By Doc. Klein's LabRat <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Submitted: February 2002
Summary: A little piece of fairy tale fluff in response to Meredith Knight's 'Write a Lois and Clark fairy tale' challenge on Zoom's messageboards. What's a kingly father to do when his feisty princess daughter has no husband and an evil advisor has designs of his own?
Well, the thought never really entered my head to do anything with Meredith's challenge over on Zoom's mbs for us all to write a Lois and Clark fairy tale. But then I woke up this morning, the bones of this popped into my head fully formed, and within an hour it had more or less written itself. It's nothing more than a dumb piece of fluff — but hope it amuses.
Thanks are due to Helene for doing a lightning fast editing job on this one and delighting me with her comments as she read. :)
Once upon a time, far away in a distant land, where men were bold and women were just as bold but also intelligent, there lived a sad old king whose only daughter was…well to put it mildly a bit of a pain in the butt.
"Loispunzel," he'd told her a thousand times, "it's no good telling every prince who comes along looking for your hand all those stupid riddles to prove their love! I mean you've got to give them *some* leeway, you know! Do you know what inbreeding does to these guys?"
"I know they're as dumb as a short stick if that's what you mean," his daughter would willfully retort in response.
"Lois, sweeting, you don't need a prince to be smart. That's what advisors are for! You just need him to be…well…uh…" At this point the king would turn an interesting shade of red and his daughter would smile sweetly at him with a placid, "Yes, father? You need him to be what?"
"Well…virile mainly," the king would concede finally.
"Har!" his daughter would say spiritedly. "And that's another thing. None of those idiots had anything worth talking about in the virile department. I swear wet noodles didn't have a look in when it came to —"
"Well, they didn't," she'd mutter sulkily. "And anyway, I'm not talking about it any more. I'm going out into the garden for a time and — " she'd turn on him fiercely just as he opened his mouth to make the suggestion, "I am *not* kissing any frogs while I'm out there either, so just forget that one!"
And the king would sigh and admit defeat and send for his scribe to dispatch more summons to princes and high lords throughout their small kingdom in the hope that someone would be able to tame his beautiful but stubborn and intractable child. He was growing old — and frankly Loispunzel was making him older by the day — and would soon be gone and what of his kingdom then if there was no one to rule after him?
After a time, however, the princes and lords of the kingdom — and many of them beyond it too — got wise to the nature of the princess and refused to even entertain thoughts of marrying her. Not even when the king threw in a free two week vacation to the Western Lakes and all the sushi you could eat as a marriage gift. Loispunzel was simply too spirited for them. She insulted them, she demeaned them, and if that didn't dissuade them from simpering in her ear and pawing over her hand — as she colorfully described their courting manners — she wasn't averse to employing less subtle methods. Many were the princes who had ridden back to their own lands after courting Princess Loispunzel riding side saddle for comfort.
The king despaired. He really did.
And unfortunately it was just in the hour of his deepest despair that he was ripe for the plucking by his faithless court advisor. History has stricken the name of this miscreant from the records of time. But we all know he was a cunning, conniving little runt with designs of his own on the princess and plans to usurp the lawful succession. They always are. Right?
Anyway, Faithless Advisor Guy — as we shall now name him or Nigel for short — had just been waiting for the king to realize that he was in the hour of his deepest despair and pounced just as he did. He had a way, he said, to make the princess a little more…amiable…to persuasion.
"It's not drugs again, is it?" the king said. "Because she didn't take kindly to that one last time." He had gone pale with the words, remembering the way her screams of fury had reverberated around the palace's marble hallways. Some of her more virulent curses had hung around, echoing there for weeks after she'd stopped and gone off in a huff.
"No, no…" Nigel had gone pale also as he waved a quick hand in denial. "Leave it to me, my liege. I guarantee that in a week she'll be delighted to accept any young prince of my liege's choosing. No, really," he added as the king looked doubtful.
The king was actually *very* doubtful, but he was also — did I mention this? — in the deepest hour of his despair. And so, reluctantly, he washed his hands of the matter and gave it over to his most trusted servant. Well, so the history books record. The fact that he immediately thereafter held a grand party, whooping it up in royal fashion, with much quaffing of wine and playing of the lutes and thereafter retired to his chambers for three days with several of his most beautiful…companions…would seem to suggest that he was just a little more relieved to have the matter off his hands than history gives credit for.
And so it was that two days after the king succumbed to his advisor's wiles, Loispunzel found herself locked up in the turret room of the highest tower in a small province some miles from the palace, with nothing but a small, drafty window to connect her to the outside world.
She wasn't happy.
"I'm not happy, you know," she informed Nigel when he returned to feed her.
"Like I care," he said. Well, actually he wheezed, since he was fat and out of shape and he'd had to climb up a very long ladder to reach her, which had taken half an hour and left him sweating and trembling in his limbs. He clambered in ungainly fashion over the sill and then staggered over to slump on the princess's bed.
"Hey!" She yanked him up by one arm and pointed imperiously to a chair in the corner. Wearily, he complied with the silent command. "I just had fresh duck-down put in that quilt, you idiot," she said. "Now it's all squished. And…" She pulled up a corner of the mattress and then sighed. "That's another can of peas I need too." She glared at him.
Nigel had rallied however and drew himself up to his full height of four foot nine. (He was small but cunning and had also come with fifty hired, cut-throat mercenaries who were waiting at the bottom of the tower, so Loispunzel figured jumping on him and sitting on him until he cried Uncle was probably a waste of time, even short and fat as he was).
"Now look," he said. "This is the way it's going down and you'd better just shut up and listen. You think I brought you here at the behest of the king to force you to accept the suit of some prince, right?"
Loispunzel turned and eyed him carefully. "You mean you didn't?"
Nigel snorted. "As if. You think I'm that dumb? You're going to be mine, sweet princess. I'm keeping you a prisoner here until old King Idiot agrees to wed you to me! Pretty neat, huh?" he added with a cunning smile. Loispunzel snorted in disdain. "Yeah, right. Daddy is soooooo gonna kick your —"
Nigel cleared his throat, interrupting her. "Daddy will do as he's told," he insisted. "You see, fair Loispunzel, I am not who I appear to be! I am — " he paused dramatically and with a flourish…remained looking exactly as he had two seconds previously. "Lord Lex of Luthor!"
Loispunzel stared at him. "And that's supposed to mean something, is it?" she asked tartly.
Nigel — Lex — looked hurt. "Well, yeah. I figured you'd have heard of me by now. Those raids up in the Blue Mountains? The massacre at Mine Valley?" he added petulantly as her air of disinterest deepened. "Oh, come on, you have to have heard of the LexLands scam?"
Lex shook his head. "Royal education," he grumbled. "You can't beat it really. Why can't they teach them the important things? Like social history? Who's who in Molvania? Movers and shakers. Instead of all this embroidery and lute playing? Okay, it's like this," he explained impatiently. "I'm the bad guy in this scenario."
Loispunzel's eyes widened. She backed up to the other side of the bed. "I see," she said faintly. Then, rallying, "All right. Then…unhand me you foul beast or — " she paused and then, perhaps noting that he was on the other side of the room, amended, "Release me, you foul beast or my father will split your grizzle and feed your body to the crows! You will — " she paused again. "Is it split your grizzle or spit your gozzle? I never can remember," she told him, slightly apologetic. "Modern Manners was always such a boring study class and Mr. Crispin had the most appalling lisp and so I was never quite sure what —"
"I don't know. I never knew what a grizzle was anyway."
"Oh. Well, anyway," Loispunzel drew herself up to her full height (which was considerably taller by the way than Lex's, even without the addition of several cut- throat mercenaries) and eyed him imperiously. "You should take it as read, good sir, that various and sundry unpleasant things shall happen to you henceforth and futurewith should you continue with this evil plot against the royal persons of myself and my father. Furthermore —"
"Can we just take it as read?" Lex interrupted. "This goes on for another four pages if I recall correctly, doesn't it?"
"Five, I think," admitted Loispunzel. "Mr Crispin added half a page because he disagreed with clause five too." She looked at him primly. "It's very bad manners, of course, not to threaten and bluster fruitlessly in full. You do realize that? But…" she sighed. "Okay. So…" She thought for a moment, re-orientating. "Desist at once, you won't get away with this, foul beast…various insults…blah…blah…oh!" She brightened and waved an dictatorial hand at him. "Now *you* say, 'You *will* be mine, princess, so you'd better get used to it. Oh, and laugh evilly."
"I thought the evil laugh was optional?"
"Nope. Made it mandatory last summer. After that incident with those two kids and that cottage made of gingerbread. Remember? That witch was given five years for cackling instead?"
"Oh. Right. Okay then. You *will* — that emphasis on will's really necessary is it? Oh, okay — you *will* be mine, fair princess, so you'd better get used to it." Lex paused and then, shuffling his feet a little, laughed somewhat lamely and self-consciously.
"Oh!" Lex said. He got to his feet. "Well, guess I'll be going then, now that's settled. Be prepared for a long wait, princess. Until your father agrees to my demands you're staying put."
"Can I at least have some manuscripts to read?" Loispunzel pleaded. "It's so boring up here. I hear the palace harlequin has been writing some more of those gothic romances of his. Please?" She batted her eyelashes at him. "It might give me ideas for our wedding night…" she promised artlessly.
Lex looked pleased. "I'll have some sent up," he agreed.
"I am *never* using that temp service again," King Samuel fumed as he paced the throne-room. "Make a note of that, Scribe."
"I mean any two bit cunning, conniving mercenary barbarian lands on their doorstep, says, "Hi, I'm Nigel, sure, I've done advising before…" and they just send him right along? References! I keep telling them, "Haven't you guys heard of references?' But…nooooo…"
He stopped, rubbing at his forehead. "Where was I?"
"Erm…the princess, my liege?"
"Oh yes!" Samuel turned sharply to his council of war. "Well, we just have to get her out of there, that's all."
The council of war — all two of them and Snuffles the bloodhound, who didn't really count because he was old and toothless (but then as the king had been heard to comment so were the other two, so that could hardly be used against him) and had a cold so couldn't sniff anyway — nodded grimly. Snuffles of course didn't nod, but his snores from under the table were entered into the minutes as an agreement anyway.
"Aye, my liege."
"We do that, my lord."
The king eyed them expectantly.
"So…?" He let the silence stretch and then added the prompt, "You have some kind of rescue plan prepared then?"
The two old warriors glanced at one another. "Well, it's like this you see…" the first of them started.
"It's a very *high* tower," the second cut to the chase.
"Yes. Very high tower, my liege."
"Right. So it's high. So…some type of ladder would be useful I would presume?"
The first warrior sucked in a breath. The second shook his head mournfully. "Ah well, sir, that's where things get sticky, you see. Bit scarce this time of year, your basic ladder is. What with the winter we've had. People been chopping down trees all over the place you see, sir. Real short of wood we are."
"What about the royal forests?" the king said, looking dismayed.
They looked uneasy. "Well, there was that party you had, sir." The first old man scratched his head and glanced at his mate. "Had to chop down *most* of the forest to provide wood for the cooking fires. That much pheasant under glass with chestnut stuffing and marzipan don't cook cheap, sir."
"No, it don't," his companion chimed in, a touch sulkily. He hadn't been invited to the party. He liked pheasant and chestnut stuffing too.
The king frowned. "Well, Lord Lex must have a ladder!" he said. "Steal his! Or force him to —"
"Er…well, see, that could be tricky, sir. See, no one knows where he's hiding, right? And then he has that army of his camped near the tower and — well, you can see how we're fixed, can't you, sir? Really?"
"Could offer you a pretty good deal round about autumn, I 'spext, sir," the other warrior said hopefully. "Bit of light oak growing up in the far pasture, *could* be ripe for chopping round about oh, say…November?" He glanced at his mate who nodded confirmation. "November. Best I can do, sir. An' it won't come cheap."
The king sat down heavily in his throne. "Then, gentleman, I think the only thing we can do is fall back on plan B."
"Plan B, sir?"
"We've no choice but to hold out for a hero. One who will rescue my poor daughter from the clutches of this evil barbarian."
"Oh, a hero, sir…now, bit short of heroes in this neck of the woods round this time of year…"
The king sighed.
"Oh. It's you again, is it? What now?" The princess stood in the lea of the small window, gazing down at the earnest young man as she idly combed her hair.
"I think I've figured it out."
"Yes?" she said, tone lackluster and barely rising above mildly interested.
"No, listen, you're going to like this one. See, all we have to do —"
Loispunzel put down her comb with a snap. "Look, I've told you, quit with the 'we' stuff, okay? There is no 'we'. Got it?"
"Okay, okay…but this plan —"
She sighed. "It had better be good. I'm not remotely anywhere near excited you know. But I am closing in on bored."
"Hey, I'm doing my best. This isn't easy you know," said Prince Clark, hurt.
"Well, duh. Considering this is your ninth cunning *plan*, I kind of figured. New to this heroing stuff, are you?"
"Well…" Clark scratched a bashful finger at his temple. "I did do a summer stint down in Rovalon, couple of years back." She rolled her eyes. "Amateurs," she muttered under her breath and then, raising her voice again to carry down the long, long length of the tower of stone that confined her, "Well, get on with it then. What's plan X?"
Clark winced as her sarcasm roiled around him. "Tough crowd," he sighed to himself and then, looking up at her hopefully, "Okay, what we need is some kind of climbing equipment here, so —"
"They call those ladders round these parts."
"Yes, a ladder then, okay." Boy, she *was* a tough one. There hadn't been anyone like her in the heroing manuals. He stood for a moment, staring up at her slender figure, outlined in stone and lit by the single lamp from the tiny room behind her. It turned the night-robe she was wearing slightly diaphanous, revealing tantalizing hints of the soft curves beneath. He felt his pulse quicken. But, boy, was she worth it. She was stubborn, pig-headed, willful and…beautiful…intelligent…he sighed. Everything he'd ever dreamed of. And he'd dreamed a real lot too. Some of them had been pretty hot and —
"I'm waiting. You know I've got better things to do. There's a romance manuscript just calling my name here…"
"Okay, okay. I'm going to go find a ladder. I may be some time. Wait for me?"
There was a small silence in which he could hear those last words echo and the build up of heat they provoked. Too late to take them back now. He darted off down the track away from the tower, closing his eyes as her yelled words chased after him.
"Wait for you?! Where the bloody hell would I go! Don't have much choice but to *wait*, do I? What kind of stupid question —"
"Lois! Lois, you — " This time he was smart enough to bite back the 'there' part of his sentence before it escaped. "I'm back," he hissed. It was a class three hiss — recommended for daring but clandestine rescues — but as it also had to carry up the length of the tower it was also a class four yell.
His princess was still faithfully waiting for him it seemed.
"What?" she yelled back, slightly grumpily.
"I got the ladder."
"Well, about time. You've been gone three days."
"Erm..well, yeah. Do you know how short they are of ladders in this place right now? It's shocking! You'd think in a kingdom like this —"
"All right, all right! Get on with it, will you?"
"Oh. Right. Stand back."
Loispunzel did as he asked, pacing impatiently back and forth the eight steps it took to encompass the room. From below came various curses and creaks. And then silence. Loispunzel quickly straightened her gown and pushed her hands through her hair to smooth it into place. Grumpy she may be, but she recognized sex on legs when she saw it. Cooped up in a palace all her life, with nothing but romance manuscripts, didn't stop a girl from knowing when the true love of her life came knocking on her…tower. Her heat beat unreasonably fast within her breast and her eyes shone as she wet her lips with a slow, sensuous tongue and awaited the arrival of her hero.
He didn't arrive.
Finally, frowning, she cautiously approached the window and peered down. He was sprawled at the bottom of the tower. "What happened?" she demanded.
"You're not going to like it," he warned.
"I figured," she said tartly.
"The ladder broke."
"Oh." She paused then said, unable to prevent the slight hint of anxiety entering her tone, "You didn't hurt yourself. Did you?"
She saw him shake his head.
He looked up at her. "Really?" She saw him grin quickly. "Worried about me, were you?"
She sniffed. "I might have been. I'd worry about a two- legged dog if it fell off a ladder."
"Why would a two-legged dog be —"
"Can we just figure out a way to get me out of here?" she interrupted plaintively.
"Right. Give me a minute."
She gave him eight. "Prince Clark?" she said at last.
"I'm stuck here, aren't I? I'm going to stay here for the rest of my days, rotting away with only Lord Lex to —"
"No!" he denied firmly. "I'm going to get you out of there, I swear it, princess. Just…"
"Give you a minute?"
She heard him sigh. "I guess."
"So, what now?" she said after another twelve had passed with no sign of a revelation or even a soft cry of 'Eureka'.
"Kind of stumped really," he confessed. "Don't really know."
"What, do you mean you don't know?" Disappointment and misery sharpened her tone again. "You're the hero in this little scenario, aren't you? You're supposed to know."
"Well, geez, Lois, it's not like I can just fly up there and whisk you away, is it?" Prince Clark leaned against the base of the tower and thought furiously for a couple of moments before light dawned. He straightened up and stepped away to stare up at the disgruntled face of his one true love. "I know! Your hair!"
"Your hair! It's beautiful, did you know that?" he added, getting side-tracked momentarily. "I've been admiring it ever since I got here. Did you know it shines like —"
"You really like it?" Loispunzel had a note of preening in her voice as she spoke, pleased.
"I love it. I love you," he added softly and then, before she could reply to that, "But we'll get to that later. Right now — we can use your hair as a rope! Just unpin it and let it down and —"
"Stuff that," retorted Lois. "You got any idea what's it's like having a big guy like you hauling on your hair? Last time I had a headache for four days!"
"Well it was just an — " Clark paused. "Last time?" He raised a brow. "Get a lot of guys trying to climb up your hair, do you?" he asked indignantly.
Lois looked guilty. "Well, generally there are about four or five a month. You know that reward Daddy set is pretty high. And since Lord Lex's army got fed up with the lousy pay and left they've been keener to try."
"Oh," said Clark. "I see."
"And besides," Lois continued, "we might have a problem there."
"Well, you see, thing is, I got real fed up with it? So I did something kind of…dumb, I guess."
"I cut it."
"I cut my hair. Actually, you know it wasn't all my idea. There was this little fairy landed on the window one day. 'Cut your hair, Loispunzel, go on, it'll look much better, really it would, go on, cut it…' over and over. Finally I gave up just to shut him up…"
"Him?" Prince Clark said, curious despite himself. "A him fairy?"
"Well, I think so. He was kind of handsome. Tankerbell or something I think he said his name was. He serenaded me too. Had a tiny little guitar and everything. He flew away eventually," she added somewhat wistfully.
"Lois, I've told you a dozen times, I am not serenading you," Clark said in response to the hopeful tone of her voice. "I've got a voice like a drowning weasel. You wouldn't like it."
High above him, Lois sighed. "Well, this is getting us nowhere. Any other bright ideas?"
Clark sighed too. "No."
They both sighed again.
Loispunzel laughed as her handsome prince lifted her into the air and set her astride his impatiently snorting war horse. He grinned as he mounted up behind her and put his arms around her slender waist. She snuggled back against his chest and turned her head to press her lips firmly and lingeringly against his own.
"Lord Lex is going to be mad when he finds me gone," she told him as she settled deeper against him with a soft sigh and he clicked the horse on to a steady walk.
"I expect so," he agreed mildly.
"That really was a brilliant plan," she said. "If I say so myself."
"It was. And you did. Four times so far."
"How you ever thought to — " He shook his head. "And then there was the way that you figured out —"
"Well, I always knew those studies in aerodynamics would come in handy," she lied.
"It helps when you have thirteen duck-down mattresses to land on when you jump too," he offered and grinned when she eyed him indignantly.
"It's not easy sleeping on all those peas, you know," she said, primly adjusting her bodice. "A girl has to get comfortable to get some beauty sleep."
His hand tightened around her and he nuzzled briefly at her ear. "You don't need it," he murmured, sending a small shiver down her spine. "You're the most beautiful woman I've ever seen. Smart too," he added in a more normal tone as he straightened. "You know I always wanted to marry a woman who was beautiful and intelligent," he mused.
"Marry?" she turned in the saddle to stare at him. "Who said anything about getting married?"
"You don't want to marry me?"
"Well, I wouldn't say *that*…a girl just likes to take some time before she —"
He took his hands off the reins and gripped her arms, pulling her up close for another searing kiss. "You can have all the time you need," he promised her. "Only…" he smiled at her and her heart turned over in her breast. "Don't take too long about it. Okay? We need a happy ending."
"It's in the contract."
"Oh. Okay…" she whispered and then took the opportunity to hold on tight as he kicked the horse into a gallop and they headed for home and happily ever after.
Or…at the very least…a rough approximation thereof.