowl of Rolaids.

"Nidhiki, I need to talk to you for a minute."

Nidhiki brushed the Rolaids off. "Fine, Mom." He turned to a stagehand. "Please clean this up."

Cricket mumbled to herself about not getting a lunch break as she tried to salvage Nidhiki's snack, and the green tycoon left the room with his mother.

"Your father went to the doctor yesterday," she said as they walked down the hallway together. "We've been thinking about you." She paused. "We think it's time you looked for a wife."

"Wife? When would I have time for a wife? I have to oversee the commercials, test the chocolate..."
He looked at Jennifer skeptically. "Why do you want me to get a wife?"

"The doctor said Simon is getting older and should consider retirement. You'll end up being king, and a king must have a queen. A king without a queen is like a commercial without dog shampoo."

Nidhiki ignored her comical tone. "You're right. What's a commercial without dog shampoo? I'll give it a try, Mom."

"Perfect!" Simon jumped out from behind a curtain. "This is my draft of the ad. Look it over, sonny!" He dashed over to his wife. "I won the sweepstakes! We'll be golfing in KittyLand Vacation Station in no time!"

Nidhiki, oblivious to his father's ongoing, nodded to himself as he looked the ad over.

Nidhiki turned the paper over in his claw. "I'll edit it, Dad. Some of your selling points are a bit off."

Relieved, Jenny sighed. "That was easier than I thought it would be. Let's deliver the ad to the newspaper stands around the kingdom. Footman! Get the carriage, please. Come on, Nidhiki."

Pellet, the footman in all his hamster glory, ran up to assist.

The stagehands peeped around the corner. They were covered in dirt and Rolaids from trying to catch Benny. "Uh, Mr. Employer? What are we supposed to do?"

"Keep working on the set. I'll start filming when I get back."

The kitties grumbled and went back to the filming area. "Hey, at least we have some delicious chocolate to snack on!" Flip said brightly.
 

---

The Princess and the Pea

After placing the ad in all the newspapers, Prince Nidhiki and Queen Jennifer headed home. They were passing a forest when they heard a rhythmic thumping.

"What's that?" the queen wondered.

Nidhiki tossed a half-interested glance out the carriage window. Pellet hurried to retrieve it. "It sounds like a rhythmic thumping to me," the prince said.

"Yes, but what's causing it?" Queen Jennifer ordered the carriage to a stop, much to the relief of the exhausted hamster, who was scurrying to catch up. "Pellet," Queen Jennifer said to him, "go see what's causing that sound."

Pellet tucked Nidhiki's half-interested glance into the luggage compartment for safekeeping and scampered into the forest. A few minutes later, he returned. "It's a princess," he squeaked.

"A princess!" the queen repeated. "News sure travels fast. Our first applicant, and we aren't even home yet! Nidhiki, you've got chocolate on your forehead. Clean it up, and we'll go meet her."

Nidhiki rubbed off the chocolate, and they all climbed out of the carriage and entered the forest. There, a blonde doll in a yellow t-shirt and loose red trousers was dancing hip-hop for all the animals.

[insert edited picture of Faith, Nidhiki, Jennifer, and Pellet in a forest]

Nidhiki stared at her, his mouth gaping. Queen Jennifer hoped this was a good sign.

She cleared her throat to get the doll's attention. "Excuse me," she said, "but are you a real princess?"

The princess glanced at her, but didn't stop dancing. "As real as real can be!" she answered. "The real Princess Faith! Not only that, but I'm the greatest hip-hop dancer in the whole wide world, too! See?"

"Why are you dancing without any music?" Prince Nidhiki said.

"Why would the greatest hip-hop dancer in the whole wide world need music?" the princess replied as if it were obvious.

Queen Jennifer whispered to the footman, "Are you quite sure she's a real princess?"

"Quite sure, Your Majesty," Pellet answered. "She told me so herself."

"Hmm." Jennifer shook her head doubtfully. "It's possible the definition of real may have changed. In my day, a princess could dance on the head of a pin without bending a swan's feather. This princess is killing the grass with all her stomping. But other than that," the queen added brightly, "she dances well for the kind of dancing she's doing. At least, I think she is. Nidhiki, what kind of dance is she doing?"

"Hip-hop," the prince replied. "but she obviously won't do. She's noisy, and I can't stand noisy."

"Oh dear, I forgot about that," Queen Jennifer said. "I'm sorry, Princess Faith, but the prince said you won't do."

"Do what?" asked Princess Faith, who hadn't seen the newspaper and really had no idea.

Leaving her to her dancing, they returned to the carriage.

---

Princess Lolly skipped through the field, stopping every couple seconds to pick up her fallen shoe, and stopping every other second to pick up herself. She came to a newsstand that appeared to pop out of the middle of nowhere – or maybe it faded into the middle of nowhere. It didn't matter to Lolly. Either way, she picked up a copy of the local newspaper.

"Fifty percent off! We'll shine your mask with no oil! SAVE THOSE WIDGET$$!!" read the first ad.

Lolly skimmed over a few until she got to a wanted ad. "Looking for a single, beautiful, REAL princess. The prince is a tall, att-ract-ive green Bionicle with a great inclination towards business..."

With a shriek, Lolly dropped the newspaper. Overlooking the fact that the newsstand had turned into a golden fountain and evil laughter echoed loudly through the field, she began to run towards the castle.

"Oh, my prince pudding-filled pie! I knew I'd find you," Lolly yelled as she bumped into several innocent citizens.

She rapped on the castle door repeatedly until the old king answered. "Are you Mat—?" she began, but Simon didn't seem to hear her.

"Are you here to see the prince?"

"I'm ready to marry him! I've been searching for ages. Ever since he left a long time ago saying he had to see his grandmother for his toothache and never came back! I've been looking for two whole weeks, and I'm getting anxious."

"Must be one of his old friends," said the king as he yawned and led the princess to the waiting queen.

He entered the room with Lolly. "She's apparently met the prince before."

Queen Jennifer put her spatula down and greeted the little princess. "You know him? I never knew little Nidhiki had made friends with other royalty."

"Nidhiki?" stuttered Lolly. "Who's that? Am I ever going to get to meet the prince? I'm getting hungry. Is that picture of you? Who was that bear guy who opened the door? Ooooh! Can I have a pancake? I'm not allergic to nuts, flowers, or any other vegetables. I know my ABC'S and all the songs from Strawberry Shortcake."

"Yes, of course he is. You'll meet presently. But first, what may I call you?" Jennifer wiped sweat from her brow and tried to remember if princesses had been so energetic when she was younger.

"Princess Lolita Muffinia Celestia VI. I have blue eyes and I wear my hair in a ponytail because I like to swim. I lost a tooth the other day. Wanna see my tooth?"

"The prince is probably ready now," Queen Jennifer said, remembering she had an appointment with her hairdresser. "I'll call him in." She left.

Nidhiki came in and snapped his claw. "Mom said it was important. I had to stop filming for this. I'm telling you, I won't buy any cookies," he snarled. "Not unless they're chocolate."

"You sure have changed a lot," Lolly said, for once only saying a single sentence.

"You know me? Of course, you do. This is what big business does to a guy." Nidhiki sat comfortably on a chair. "A healthy glow and a better, greener complexion."

"Oooh! It finally explanted! Can I have a free dozen?? I love donuts, and the sprinkle chocolate gluten-free ones are so good. Can I? Pleaaase?"

"Donuts?"

"Matau! Don't act like a celery! You promised me a coupon."

Nidikhi was at a loss for words.

"You also promised me a full tour of the factory and a vacation to Zanzibar for the rest of my life. But then again.." She looked at the picture of Matau she'd been carrying. "You don't look a whole lot like him."
There was a pause. "You're the counterfeit guy who sells chocolate and cheap dog shampoo!"

"Ch-cheap?" Nidhiki's face turned redder that Tahu's. "Listen here, sister! You obviously don't know QUALITY when you see it! Not only did my dog shampoo win Best New Fragrance Enhancer of the Year, it also won Best Christmas Practical Joke Gift of the Decade!"

"HOW DARE YOU PRETEND TO BE MATAU! I'M AN INNOCENT FAIR MAIDEN AND YOU'RE TRYING TO FOOL ME INTO MARRYING YOU WITH YOUR DOG SHAMPOO!" Lolly burst into tears. "I want my lawyer! I'll call the court! You can't make me and you can't fool me with the chocolate! I know it isn't really from Strawberry Land!"

"Fool you? Not only did you confuse me for that ego-filled, green dweeb, but you insulted the best thing ever to hit the market!"

[insert picture of Nidhiki and Lolly mad and Jennifer in doorway with spatula]

Hearing the racket, Jennifer came in to find Lolly in tears and Nidhiki frowning and sitting in the corner.
"Nidhiki, dear, don't sulk. Lolly, why don't you go to the nearest cafι and get something to eat. Here's a coupon," Jennifer said, trying to talk over the tears and angry grunts.

Lolly sniffled. "Thank you, Mrs. Queen. Please don't expect me again. I have to go back to search for my prince." She glared at Nidhiki, tripped over a stool, and proceeded to leave.

There was silence for a few moments. Nidhiki turned to the Queen and shook his head. "Never mind her, Mom. She's not a real princess."
 

---

Meanwhile, far away, in the northern Land of Nofish, a royal family was in mourning.

"Whatever shall we do?!" Queen Pink Custard placed her paw over her heart and looked wistfully into the distance.

"I know what you mean, darling." King Spunky nodded vigorously. "This just can't go on!" He slammed his paw on a random table. "We must put an end to it!" He went on, "I don't know what your great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandmother was thinking" – He slammed his paw on the table on every 'great' for emphasis – "when she founded her legacy of cats in a landlocked land with no fish!"

Pink Custard sniffled. "Y-you know as well as I do, honey." Tears ran down her face, and she wiped them away with a purple handkerchief. "I-i-it was because..." Pink Custard burst into a waterfall of tears and wailed, "Sh-sh-she was allergic to fish!"

King Spunky frowned. "Well, that certainly would do it." He jumped up and slapped the table. "But we must end this famine!" Spunky beckoned to a small white mouse. "Cheesecake, call my daughters in."

"And our son," Pink Custard added.

"Yes, Your Majesties." Cheesecake obeyed and ran off.

 

Some time later, the Princesses of Nofish and their brother filed in. First came the eldest, Dolores, and then Denise and her twin bestie Titania, and then Crystal. Hello Kitty Cow Kitty Sonic Douglas trotted in with the other set of twins, Charlie Marshmallow (the prince) and Cherish S'more. Chic pranced in and behind her Sweetie carrying a pillow on which Dreamer was sleeping. Finally, Marmalade, Ribbon, and the youngest, Purry, entered. All twelve of the Nofish princesses and the one prince sat on their thrones, which made a half-circle around the King and Queen.

[insert picture of cats sitting in half-circle]

"You called, father?" all the daughters and the son chorused, except for Dreamer.

"Yes, girls," Spunky looked at Charlie. "And boy."

Pink Custard wiped away her tears. "This is important, darlings. You too, Dreamer."

"Zeebraazzzzzz," Dreamer muttered and rolled over.

Spunky whapped the table. "Get up, Dreamer!"

"EH?!" Dreamer bolted up. "I wasn't sleeping, not me!"

Her sisters giggled. Charlie asked, "What's the matter, parents dear?"

Pink Custard blew her nose. "You know how we don't have any fish because of your great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandmother?" She didn't wait for an answer. "And how we're starving because of it?"

Denise moaned and Titania burst into tears. "Don't remind us, Mom!"

Marmalade stood up in protest. "But we're not starving, Mother dear. We have plenty of food."

"Like graham crackers," Cherish suggested.

"And marshmallows, " Charlie added.

"And chocolate," Sonic said, licking her lips.

"Especially chocolate!" Chic fluttered her purse-handle wings. "Why, you can't have Chic La Best -- that's me -- without chocolate. It's like --"

"ROLAIDS!" Dreamer screamed. "DON'T FORGET THE ROLAIDS!"

"You see, Mom, we have plenty of food. Why would we need fish?"

Denise drooled, and Titania mopped it and her own drool up. "Because it's possibly the best food ever!"

"Don't drool, dear, it's not ladylike," instructed Pink Custard as she wiped her mouth on her hanky.

"Exactly!" said Spunky. "We need fish! But where would we get enough to last for the rest of the kingdom's lifetime?"

Just then Carrot the mailman hopped in. "The Sardine Times is here!" He dumped the pile of newspapers in front of the princesses and hopped off.

All paws were on The Sardine Times. Marmalade was reading the daily story. Dreamer had read it already and was sleeping on it. Titania and Denise were drooling over the luscious pictures of fish on the cover. The King was coloring in the daily coloring page while the Queen was reading the wanted ads to herself, particularly a full-colored one.

Spunky yawned as he decorated a shark with purple flowers. "What do people want today, dear?"

Pink Custard read aloud, "Looking for a single, beautiful, real princess. The prince is a tall, attractive, green Bionicle with a great inclination towards business." She stopped and blew her nose on her hanky.

Spunky slid to the edge of his seat and peered over Pink Custard's shoulder. "Tall, attractive, green Bionicle...." He looked at his wife. "Are you thinking what I'm thinking?"
 

---

"Tall?" Purry squealed.

"Attractive?" Dolores sighed.

"Green?" Dreamer daydreamed.

"A Bionicle?!" Sonic wrinkled her nose. "Ee-yuck!

"Sounds like the Prince of Kingdom." Spunky urged, "Read on, Pinkie, dear."

So she read the ad, including the fine print at the end, "'...and must be 100% Necktie approved.'"

Spunky jumped out of his seat. "NECKTIE?!" He started squealing and slamming all four feet on the table. "This is perfect, perfect, perfect!"

Pink Custard wiped away a tear. "Couldn't be better." She blew her nose on her soaked hanky.

"What's so important about this Necktie character?" Denise asked.

"Well, Didi, he's the Prince of Kingdom. And everyone knows that Kingdom has unlimited amounts of fish!" Pink Custard broke into tears. Cheesecake handed her a clean hanky. "And Necktie is looking for a princess, which we have plenty of and --" She soaked the new hanky and flooded her slippers with tears.

"If one of you girls would go and marry Necktie, then we could have all the fish we could ever want!" Spunky finished.

The girls looked at each other. "Who would want to marry to a Bionicle?" Sonic asked. "Ee-yuck!"

Dolores sighed. "I would." She whipped out her wallet and flipped through photos. "But I already have Ted, Bob, and Tim!"

"Does the soon-to-be wife of Necktie get any extra perks?" Marmalade asked.

"Well..." Pink Custard wiped her nose with a clean hanky. "She'd get all the fish she could ever want."

"Plus a tall, attractive, green Bionicle with a great inclination towards business." Spunky thought for a moment. "He's the founder of the Nidhiki Dog Shampoo company."

"What's Nid-hee-kee?" Purry asked, stumbling over the word.

"I think it's another name for the stock market," Ribbon said knowledgeably. "You know, the place where you buy cattle?"

Purry thought for a moment. "But why would you name a dog shampoo --"

"You could get a lifetime supply of dog shampoo, too!" Spunky interrupted.

Sonic wrinkled her nose. "A Bionicle and dog shampoo in exchange for fish and my relationship status. Great."

Dolores sighed. "He certainly sounds great, Sonic, but I already have --"

"WE KNOW!"

A moment of silence sat on the conversation. Spunky pushed it off and said, "Your paw in marriage for a tall, attractive, green Bionicle with a great inclination towards business, a lifetime supply of dog shampoo, and – this is the best part -- fish for the entire kingdom! Double for the wife of Necktie. Who wants it?"

Denise jumped up. "My collar's green and I love fish! I'll go!"

Titania sniffled. "But..."

Denise sat down and wrapped her arm around Titania. "I'll make sure you get as much fish as you want, Titi."

The air was filled with "but-what-about-me's."

"Okay, okay. You guys, too." Denise looked around at her family. "All of you. I'm doing it for you." She stood up proudly. "And my kingdom."

"All right, darling." Pink Custard dried her thoroughly wet eyes. "You'd better go p-p-p...." Tears flooded down and soaked Pink Custard's third hanky.

"Pack? Of course, Mother." Denise smiled at her family. "I'll miss you all, but it'll be worth it when I come home with a Bionicle husband" – Here Sonic made a barfing noise -- "And all the fish you could dream of!"

Everyone clapped. Denise curtsied, stubbed her toe on the floor, and left to pack.
 

 

An hour later, King Spunky, Queen Pink Custard, and their eleven daughters and one son hugged the second-oldest goodbye as she prepared to leave on her long journey to Kingdom.

"I'll miss you," Denise murmured in twelve siblings' ears. To Titania, she said, "Goodbye, my best-friend-and-twin-forever-and-ever!" Titania responded with many types of tears, mostly sadness, but also joy at the thought of the fish.

Pink Custard cried and cried again when Denise hugged her. "Oh, Didi, did you remember your underwear? And your socks? And the money?"

"Yes, Mom." Denise jingled the money bag and hurried along to her father. She wrapped her arms around King Spunky and murmured, "Goodbye, Daddy."

After their hug, Spunky pulled the newspaper out of his pocket. "You'd better take this along with you." He rolled up the paper and handed it to Denise. "In case they ask why you're there."

Denise smiled. "Certainly." Then she took the paper in her arm, slung the money over her shoulder, and took off for Kingdom.

---

Knock-knock-knock.

Simon the king fixed his royal crown, straightened his royal bowtie, and opened the door.

"Who is it?" he asked in the deepest voice a teddy bear can muster.

On the other side of the door stood a chubby white cat dressed in a white-polka-dotted purple dress, holding a rolled-up newspaper in one paw and a giant can of something in the other.

"Hermffgggmmble," the cat greeted.

"Hello to you as well." Queen Jennifer curtsied. "What is your business here?"

The cat swallowed. "Umm.." She nestled the giant can under her arm and struggled to unroll the paper. She looked at the queen awkwardly, and continued to struggle with the paper and the can.

Simon offered helpfully, "Perhaps you should set the can down?"

"Why, that's a great idea. Thanks, Mr. Doorman." The kitty set the can down at her feet and opened the rolled paper. "I saw your ad in the paper, Mr. Necktie. I've come to answer it."

The queen looked at her husband, and then back at the cat. "Who's Mr. Necktie?"

"Err, I mean Prince Necktie. I'm Princess Denise White -- you can call me Didi -- and I've come from the northern Land of Nofish for his claw in marriage." Didi smiled and attempted to curtsy, but only succeeded in stubbing her foot on the can.

The queen's son approached the door and peered out. "Who's that, Mom?"

"I'm Princess Denise White of the Land of Nofish," Didi introduced herself and stubbed her toe again. "I'd like to speak to Prince Necktie about his ad in The Sardine Times." Didi looked up from her poor toe. "Oh, hi, Prince Necktie."

The queen's son blinked. "I-I think you mean, Prince Nidhiki, Miss White."

Didi smiled. "My apologies."

The queen took Nidhiki aside and whispered, "She's perfect! She curtsies so gracefully, she actually brought the ad, and she even came packed in a practical, but not flashy can! It's even labeled with a pretty picture of a fish! She's the one, Nidhiki!"

Nidhiki looked back at Didi, who was reaching inside the can and pulling something out. "I don't know, Mom..."

Suddenly the door slammed shut. "Whoops!" Simon reached up and opened the door again. "Maybe I shouldn't be eating honey on the job."

The queen and her son returned to the door. "Well, Miss White, we've decided --"

There, outside, Didi stood with a large sardine in her paws, with the head stuffed in her mouth. "IcanmarryNecktie?!" She shoved the entire thing into her mouth and shouted, "Ohmyhshbrgleglrbsdmsdfdsishmdff!"

The queen looked away in disgust. Nidhiki wrinkled whatever he uses for smelling and whispered to Jennifer, "She smells like fish, Mom."

Queen Jennifer was led away by a servant and given smelling-salts while Simon politely dismissed Didi, closed the door, and called for the Febreze.
 

---


Tzzzz-ttzzzzhhccc-cccccchh

Princess Alexis of Hoofleboofle struggled to pull the bow across her violin strings as she stepped around a cactus, narrowly missing its prickly spikes.

Zzzzhhhttcchhhsshhhchooooo--

A newspaper blew by and wrapped around Alexis' face. The bow dropped into the sand, followed shortly by the violin.

"Hey!" Alexis pulled the paper off. "What's this?" Then she saw it: A full-color ad sprung out of the page at her. The swirly golden letters proclaimed,

"Looking for a single, beautiful, real princess. The prince is a tall, attractive, green Bionicle with a great inclination towards business." There was a picture of dog shampoo, and then the ad continued, "To qualify as real, the princess must be a talented musician, a wonderful skipper, a dainty eater, and a graceful dancer."

And underneath in fine print, "Must be 100% Nidhiki approved."

Alexis looked off into the hazy sky. "I don't care much for marrying a Bionicle, but I'd love to perform for royalty." She sighed. "That's sure to win me some fame."

She tucked the newspaper into her violin case, picked up her bow and violin, and headed towards the castle, with the sound of cats being stepped on by elephants behind her.

---

"Princess Elena Kat of Lollipoppins!" The royal announcer screamed into his horn.

Elena stepped out of the carriage, dressed in a pink princess dress and a pink coat trimmed with white fur. Pink beads decorated her neck and shoulders and a pink ribbon adorned her hair. A fluffy white poodle, also wearing pink ribbons, followed her.

"Thank you, thank you!" Elena smiled and waved to the imaginary crowds on either side of her.


She picked up Muff-muff, the poodle, and hopped down the snowy mountain in her pink shoes, which were on her feet. Then she set Muff-muff on her head, and sang to the world in a hoarse voice,

"Never forget
your parachute, kids
otherwise you will DIIIIIIIIIIIIIIEEEE!!!!"

And then with a mighty leap, she went flying down the mountain. Her dress flared out behind her, and her jewelry tinkled with a celestial sound. Muff-muff tried to escape, but Elena had a firm hold on all four legs. As they fell down down down, Elena screeched in song,

"THIS IS REALLY
EXASPARATIIIIIIIIIINNGGG--"

"That doesn't sound right," Elena pondered, and started again,

"THIS IS REALLY
EXHIBITIIIIIINGG--"

"That sounds even worse." So she opened her mouth again and sang out,

"THIS IS REALLY
EXHUBER---"

A newspaper flew into her mouth, and she gagged. "Harfharfharf," she coughed, and letting go of Muff-muff, reached in to take the newspaper out.

She had grabbed hold of it and was about to pull out the soggy thing when THUMP! she landed on the ground. Muff-muff landed beside her, yowled, and then ran off whimpering.

"Muff-muff, you little --" Elena began, but had to stop to get the newspaper out of her mouth.

Elena took a look at the soggy wet ball and was about to toss it aside when she spotted a full-colored ad. She unrolled the ball and smoothed it out on the snow, where it froze into a solid ice block. She squinted through the ice, and read the ad aloud, "Looking for a single, something, real princess. The prince is a tall, green something, something-or-other with a great something towards bus-ee-ness." She looked up. "What's bus-ee-ness?" She shrugged and continued, "To something as real, the princess must be a something musician--"

Elena screamed. "I CAN SING!" She stood up and straightened her crown, picked up the ice block, and raced off to the castle singing,

"I'm gonna marry
A tall green something
What a great DAAAAAAAAY!"
 

---

The Twin Princesses, Light and Charcoal of Duplicate, sat on their twin hammocks reading twin newspapers.

[insert picture of Twin Kitties on hammocks with papers]


"Listen to this, Charcoal." Light giggled and read, "The Dairy King! Who's the Dairy King? He's a cow who gives milk fit for a king! His milk is pure white, pure organic, and pure milk, all for just $3,400,800! Expensive, I know, but it's worth it! Call now and receive --"

"That's boring, sis," Charcoal interrupted. "Listen to this one instead." She began, "Looking for a single, beautiful, real princess. The prince is a tall, attractive, green Bionicle with a great inclination towards business. To qualify as real, the princess must be a talented musician, a wonderful skipper, a dainty eater, and a graceful dancer. Call now, and you could be the wife of a business tycoon, charming prince, and the owner of the best dog shampoo company in the world!"

Light laughed. "Sounds pretty tempting."

Charcoal thought for a moment. "Maybe we should go. But do we qualify?"

Light nodded. "We're amazing on the maracas, you dance ballet while eating, and I can do the polka. Plus we really are princesses. It's perfect."

"Alright, let's go." Charcoal got up from her hammock and tucked the ad away while Light ran for the maracas.

---

King Simon peered out the door. "Oh, here comes a fetching doll, son. She's got blonde curls, red lips, and a violin case jutting out of her stomach."

"Sounds great, Dad," Nidhiki answered absently as he reread the label of his dog shampoo for the fiftieth time.

Queen Jennifer laid a hand on Nidhiki's shoulder. "Honey, he said there's a girl coming. Maybe she's the one!"

"Okay." Nidhiki turned the bottle and read the ingredients label for the hundredth time.

"It's a princess, Nidhiki!"

Nidhiki sighed. "Dad, let her in."

Simon nodded and opened the door. "Come in!" he commanded.

Two blonde dolls stepped into the castle.

"I thought you said there was only one, Dad."

Simon nodded. "There is. She's got blonde curls and--" He took a look at the guests. "And black fur?"

The Queen moaned. "Now there's four of them!"

Simon jumped up and slammed the door. "I'll stop more from coming!"

Nidhiki sat in his chair, holding the dog shampoo and looking at the guests. The tall curly-haired one stepped forward and said, "I'm Princess Alexis of Hoofleboofle and I play the violin, and I don't know who these other people are!"

The second doll, clad in a pink dress and many pink jewels, asked, "What's happening? Who am I? Where are you? Why is everything so warm? Why am I -- ACHOO!"

Meanwhile, the two cats sat quietly side-by-side. One was light gray and fluffy, and the other looked exactly like her except she was black. They each held a set of maracas.

[insert picture of princesses]


Nidhiki looked at them. "And you are?"

"We're the Twin Princesses from Duplicate." The gray one, named Light, answered.

"Why are you here?" Jennifer asked.

"We saw your ad." The dark one, called Charcoal, held up the newspaper.

"Hey! I did too!" Alexis waved her newspaper.

"Me too!" Elena held up the chunk of ice. "What is it? Why did you put it in the paper? Why is mine frozen? Why am I about to sing?" And she broke into song,

"You have newspapers
and I do too but mine's cold
and as blue as stew
and I'm gonna SIIIIIIIIIING
lalala- laalalala lalaaa"

"Hey, what about my music skills?" Alexis shrieked and she began to play The Star Spangled Banner on her violin,

"BZZZVTTTHHSHHHCCHTTSSHHVVVBBBBB"

Light and Charcoal didn't say anything, but they began to rattle their maracas. "bibibibibibibibibibibibibibibibibibibibi"

Simon shrunk against the door and covered his ears. Queen Jennifer looked confused, and Nidhiki read his dog shampoo label for the ten thousandth time.

"Lalalala-laaaalalalalalalaa..." Elena sang.

"BZZZZZZZZVVVVVVVVTTTTTTTTTTTTTTHHHHHHSSSHHHHH," Alexis played.

"Bibibibibibibibibibibibibibibibibibi," the Twin Princesses rattled.

Finally, Nidhiki yelled, "NONE OF THEM ARE REAL PRINCESSES, MOM!"

The Queen sighed and politely dismissed the musicians. "It's such a shame," she said later. "We could have used the entertainment."


---


BOOM! CRASH!

Tap, tap, tap.

Draped in his plain white bathrobe and favorite plain white pajamas, fuzzy brown King Simon shuffled across the hallway in his plain white bedroom slippers as another thunder rumbled the castle.

"Tap, tap, tap," sounded again at the front door. "Tap, tap, tap."

"I'm coming, I'm coming," he said. "Now who would be out on a night like this?"

BOOOOMMMMMM!!!!! Rumble, rumble, rumble....

Grasping the doorknob, he gave it a firm tug and the huge wooden door glided open. Under the entry canopy stood a dripping doll.

"Hi!" she exclaimed.

She was about the same height as himself, and she pumped his paw up and down as if it were a water pump and she hadn't had a drink in weeks. But that couldn't be because she was drenched from head to foot and rain still poured in around her, splattering King Simon's plain white pajama bottoms.

"Hi! Mommy says I'm a princess! I'm Princess Margaret! I like being a princess. I play Princess in the Castle with my..."

As she spoke, King Simon guided her into the dry castle. She was a slender doll with smooth, vinyl skin. He was a chubby, fluffy brown bear. Her blue eyes widened as she looked at him. "Are you a real king?"

"I am," he answered in his most kingly voice. "Welcome to the castle, Princess Margaret. Are you here for the advertisement?"

"Advertisement! I love advertisements! It's such a funny word! Advertize, adver--" She squeezed his paw and again her blue eyes looked at him intently. "Will you be my friend, Real King?"

Flattered that she recognized him as the king, he smiled. "Yes, I think I'd like that. You're a very smart little dolly."

"Oh, my friend, my friend!" Still holding his paw, she began dancing around him. "I love my friends! I love my friends! I love my friendly friends! Do you like games? I love games! I play lots of games with my friends! We can play games together!"

King Simon pulled a long rope that rang a bell. "I'm partial to Pac-Man myself."

"Oh, Pac-Man! I love Pac-Man! And Princess in the Castle and Chicken in the City and..." As she was listing her favorite games, a shaggy tan dog came bounding down the hallway.

"Ah, Crunchy-crunch Crunch-crunch," said the king. "There you are. Princess Margaret is here in answer to the prince's advertisement."

"Oh! A doggy!" The princess dropped to her knees and began rubbing Crunchy-crunch Crunch-crunch's ears. "I love doggies! What a good little doggy! We can be such good friends, little doggie!" Crunchy-crunch Crunch-crunch rolled onto his back, and she scratched his stomach. "We can play games together! Fun games! Really fun games!"


"Please show Princess Margaret to one of the east wing guest chambers," the king said. "When this storm clears, there should be a beautiful sunrise tomorrow."

Crunchy-crunch Crunch-crunch rose to his feet and shook himself.

"Sunrise! I love sunrise! Sunrise comes right after night and night comes right after sunset and sunset comes right after day and day comes right after..." The princess's voice echoed away as she followed Crunchy-crunch Crunch-crunch down the hallway.

The king sighed.

Prince Nidhiki's feet clattered across the polished floor. "Who's that? Another princess?"

"Yes. Princess Margaret. I forgot where she's from. Strange how she didn't have any luggage. I wonder how she got here? She seems a sweet little thing. Talkative. You like talkative. You should like her."

"I hate talkative."

"Now, Nidhiki," his mother said, coming up behind him. "Don't judge too soon. She might have other qualities you like."

"She likes friends and games," the king said brightly. "You like friends and games."

"The only thing I like is my dog shampoo," Nidhiki replied. "I love my dog shampoo! I love it more than anything in the world! Than anything in the UNIVERSE!" On the word "universe," a bolt of lightning struck and thunder boomed and crackled. "Except maybe for chocolate and Rolaids. I like those too... But not as much as I love my DOG SHAMPOO!" On the words "dog shampoo," thunder rumbled again.

"Perhaps Princess Margaret likes dog shampoo, too," the queen said, who thought nothing odd about all this thundering accompanying her son's speech. "Though really, Nidhiki, when you added in the Rolaids, it took the punch out of your sentence."

"I don't like punch," said Nidhiki.

"She likes dogs," the king said a moment later.

"I hate dogs," Nidhiki said.

"You don't hate Crunchy."

"Or Benny," said his mother.

Nidhiki raised his Bionicle equivalent of a chin. "Crunchy-crunch Crunch-crunch isn't a dog. He's a valet. And my relationship with Benny is strictly business."

The king glanced out the window and into the garden. "Well, they both like Princess Margaret. Look at them out there, romping around together in the dark in the pouring rain. You know how Crunchy adores getting zapped in electrical storms. I'm sure he wouldn't have taken to Princess Margaret so quickly if she weren't a real princess."

"You can't trust a dog to know a real princess, Dad. But not to worry. By morning we'll know if she's real or not, after Mom puts her through The Real Princess Test."

Queen Jennifer blinked at him. "The what?"

"Oh, you know, Mom. I'll leave it up to you. I've got a business empire to oversee." With a nod, he clickity-clacked away.

The queen turned to the king. "What's The Real Princess Test?"

"I suppose it's --" He rubbed his furry chin. "I suppose we could always... Google it?"

 

---

Princess Margaret hippity-hoppitied through the puddles. "I'm a little bunny, a furry little bunny," she sang. Behind her romped Crunchy-crunch Crunch-crunch, Benny, and a dozen assorted doggies, bunnies, and kitties. Above, birds hopped from branch-to-branch and chirped along with her. Even the thunder boomed along and the rain kept time with her song. As she came to the outskirts of the garden, she met another doll who was also hippity-hoppying.

"Oh!" said Princess Margaret. "Another friend! What's your name?"

The other doll, also soaking wet, danced up to her. "I'm Princess Faith, and I'm the greatest hip-hop dancer in the whole wide world!"

"Do you ever play bunny?" Margaret asked.

"I love to play bunny! I'm the best bunny player in the whole wide world!"

"Oh goody! Will you play with me and my friends?"

Faith hopped from one leg to the other. "I'd love to!"

And together they all hopped in the rain in the very wet and slippery garden.

---

Meanwhile, the king and queen sat in front of their computer, reading their search results. "According to this," the queen read, "The Real Princess Test can be interpreted as 'the soul-longing of a prince in search of one like himself. One who is authentic and who understands him. The Real Princess Test should never be mistaken for a search for perfection, but is rather the need for an undefined virtue, essential to happiness.'"

The king squinted at the screen. "The what?"

"That's what it says." The queen scanned down the page, then continued, "'While The Real Princess Test appears to insulate a princess from reality, she in fact feels her experience intensely. Despite layers and layers of social expectation, only a real princess is capable of feeling the nugget of the essential so directly.'"

Queen Jennifer sat back and stared at the screen. She opened her mouth and closed it.

"What does that mean?" the king asked.

"I haven't the foggiest idea. But it seems what we have to do is... Insulate the princess from a nugget?"

King Simon blinked his black eyes. "You mean we have to wrap her in blankets?"

"Blankets? Yes, blankets. No, not blankets." She thought a moment. "I have it. Feather beds."

"Feather beds?"

"Yes!" Queen Jennifer nodded vigorously. "We must place the essential under Princess Margaret's mattress, then layer it with layers and layers of feather beds because of the social expectation of sleeping in comfort. Hundreds of feather beds to insulate her. And if she feels the essential reality, we'll know she's a real princess."

"Do we have hundreds of feather beds?" the king wondered as Queen Jennifer rang the bell. A moment later their faithful valet appeared. Fortunately, the thoughtful canine had taken time to shake and dry himself before entering the room.

"Crunchy," the queen said. "Please collect every feather bed in the palace and take them to... Where's Princess Margaret?"

"With the squirrels, Your Majesty."

"Squirrels?"

"Yes. When you rang, we were in the garden playing bunny with the squirrels."

"Ah, that's a good thing then. While the princess is occupied, please collect all the feather beds you can find and take them to her room." She thought for another moment, and then added to herself, "I didn't know squirrels like to play bunny."

Crunchy-crunch Crunch-crunch bowed and left.

"What about the essential?" the king asked.

Queen Jennifer shook her head thoughtfully. "I can only think of one thing."

---

Princess Margaret and Princess Faith both paused in their dance.

"I smell fish," Faith said.

"I do, too," said Margaret. "I like fish! It's coming from behind that tree."

Faith peeked around the tree. A white cat in a purple polka dot dress was seated under the tree, stuffing fish into her mouth. "Oh, hi," she said when she saw Faith. Actually, Faith thought it was "Oh, hi." But with a mouth full of fish, it sounded more like "Ooiii."

"Who are you?" Faith asked.

[insert picture of Didi, Margaret, and Faith outside by tree]

As the cat swallowed, Margaret came around the tree. "A kitty! I love kitties! Will you be my friend, little kitty?"

"I'm Princess Denise White of the northern Land of Nofish, but you can call me Didi," said the cat. "I came in answer to Necktie's ad, but he sent me away. So I'm eating all the fish I can before I go back." She sighed deeply. A tear dribbled down her cheek and melted in with the rain. "We don't have any fish in the Land of Nofish," she sniffled. "I love fish."

"I love fish, too!" Margaret exclaimed. "Let's play the fishie game! Fishie! Fishie! Fishie game!"

"How do you play?" Didi asked before shoving more fish into her mouth.

"Does it involve water?" Faith asked, brushing the rain from her face. "Because I do not want to get wet."

"We get pretend wet!" Margaret said. "And we eat all the fish we want!"

"Then I'll play," said Faith.

"Sounds like my kind of game." said Didi around her mouthful of fish. "Count me in!"

---

[insert picture of Simon, Jennifer, and Crunchy by huge pile of pillows]


The feather beds reached nearly to the ceiling. King Simon scratched his head and wondered whether the princess would be able to squeeze herself in. "She is small," he reasoned.

As Crunchy-crunch Crunch-crunch set a ladder alongside the mountainous preparations, Queen Jennifer read the bottle she held. "Nidhiki's Dog Shampoo. Sweet Pea Scent with essential oils. For squeaky clean dogs. Well, the prince can't get more essential than that."

"True," the king said. "He wouldn't give us his foot. He insisted he needed it to walk. Seems to me a foot would be more essential to a prince than a bottle of dog shampoo."

"Only to an ordinary prince, dear. Our son is special." Dropping to her knees, the queen shoved the bottle as far under the mattress as she could reach. "If Princess Margaret can't feel this nugget through these layers and layers of socially expected feather beds, we'll know she's not a real princess."

"I hope she is," the king remarked. "I like her."

"I like her, too. I wonder where she is?"

---


The three princesses, still dripping wet from the rain outside, pretended to swim through the castle corridors. "Oh, I'm a fishie, a wet little fishie," Margaret sang. Faith pretended to catch a fish and eat it.

Didi ate a real fish. "I like this game! I could play it everyday!"

"I like being your friend, too!" Margaret said, giving Didi a big hug. "We'll be friends forever and ever!"

From up the corridor, a brutal, bloodcurdling screech echoed. Didi covered her ears. "Eek! A cat has its tail twisted in a fish boning machine! And I should know what that sounds like!"

"Poor kitty!" Margaret cried.

"We must help her!" said Faith.

The three princesses ran up the corridor. The screeches grew louder, and now they were accompanied by a new sound – an ear piercing wail.

"Oh, I hope we're not too late!" said Faith.

The noises were coming from behind a door. Faith threw the door open. "Where's the kitty in trouble?!"

Two kitties shaking maracas looked at her. "Meow?" said one. Next to them stood a tall princess with blonde curls. To her chin she held a violin, and the screeches came from the bow she ran across the strings. Beside her, another princess in pink was bellowing at the top of her lungs. A fluffy white poodle ran around her, yipping along with the maracas.

Margaret jumped up and down. "It's a party! Oh, can we play, too?"

"I can sing!" said Didi. "La-la-la-la-la!"

"Me, too!" cried Princess Elena of Lollipoppins. And she broke into song,

"I'm Elena of Lollipoppins
I got rejected like a dirty moppins
and it's sad because I can SIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIING!"

Faith picked up the poodle and began dancing around the room. "And I'm the greatest hip-hop dancer in the entire world! Hip-hop! Hip-hip-hop!"

"I can dance ballet!" Light pointed at her twin, Charcoal. "And she can do the polka!"

Charcoal muttered, "Do they need to know that, sis?"

"BZVTTTHCCHTTSSHHVVV," screeched Princess Alexis of Hoofleboofle's violin.

[insert picture of Faith dancing with poodle with as many musicians as possible in background]

They made so much noise and had so much fun, they didn't hear the knocking at the door. It opened a crack and Crunchy-crunch Crunch-crunch peeked in. "Excuse me, Princess Margaret, but your room is ready."

"Yay! We can move our party to my room!"

They all danced down the hallway to the princess's room. Crunchy-crunch Crunch-crunch opened the door, and they all stopped short when they saw the monstrosity of a bed.

"Ooooo!" Margaret said. "We can play mountain climber!"

The other dolls and kitties cheered. Crunchy-crunch Crunch-crunch threw open the French doors and all the garden animals fluttered and skittered into the room. Margaret found the bathroom with an enormously, really big, built-in bathtub and immediately put in the stopper and turned the water on full blast.

"We can play lake!" she said.

"I don't want to get wet," Faith reminded her – just in case Margaret was thinking of flooding the entire room.

"Here," said Crunchy-crunch Crunch-crunch, opening a cupboard to reveal Nidhiki's ever-ready stash of dog shampoo. "Let's play bubble bath."

"I love bubble bath!" Opening a bottle, Margaret dumped the entire contents into the tub. She reached for another bottle, but Crunchy-crunch Crunch-crunch stopped her.

"Prince Nidhiki may not like us using all his dog shampoo at one time."

"Then the last one in is a dry noodle!" Margaret exclaimed, and one by one they all dived into the tub.

In the bedroom, the other princesses were dancing atop Margaret's mountain of feather beds. Some of the feather beds had slid to the floor, and the animals who weren't in the tub were using them as a dance stage.

Opening cupboard doors, Didi found a huge pile of sardines. "Wow! Princess Margaret sure knows how to party! If Prince Nidhiki marries her, I'm going to live here forever!"

The others agreed. "Kingdom is the best kingdom ever!"

[insert picture Didi in front of cupboard filled with sardines]


Three levels above in another wing of the castle, Queen Jennifer snuggled under her covers and turned out the light. "I hope Princess Margaret is sleeping well. Or not sleeping well. I hope she can feel the essential through all the layers and layers of social expectation," she said decisively.

With a yawn, King Simon rolled over. "Me, too. It will be nice to finally have a daughter-in-law."

---

As a servant rolled in a cart with several covered dishes, Prince Nidhiki entered the breakfast room and took his seat at the table. "It appears Princess Margaret is sleeping in," he said with a smirk. "Guess she failed the test."

"Don't jump to conclusions," his mother said. She gave Simon a look. "Perhaps she's lost herself in the halls? It is a large castle."

"Perhaps." The king arose and tugged the bell pull. "I'll send Crunchy to look for her."

They waited several minutes as the servant arranged the covered dishes on the table.

"I wonder where he is?" the king said.

"Excuse me, Your Majesty, but he wasn't at breakfast this morning," the servant said. "No one's seen him all morning."

"Maybe we should check on the princess ourselves?" the queen suggested as the king marveled at their valet's disappearance.

"Maybe she's left as mysteriously as she arrived." Nidhiki uncovered a dish and helped himself. "And took Crunchy-Crunch Crunch-Crunch with her."

Simon lifted the honey pot. "Nidhiki may be right," he said as he poured honey into his bowl. "Or she might still be sleeping."

Setting aside her napkin, the queen rose with a decisive air. "Well, I'm going to check on her. You come, too," she added as Nidhiki uncovered another dish.

"My breakfast will get cold."

"She's your potential wife. Don't you want to know if she felt the soul-longing of your essential through layers and layers of expectations and authentically understands you?"

Nidhiki blinked at her. "The who-what's-it?"

King Simon placed a cover over his dish of honey. "I'll come with you, my dear."

[insert photo of Simon and Jennifer standing in doorway of room covered with pillows and sleeping toys]


The door to Princess Margaret's guest chamber stood open and from it emerged the sounds of snoring, running water, and singing. Puzzled, the king and queen entered. The mountainous bed lay scattered, covering the entire floor in a carpet of feather beds. On the feather beds snored the six princesses Nidhiki had rejected and an assortment of kitties, puppies, squirrels, mice, and other animals. A black-and-white striped zebra lay snoring with its hoofs on the mattress, which lay crooked across the bed frame.

"What happened in here?" the king wondered.

"My guess would be" – the queen headed toward the bathroom from which came the sounds of singing and running water -- "a party." She flung open the bathroom door. Inside, the tub overflowed with foam, and bubbles floated in the air. Margaret sat buried in the bubbles, fully clothed and singing at the top of her lungs. In the bubbles beside her, Crunchy-Crunch Crunch-Crunch howled along.

The queen cleared her throat. "Ahem."

Margaret stopped singing. "Hi! I'm playing bubble bath!"

[insert picture of Margaret in tub]


Embarrassed, Crunchy-Crunch Crunch-Crunch hopped out of the tub and splattered the room with foam and bubbles as he shook himself dry. He bowed before the dripping queen and king. "Your Majesties. I'm-- Is it morning already? I guess I was having so much fun, I lost track of time."

"What's going on here?" the queen asked. She was stunned. Then she changed her tone. "My dear," she said, "didn't you sleep at all last night."

"I only sleep when you put me in my box, and I haven't been in my box in forever and ever. Such a long time, at least five years! I'm five, you know. Five, five," she sang, "I'm five-years-old!"

"Where did you get all the bubbles?" the king wondered.

"Oh!" She held up the empty bottle of Sweet Pea Dog Shampoo. "I found them under my bed! I wondered what was all lumpy and bumpy, and when I pushed off the mattress, I found my bubbles! I love bubble baths! I could stay in my bubbles and play and play and play all day!" She tossed handfuls of bubbles into the air.

"You love bubbles?" The queen clutched the king's arm. "Simon, did you hear that? She loves bubbles!"

"Let's not get too excited, dear. Many people love bubbles," Simon said.

"But dog shampoo, Simon! She loves dog shampoo! You do love dog shampoo, don't you, my dear?"

"Oh yes!" Water and bubbles sloshed over the sides of the tub as Margaret bounced up and down. "I love dog shampoo and chocolate and candy and cookies and breakfast and --" She paused. "And I'm hungry! It's morning, it's morning, and I'm hungry," she sang. "Let's wake everybody up and have breakfast!"

The king and queen stood back, amazed, and watched as she leaped from the water and ran around the bedroom, singing, "It's morning, it's morning, time to eat! It's morning, it's morning, time to eat breakfast!"

The other dolls, kitties, doggies, and assorted animals opened their eyes, yawned, stretched, and jumped up to join Margaret in her song.

"This is the best kingdom ever!" a blonde doll said.

"And we get fish for breakfast!" agreed Princess Denise White.

At that moment, Nidhiki appeared in the doorway. He took in the mess of feather beds and animals, and the dripping wet Margaret. "Chaos, utter chaos," he said. "Princess Margaret of the Chaos Kingdom, that's who you are! I should have recognized you the moment I saw you."

"The Chaos Kingdom?" Simon said. "Did you really come all that way in answer to the prince's advertisement?"

"I doubt she even saw the advertisement, Dad. We specifically made sure not to advertise there."

"That was a mistake. She's perfect for you, Nidhiki!" the queen said.

"She is not perfect for me."

"But she loves dog shampoo!"

"She loves making a mess, Mom. Any kind of mess. I'm not marrying the Princess of Chaos. She'd turn out whole kingdom upside down, not to mention what she'd do to my dog shampoo."
 

---

[insert picture of Nidhiki, Jennifer, and Simon looking depressed]


Nidhiki sat with his head in his claws. Jennifer sighed, and Simon wiped a tear. They could all hear Margaret's happy cheers coming from the garden.

"Mom, why did you want me to get married anyways?" Nidhiki asked.

"Weren't you listening when I told you? I want you to get married so you can rule the kingdom, and Simon and I can take a vacation."

Nidhiki shook his head. "Mom, I know a king is supposed to have a wife. But none of these, er, ladies are cut out for me. Can't you let me have the kingdom without a wife?"

Hope entered Simon's eyes, but Jennifer shook her head. "A king needs a queen, Nidhiki! It's like socks and fluffy bunny slippers. A Time Lord to her TARDIS, a platypus to its --"

"Too true, dear," Simon said, using one of his rare interruptions. "How could I have gotten around without you?" He looked at his wife endearingly, but in his eyes, sadness welled up.

"I know, but it's not like I'll never get married. Mom, Dad, just give me a chance." Nidhiki left his chair and his eyes grew big and shiny. "Please? PLEASE? I'll stop guesting on Bad Wolf TV, so I can be a good king. If you don't like it, when you come back from vacation, you can take over and I'll go back to being your television star, business tycoon son." Nidhiki eyes glistened with tears. "It's a limited time offer."

Jennifer and Simon visibly weakened. "I – I suppose that could work," Simon said.

---

A few days later, the kingdom gathered in the ballroom for the possibly temporary coronation of Prince Nidhiki.

Jennifer's and Simon's eyes filled with tears as they picked up the crown.

"Attention!" Simon called.

Lolly and Didi tore their eyes away from the table of desserts and other delicious food and turned to the front of the room. Kitties shuffled, dolls stopped talking, and there was silence.

Simon glanced at his notes and continued. "Today is the day I give up my throne and prepare to go on vacation. But I can't leave the kingdom unguarded. So I shall pass my crown, well, not my actual crown. That's still going to be on my head." Simon laughed, and then went back to his composed state. "I shall pass this new crown onto Nidhiki."

Simon and Jennifer walked over and placed the crown on Nidhiki's head. Nidhiki raised himself off his four knees and turned to face his people.

There were many cheers. Through the sound of their own cheering, the stagehands muttered to each other, "If he's king, he has no excuse but to give us a bigger salary!"

Queen Jennifer wiped her eyes and gave her son a long hug.

"And now, if I may say one last thing." The old king pointed towards the food. "Every one for himself!" They were about to jump on the table, but Jennifer stopped them.

"Order, please!" Nidhiki said in a loud voice. He grinned and cackled to himself as everybody jumped immediately into a single-file line. "I could get used to this."

After they had finished their food, Margaret went up to the microphone and called, "Let's play Bunny-Hop!"

"Yeah!" the dolls shouted. Tuffies played a merry tune on the piano. Faith proved she was the best bunny-hop player in the world and hopped more than anyone else. The stagehands had so much fun, they temporarily forgot their salary.

"Let's dance to the Hokey-Pokey next!" Light and Charcoal suggested.

"Yes! Crunchy-crunch Crunch-crunch is really good at the Hokey-Pokey!" Margaret said.

"I'll start it!" Elena went up to the microphone and belted out, 'You put your left foot in, you put your right foot out--"

From the door Jennifer and Simon watched the game. Simon patted his wife's shoulder. "Everything looks settled here, dear."

"I guess we should get going. But first we need to talk to Nidhiki." Jennifer took Simon's paw and pulled Nidhiki out of the game of Hokey-Pokey.

"We do?" asked the anxious Simon.

"Don't forget to get your crown polished every Sunday while we're gone. And make sure the castle is locked when you go to bed." Jennifer patted her son's shoulder. "Also, make sure Pellet gets his cheese everyday, but don't let him eat all the cheese, and –"

"And enjoy the rest of your party." Simon broke in and hugged his son. "We're proud of you! Now, we have a plane to catch."

---

Denise was disappointed to discover that she now had no chance of marrying Nidhiki, and was prepared to return home without a handsome green Bionicle husband and fish for everyone, when an idea occurred to her. She could trade something Nofish had a lot of for the fish!

After discussing this with the royal family of Kingdom, she decided on trading her chocolate and Rolaids. "It may seem unfair," Denise said, "until you remember that fish is the best food EVER!"

So with the trade agreement in paw, Denise went home, where her family was happy to hear about the agreement. Sonic was especially happy as she "really didn't want to be related to a green Bionicle."

Now that the kingdom had fish, Denise suggested that they change the name of Nofish. So after days of discussing, Nofish was renamed to Yesfish.

Princess Margaret returned to the Chaos Kingdom, taking with her many of the forest animals and a few of the stagehands who had become her friends and hoped to earn a better salary than they had been making under Prince Nidhiki. Charcoal and Light returned to their hammocks. Faith, Alexis, and Elena became good friends and visited each other and the Chaos Kingdom at least once a month.

If you are wondering what happened to Lolly, she had so much fun at the party that she forgave Nidhiki for not making his chocolate in Strawberry Land. After that, she continued looking for Matau. As of this writing, we're not sure whether or not she's found him.

And they all lived happily ever after.


The End