A Pea for a Princess
If you had visited Princess Ivy’s garden, you would have felt magic was at work. And you’d be right. For this was the most beautiful garden in the known world. Cultivated by the princess, it contained almost every known plant from the world in it, hand-picked and grown by her own hands. Day and night she spent in this garden, whether she was watering the roses, feeding the Venus Fly Traps or even trimming the hedges into her favourite animals, including piranhas, the talk of the kingdom. Everyone came to visit, to sticky beak at the garden of wonders. And yet Princess Ivy still searched for new plants to grow. Although truth be told, her favourite plant was the pea plant. Like her namesake, it twisted and climbed up the side of the towers, producing hundreds of beautifully green peas to make pea and ham soup, the king and queen’s favourite dish. It had been first thing the princess had tasted in her life and from there she doted on every pea plant she came across. It was this plant which would also save her later.
The day the prince rode into her garden on horseback, Princess Ivy felt a chill ripple through her garden. He sat atop a brilliant, white horse but his smile was cold and appraising. He walked his horse carelessly through the gardens Princess Ivy had just finished planting last week, stopping just in front of where she knelt. ‘You are a princess aren’t you?” he asked rudely. Princess Ivy stood, wiping her hands on her skirt. “Yes I am. I am Princess Ivy”. The prince sneered at her. “You will ride to my palace now for the chance to become my wife. If you don’t, my soldiers will burn your gardens to ashes.” Princess Ivy shrugged. “Alright, let’s go”. And so they left to the Prince’s palace, where 12 other princesses were already waiting.
The arrogant prince held between his fingers a single green marble. Well, it looked like a marble, although on close inspection it did not seem smooth enough to be one. Princess Ivy glanced at the other princesses but none of them seemed to care what the object was, instead looking down at their feet. “I the Prince of this land, proclaim that you will each spend the night here in my palace. You will each be tested to see if you are a real princess. Those of you who are not, will be thrown into the dungeon. Those of you who are, will then prove to me which of you is the best princess to become my wife. Those left over will also be thrown in the dungeon.” He sneered at them, although his gaze rested longer on Princess Ivy. She simply asked, “Is that a pea?” The prince looked surprised, staring at the pea between his fingers before glancing back at her. “So what if it is?” he sneered but Princess Ivy didn’t even twitch. “Is it cooked or raw?” she asked, leaning forward a little to peer more closely at it. The prince nearly turned purple in rage. “Who cares if it is cooked or not! Get out of here, all of you! And make sure you are all real princesses!”
Later as the princesses sat in their enormous bedroom worrying and crying in their new beds, each filled with a pile of soft mattresses and sheets, Princess Ivy sat thinking, staring at the blackberry thorns that she had found underneath all of her mattresses. Then she thought about the pea, the one that was supposed to be on display in the glass cabinet at the front of the palace. The pea that was supposed to have determined that the prince’s great grandmother was a true princess. Well, what made a ‘true’ princess, she wasn’t sure. But that pea was going to be a great help anyway.
So Princess Ivy worked out her plan. She went through every single bed and removed all of the thorns put underneath each pile of mattresses and sheets, and instructed the other 12 princesses to have a good night’s sleep. There were guards outside their doors, but Princess Ivy wasn’t ready to give up yet. She crept down the ladder leaning against her bed and padded over to the window. There was the ivy she’d spotted earlier. Obviously this prince didn’t employ enough gardeners, as the ivy was almost choking this part of the castle. She climbed out of the window and wrapped her hands and feet securely in the vines, careful not to look down. Inch by inch she traversed across the sheer wall through the ivy, towards the next window which looked into the main hallway, where the princesses had walked down earlier to the throne room. Princess Ivy swung through the window and rolled onto the floor, nearly crashing into an antique suit of armour. Footsteps came from around the corner, as she scrambled behind the said armour and waited, holding her breath. The footsteps went past her, so she hurried to find the glass cabinet. There the infamous pea sat on a satin cushion, as if it were royalty itself. Princess Ivy smiled and carefully took the pea, replacing it with a green marble. Then she hurried back to her room, the same way she had come and waited for morning.
No sooner had the sun arisen, the Prince arrived, crashing the bedroom doors open and sending the guards to bring each princess in a line before him. Princess Ivy kept a stone face, hiding her secret smile. The Prince asked, “So, did everyone have a good night’s sleep?” The princesses all nodded, some saying that it was the best night’s sleep they had ever had. The Prince raised an eyebrow. “Did none of you feel uncomfortable? Did you not feel something sharp and thorny in your beds?” The princesses all shook their heads. The Prince shook with rage. “That means that you are all fakes! Not a single real princess among you! To the dungeons with them all!” The other princesses began to cry and wail, but Princess Ivy simply lead the way to the dungeons. Once they were all secured in the dungeons, the Prince set off to explore his lands for other ‘real’ princesses. Princess Ivy did not despair. Instead she began to dig around one of the flagstones that made up the floor. “Why are you digging? A tunnel out of here will take years” Princess Ivy smiled. “Yes it would. But I only need enough soil to grow a pea plant.” The princess knelt on her hands and knees and began to help Princess Ivy dig away the flagstone. Others came to help and soon the flagstone was lifted, revealing a decent book sized patch of soil. She carefully planted the seed, then raised her hands above the seed, concentrating. The others held their breath and gasped as a tiny pea plant began to grow. It grew and grew, seeking the nearest patch of sunlight which was through the bars of the window. As the pea plant grew, more seeds fell and each of these was a plant next to the original plant, growing together, twisting and knotting together to form a pea plant rope. As the rope continued to grow through the bars of the window, it continued to grow down towards the ground, but as yet there was still no way to follow it. Princess Ivy turned her attention to the ivy that grew all around the castle. Raising her hands above the ivy, she concentrated on it growing around the bars of the dungeon window, twisting around and around so much that the bars bent and broke. The other princesses began to cheer as Princess Ivy climbed onto her pea plant and began to slide down towards the ground. The other princesses followed her down and turned to see the most amazing sight. For Princess Ivy wasn’t finished working her magic yet. The ivy continued to grow, swallowing up the entire castle as if it had been starving for the last ten years. Soon there was no castle left to be seen, just a mass of ivy. But still it continued to grow, while the ominous sound of bricks falling and cement crumbling reverberated around the princesses’ ears. The castle fell around their ears, sending up giant clouds of dust and pieces of brick, as the castle collapsed into oblivion. Princess Ivy smiled as the other princesses laughed and shouted with joy before turning to begin the long walk back to their homes.
Princess Ivy was in her garden tending to her pea plants once again when she heard the sound of a horse galloping towards her. She looked up, only to find herself looking up at the Prince on his horse, looking not so gallant anymore. “I came to see what had become of my bride. I see you are still growing peas” “And I see that you are still the same arrogant prince searching for a wife. Be gone before my plants have their revenge upon you”. The Prince gulped at the thought, turning tail and running, as pea plants began to grow along the path, chasing him into the sunset.