Princess of the Peaks
It’s just my luck that a blizzard and foul wind blow today. It is, of course, just typical. Someone really ought to inform the authorities that an extremely important Neopian Times journalist has just one day to write an article about a Princess who spends all her time outdoors. Someone should also tell the authorities that this particular journalist has a severe dislike of the colder climates and only agreed to take up this article because the rest of the journalists were too busy holidaying on Mystery Island.
So, it’s up to me. And the truth is that I do not want to interview another Princess. After the fiasco with Princess Amira (which I’m ashamed to say went so badly that the editor had to pull the evening edition of the paper in fear that angry Sakhmetians would descend upon us in a fearsome rage), I thought I had convinced my bosses and their bosses that the only interviews I wouldn’t completely mess up involved Slorgs.
I guess I was wrong. They appear to have overlooked the “Amira Affair”, as they’re calling it now, and need me to get an exclusive interview with a previously little-known Shenkuen Princess. The trouble with princesses is that they never hesitate to make life difficult for everyone else. And I’m afraid. That’s the truth right there. If this one goes badly I’ll lose my job for sure. And I can’t afford to do that – I’m still paying for Princess Amira’s broken vases.
* * *
I wobble over the edge of the snowed cliff on legs that refuse to run but she’s already striding off into the distance. “Your highness, wait,” I manage to stutter through my exhaustion.
I highly doubt that it was my feeble attempt at summoning her that caught her attention, but nonetheless she pivots around on the spot to face me. Her grin is roguish and hair is windswept. With a flourish and a bow I present myself to her royal highness, the youngest Princess of the Shenkuen Emperor.
The Princess looks me over, expression haughty. “So, you’re the one that’s meant to be interviewing me.” That is not a question. In an instant I understand the young green Gnorbu almost perfectly. She is one raised to rely upon the certainties of her own perceptions. She doesn’t need me to tell her I’m here for the interview. She just knows it.
I smile. “You got the memo, then.” She nods and imperiously beckons me closer. Despite the fact that she is dressed in some of the finest clothes Shenkuu has to offer, there is more to this princess than meets the eye. A dusting of freckles across a face that is quick to smile and well-calloused palms are evidence of a childhood spent out in the elements.
“You took long enough to get here,” she murmurs. “Trouble with the peaks?” Another grin flashes across the Gnorbu’s face and in an instant she is transformed. No longer the daughter of an Emperor, she is just another young adventurer. She is like Hannah the Usul or Jake the Explorer. Fear of messing up another interview fades in that second of realisation. This is an interview I can do and will do well.
I nod. “I’m not much of a mountaineer,” I say truthfully, pulling out a quill and a tatty notebook. “But you are; tell me, how did you end up here?” I gesture towards the peaks that surround us.
“I climbed of course,” the Princess says with a giggle. “But really, you want to know how I started? Well, it’s simple, of course. Daddy, I mean the Emperor, said I could only be one of Shenkuu’s warriors if I passed the final test. And the final test is to race to the top of a mountain.” She pauses, looking out into the distance. “So now I’m training. I’m going the best warrior in the world one day.”
“Is that so?” I muse. Looking down at my notes, I frown slightly. “I’m afraid I haven’t been told your name. I just have you on my records as ‘the Youngest Daughter of the Shenkuen Emperor’, so your name is…?” I leave the question hanging.
“…a secret,” she whispers with a conspiratorial wink. In a lofty tone she adds, “Once I become a warrior I will have earned my name. Until then, Princess is just fine.”
“Okay then, Princess it is,” I say, scribbling an amendment to my notes. “Everyone’s just dying to know about your strict training regime. What does it take to get up a mountain like this?”
“I have to work hard every day,” the Princess says flexing her slight muscles. “If I miss even one day then I risk falling behind. Each day I rise at dawn and after a breakfast of Negg Noodles and Bubbly Twirly Fruit Juice I come out here. Then I use my grappling hook to scale these heights. It’s pretty difficult, you know,” she adds with a flick of her hair. “I hope that one day soon I’ll be able to reach the top. I’m yet to get there.”
“Is that so?” I ask. “Don’t you get bored?”
“Not at all,” she says emphatically. “Every day is a new challenge for me. Like today, for instance, it’s blowing a blizzard but I’m still out here. It makes it more tricky and dangerous. But I need to be on top of my game so that I don’t fall and get hurt, or worse, fail.”
I shake my head. As nice as the Princess is I have to wonder if it’s all going to be worth it. Shenkuu is predominantly a merchant town, the chances of warriors being needed for a war are little to none. Voicing my concerns to the Princess, she nods sagely.
“I know,” she says. “War in Shenkuu is unlikely, but that’s not the point. Being a warrior is about more than fighting wars. It’s a way of life. It’s about discipline and self-control. It’s about serving your country, even in times of peace.”
“Fair enough. And what about your father, the Emperor? Ehat does he think about all of this?”
“Daddy? Well, Daddy was a little concerned at first. You know, it’s pretty dangerous and all and he doesn’t want me to get hurt.” She leans towards me and adds, “I mean, I am the favourite, after all.”
“Of course. So, how long until you take your final test to become a warrior?”
The Princess shrugs. “I don’t think I’m ready yet. Maybe in a couple more years.”
I crane my neck around to look at the Princess incredulously. “Years? Years? Surely that is insanity?”
She shakes her head. “You would do well to learn the values of patience, friend. Patience, as they say, is a virtue. It must be cultivated. A skill such as climbing mountains cannot be rushed. It must be learnt, then it must be mastered. And mastery only comes with years of practice and patience. Remember that, won’t you?”
I quickly assure the Princess that I will not forget it. “Thank you, Princess, it has truly been an honour to interview you. Now, how do I get down from here?”
“The honour is mine,” she says. “And getting down? I believe that the same way you came up is the only option.” With a wink the Princess wishes me luck in my descent and hurries off towards the next peak and the adventures that come with it. I gulp and look down. This is going to be tricky.