Tales from the Kingdom of Grim

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The Prince Who Could Not Swim

"Little one...you will not die. Instead, I will purge you of your fear."

A proud family of noble standing once had twin children, a boy and a girl. The twins loved each other very much and were almost never seen apart.

Their home was set up by a vast lake, beautiful but very deep. One day, the twins were playing by the water's edge when the girl accidentally tossed her favorite ball into the water. The boy tried to convince his sister not to go after it, for they'd been warned not to go in the water without their family to watch over them. But the sister was desperate to get her toy back. She waded into the water, feeling around for the ball. She walked out further and further into the muddy water, heedless of her brother's pleas.

The boy ran into the house, calling for the aid of their parents and servants. By the time they came rushing out toward the lake, the girl was nowhere to be seen. Servants dived into the water, the parents cried out for their daughter until finally the daughter's body was pulled out of the murky water, treacherous weeds tangled around her ankles which had pulled her under and she drowned.

The family was devastated, but none more so than the boy. His beloved sister was dead and he'd done nothing to save her. An endless chasm had rotten in his heart and threatened to consume him with sorrow.

One day, as he mourned by the lakeside, a young stranger approached him.

"Can't you swim?" a young girl with black hair and pale skin his age asked him, politely.

The boy stared at her, startled by her sudden appearance and then puzzled at her question. He shook his head.

"I can," said the girl. "You just have to kick your feet, wave your arms, and hold your breath like this." she sucked in a deep breath that made her cheeks puff up before letting it out in a huff. "Wanna try?"

"I can't," the boy protested. "I can't go in the water. My...my sister died in there."

The girl blinked in surprise then frowned deeply and put a hand on his shoulder. "I'm sorry," she told him, sincerely.

The boy stared at her. Somehow this girl's condolences had done more for him than anything else had. He felt comforted, his heavy heart suddenly lighter.

"How did you learn how to swim?" the boy asked.

"I work as a servant in the Queen's castle," the girl explained. "The other kitchen workers showed me how. We take swims together in the stream that empties out into the moat."

They talked for a long while, saying simple things, chatting about this and that. Soon it started to grow late.

"I have to go back," she said finally. She turned back to the boy and smiled at him. "I bet your sister would have wanted you to learn how to swim."

The boy bit his lip hesitantly.

"I'll tell you what," she told him. "If you learn how to swim, I'll give you a kiss, okay?"

The boy blushed deeply and she giggled. The young girl danced away into the woods, leaving the boy gazing after her.

That night, as the family slept, the manor caught fire. The heat and the smoke roused the boy from his sleep. He tried to escape the burning house, trying to find his way past intense heat and billowing smoke. He barely got downstairs when he saw the main hall was a mass of fire and chaos, servants ran screaming in all directions, their hair and clothes on fire.

The boy picked up a charred chair and threw it through a window. The hem of his nightgown grazed the blazing curtains of the window and soon he too was on fire. In his panic of pain and heat, he did the only things he could think to do. Ignoring the pain, he bolted down towards the lake.

The burning agony almost overcame him when he finally launched himself into the cold, muddy water. The fire was extinguished, but his wounds continued to burn and he still had no idea how to swim. He struggled and splashed in the water, feeling himself slip further and further beneath the surface.

Just as it seemed his fate was sealed, he spotted a cloaked figure standing by the shore. Though the figure spoke softly, the boy could clearly hear his every word.

"What a sad fate," the stranger said. "To escape one horrific death only to suffer another."

"Help...me!" the boy gasped desperately, spitting water from his mouth and flailing his arms frantically.

"And why should I do that?" the stranger asked.

"I don't...want to...die!" the boy pleaded. "Please...please help me!"

"You don't wish to share your sister's fate," said the stranger. "Very well, my little friend. I will make sure that you will never drown from this day forward."

As the boy's head slipped beneath the water, he felt himself beginning to change. He was shrinking, his hands and feet becoming webbed, his skin turned grubby, green and slimy.

The little frog propelled itself about in the water, breathing easily through it's aquatic lungs. It flopped onto dry land at last, staring up in horror at the hooded figure.

"Congratulations," he said as he started to vanish into the shadows. "You have now joined the Children of Fate. You will continue to live, little frog, until your fear is conquered."

With that, he vanished, and the little frog was alone.

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