Well, as fate would have it, Adelaide was getting along quite well for a woman, er, chipmunk, without an army. She was doing so well, she found herself cackling and saying “It’s almost as if I don’t need an army!”
“Whoever told you that you needed an army in the first place?” asked the soft-spoken oracle from behind her.
The pair were in a dark alleyway. Behind them was a large barrel upon which the oracle was fastening a lid. At his side was a large pole with a net at the end, the sort one could use to catch fish. Adelaide was at the end of this pole, weilding it more or less well.
“I did!” she said, giving the barrel a small chipmunk kick. “I thought I couldn’t do anything without an army.”
“Well, you certainly seem capable all on your own,” said the oracle sweetly as Adelaide twirled the fishing net about herself.
“March! March! March!” cried out another series of frog guards that were marching down the road.
“Hah!” squeaked Adelaide. With a thrust she twirled the net, and slung it out into the road. With a final “March!” three frogs were caught up into it. Four others tripped on the pole and landed on their noses. Those behind were startled, but they could barely say “March?” before their compatriots were hefted up into the air.
Adelaide, grunting from the effort, swung the frogs up – and tipped them into the barrel that the oracle opened for that purpose.
With another “hah!” several more frogs were caught up!
“March- rubbit- attack!” croaked the lead frog as their compatriots were once again hefted up into the air and away into the barrel.
“Help!” said the frogs from within the barrel.
“Ah ha ha!” said Adelaide the chipmunk, twirling the fishing net and bonking several frogs atop the heads with it.
The frogs charged. Left and right the fishing pole struck, laying about and laying the frogs flat upon their rumps. On the count of three, all was still.
Adelaide made a satisfied ‘hmph’ sound and set the net beside her. The oracle nodded and said “Good job, your highness,” and he began plucking up the limp frogs from the earth and dropping them into the barrel. On occasion one or two of the frogs that were already within the barrel tried to leap out, but the barrel was too deep. Within several moments there were no frogs left in the street. The oracle fastened the lid upon it once again.
“Now!” said Adelaide. “We shall put that barrel in the dark of the alleyway. Once I have conquered the kingdom, I shall have them sent away.”
“Very well,” said the oracle before tipping the barrel onto its side. With a push and a shove he began rolling it down the alleyway. Thumps and exclamations rang out from within.
“Ouch!” “Eech!” squealed the frogs from within. Adelaide and the oracle paid them no heed. They knew that the frogs were of a complaining sort of people. They were not truly being hurt more than a scuff or a bruise.
Once the end of the alleyway was reached, the two set the barrel in a dark corner where no one would find it. The frogs, sensing they were about to be abandoned, set up a clamor and began making a ruckus of ‘rubbits’ and even shouted out ‘help!’.
Adelaide knocked on the side of the barrel. “If you are quiet, when I send you away you shall have rations for the road. Honeycakes,” she said.
The frogs were silent. Not even a ‘meep’ was heard.
Adelaide nodded, satisfied. The oracle was impressed. “What a diplomat you are,” he said sweetly, happy that the frog’s fate was not too sour.
“I learned from the best,” said Adelaide with a sniffle. For the thoughts of her parents being dead. Ah! How that hurt her little heart. How it still sent tears to her eyes and mad her heart grow heavy. But it also strengthened her resolve. It made her certain that she must be the one to reign now. There was no one else to do it but her.
But she still had no army! What was she to do?
That busied her mind all night. She thought and thought while walking the dark alleyways with the oracle at her side. She wondered and pondered while snatching up frogs and bargaining them into silence. Then, as the first glimpses of dawn shone on the horizon, a realization came over her.
It was not glistening and shining but a calm, hard, and truthful fact that she became aware of.
She did not need an army.
What? What is a princess without her army? Well, as it turns out, very capable.
With her fishing pole in one hand and the promise of honey cakes in the other, Adelaide was rounding up most of the Frog King’s army into barrels that she stole from around the city. Once that army was out of the way, all she would have to contend with were the Frog King’s personal guards. That, and the Frog King himself.
As dawn broke across the city of Farfadel, Adelaide was cool. Adelaide was calm. Adelaide felt neither exhaustion or frustration. She was ready.
“We are going to take over the castle,” she announced to the oracle.
“Oh?” said the oracle, proving just how mild-mannered and unshakeable he was. “Alright then.”
And so it was! Great reader, powerful one of vast imagination, imagine as you will, this scene.
A chipmunk! Gloriously decked out in the brightest of reds and deepest of black armor. Her chin is high, her eyes are flashing with determination. One hand is on her hip, the other is on the fishing pole. Her tail is up and fluffed, ready for whatever may come.
At her side stands the oracle, a figure so slim and so calm nearly everyone (certainly, you too) underestimates him. His eyes are brilliant, his hair floating like streams of smoke about him.
Ah! The sun shone upon them. Ah! They were brave and glorious! Ah! They were noble and righteous-
“We’re going to sneak up through the sewers and kill the Frog King when he isn’t looking,” announced Adelaide proudly to the whole city.
Well, perhaps not so noble or brave…
“Oh?” said the oracle gently. “Are we?”
Adelaide’s round and fluffy ears pricked, hearing something in the oracle’s gentle tone. “What?” she asked, turning to face him. “Did you see something different?”
The oracle smiled kindly. “I see you and him having a great and glorious final battle. You will win, of course. Do not fear.”
“Tish-tosh,” muttered Adelaide. “I am a strategist and a plotter, not a chivalrous buffoon. I will do no such thing. I am small, and must put the advantages to my side. We shall sneak into the castle.”
“Must it be the latrines though?” winced the oracle. “We will not be able to sneak upon anyone if we reek of that.”
Adelaide considered again. “I am a chipmunk,” she muttered. “I could scale the walls.” Then, looking over the oracle, she said “I could hide inside your sleeves and you could enter the castle by saying you’ve seen something the King must know.”
The oracle frowned. “Me? But I am not the king’s oracle!”
Adelaide chuckled in a very chipmunk-y way. “Do the frogs know that?” she asked.
Now there was a little problem however. You see, the King and Queen of Farfadel did not have an oracle. Hence, Adelaide and the oracle did not know what they were impersonating. They drew upon their imaginations, rumors and tidbits, and they scavenged around for whatever might look mystical and empowering.
A scarf went missing from a windowsill. An orange vanished from a cook’s shelf. A book was snatched up from a door left ajar. Some beads and baubles went missing from an abandoned stand – and there it was.
As the sun rose and beat down unusually fiercely upon Farfadel, the oracle presented himself at the castle’s gates.
His long black robe was doused with fairy glitter that itched at the nose. His ears were hung about with several earrings of red, green, and orange. As his ears were not pierced, they were hooked atop his ears and left to jangle as they would. His long ashen hair was no longer visible. In its stead, three scarves of blue, green, and yellow were cockishly draped and fluffed atop his head. His pale face was adorned with several charcoal squiggles and markings here and there, along with more fairy glitter. Some of the glitter had gotten into his eyes and turned them quite red and dangerous looking.
In his left hand the oracle was holding a thick volume. It was a book on plums and the preservation thereof, but they had doused it in the last of that fairy glitter and now it looked very respectable and venerable. In the other hand the oracle held the orange.
“Why the orange?” he had asked, perplexed as Adelaide shoved it into his hand.
“I do not know,” Adelaide said. “And neither will they. So they will think you are powerful.”
And it worked.
The oracle drew up before the guards at the gates. His eyes flashed red, his entire robe glittered and sparkled in the light of the sun, and he was made up of almost every color imaginable. Standing on one foot, he balanced himself and held out the orange to one side and the book to the other.
Also, Adelaide was sitting cross-legged atop his head with her eyes closed, pretending to meditate.
“Great beings of infinite solitude,” intoned the oracle, glaring down at the shocked frog guards that were beign slowly blinded by all that glitter. “I must partake of your leader and meeteth with him.”
The frogs blinked. They looked at each other. The oracle continued.
“For I! I am the King’s oracle!” and he stamped his foot to the ground so he stood powerful and strong. In a fantastically overdone gesture he thrust the book forward and the orange behind him. “Stand back! For I am the King’s oracle!”
The frogs blinked. Small flakes of glitter trailed through the air. Adelaide peeked one eye open to see how it was going.
Glitter landed in the frogs’ eyes. They blinked, and began tearing up most painfully. This, they believed, must be the true power of this strange being.
So they hopped aside, muttering under their breath “Oracle, oracle.”
“Hah!” With an arrogant sniff the oracle marched on by.
Into the castle he strode, Adelaide silently cheering. On and on he marched, straight into the empty courtyard. Straight up the great big steps and to the great big doors. He pulled them open with a loud creak, and marched on in.
There, the halls were silent. The air smelt of stale bread and unwashed floors. There was no pitter-patter of servants doing lazy chores. There was only flap-flaps in the distance of marching frogs.
“To the left,” muttered Adelaide. “He is most certainly in the throne room.”
And so on they went. The throne room was not far. Past the turn, up a tiny flight of stairs, and past another giant set of doors- that was guarded by over a dozen frogs.
“Rubbit!” they said in a very menacing way, pointing their pointy spears at the oracle.
“I am here to see the King!” announced the oracle imperiously. “For I am the King’s oracle and he must hear what I have to say.”
The frogs looked at each other. Their leader went ‘rubbit?’ and shrugged. The shrug was repeated and the frogs hopped aside, pulling the door open as they went. Obviously they were not very motivated for their guarding job.
With head held as high as it could go, the oracle marched on through. Straight into the throne room.
“Oh my,” squeaked Adelaide.
“Oh,” said the oracle softly.
“Rubbit!” intoned the giant frog.
For the Frog King was now as tall as any human! As wide as any elephant! He sat like a large wobbly wart atop the King’s throne, his sides spilling over the chair. His chins wobbled and his beady eyes glistened as he looked the pair over.
“Oracle?” the frog King said, his huge mouth flapping open and shut with a smacking sound. But what was worst of all was the smell! The room stunk!
It was putrid, it was petrifying, it was pungent, in the worst of ways. It was nearly enough to make one faint.
But the oracle was too mild-mannered to say anything about the stench. “Why yes, I am an oracle,” was what he said in his sweet tone. And he lifted up his hands.
Adelaide bounded down, landing squarely on the book. “Give me that orange!” she ordered before plucking it from the oracle’s grasp.
“Rubbit?” croaked the Frog King, his huge eyes focusing upon Adelaide.
“Tremble in fear, you horrid creature!” squeaked Adelaide, drawing her sword and thrusting it forward in a dramatic gesture. “For I, I am the Princess Adelaide! I was once your betrothed and now I shall be your murderer! Lay down, and let me slay you!”
Unfortunately, the Frog King was not that verbose. He merely heard a shrill “bla bla bla” and noticed that the tiny chipmunk was holding what looked like a very fancy toothpick. He thought that it would be quite useful.
Also not fortunately, the frogs on the other side of the door suddenly seemed to recall that their job was to guard their King. Upon hearing “bla bla bla murderer bla bla slay you!” they used their small iota of intelligence and realized that he was in danger. With a bang the door burst open and the dozen or so guards spilled through. They waved their spears and shrieked curses in their frog-language (“ribbut”, if you really must know).
And so the moment was. Adelaide, standing upon a book, sword pointing at the King. The oracle, pinned from behind by a dozen guards.
Oh! The suspense! Oh! The danger! Oh! ….
Look, a cliffhanger.