Dare of the Mortog
If you walk through the majestic Meridell Gardens and follow
the winding dirt path until you reach the pond where Pink Lilies grow on the water's
edge, you might see a bunch of Mortogs lazing their day away. Now, you may be
wondering, "Why would I want to see a bunch of slimy Mortogs instead of appreciating
the beauty of the garden itself?" Well, if you look close enough at a particular
female, you will see that around her nearly non-existent neck there is a circle
of blue diamond-shaped marks; definitely not the usual trait of any ordinary Mortog.
That is because this unique Mortog was once
a princess, a green Zafara to be exact, who, while strolling through the forest
one day, came upon a sorcerer in a grassy clearing. The sorcerer, a Lenny, was
waving a wand around like a willow tree does in a storm, letting random sparks
of light shoot out in all directions. He halted abruptly when he noticed her
"Who're you?" he demanded hotly.
The princess stammered an answer. She had realized
that she'd just witnessed some dark magic, magic that no one was supposed to
"Well, my dear Princess -- Lelia, was it? You
have seen too much already. AND you've interrupted my peace. I'll just have
to get rid of you now, won't I?"
Her knees buckled in fear, dragging her to the
ground. She scrambled back, trying to find something to defend herself with.
"Don't worry, this won't hurt for long--"
"Stop, you fiend!" An elegantly clad Gelert
leapt out from behind a wall of bushes, sword drawn. His name was Vlad, and
he was an exiled prince. Presently, he was Her Royal Highness Princess Lelia's
'Captain of Her Highness' Bodyguards' and close friend. He had accompanied her
on her morning walk. "Let her go."
"Do you seriously think a sword can stop me?"
the Lenny scoffed. "Besides, it's not like I want to take over your little kingdom;
I just like practicing my Dark Arts in peace, like I was in this case until
my peace was interrupted," he said, obviously peeved, and engulfed the two royals
in a blinding golden light. When he removed it, two Mortogs sat in the places
of Lelia and Vlad. "See? Now you're not big interruptions. I'm happy, you're
happy -- Okay, so you two are probably 'unhappy,'" he made air quotations, "because
the spell I just performed is seriously inconvenient for you. But it doesn't
matter to me.
"Now I really have to get back to my Arts. I
do wish you luck getting back to your home after I throw you into the lonely
regions of the Gardens where you can't annoy anyone!" He whisked them away from
his clearing, weakly cackling.
As the years passed, Lelia and Vlad wasted their
empty days lounging on lily pads in the sun or swimming in the crystal clear
pond water surrounded by Pink Lilies. Neither could figure out how to break
the spell and, as the wizard had proclaimed, virtually no one ever ventured
into the rear area of the Gardens. Their only friends (if you could call them
that) were their fellow Mortogs, who didn't want anything to do with the strange
newcomers who didn't like their easy, lazy way of life.
As one day blended into the next, Lelia and
Vlad were sitting beneath a tree, basking in the shade one balmy afternoon.
"You know," she croaked, "I don't think I'll
ever be able to get used to this slime-wearing and bug-eating thing. I don't
care if it's good for my survival, either," she added before Vlad could comment.
"Indeed, Princess," he murmured lazily and went
back to his dozing. She bristled. How could he have adjusted to this life so
easily? Sure, she didn't miss the boring day-to-day life at the castle but she
was getting tired of this uber-simple existence; she could have survived living
in a small village as a common girl but literally living like a Mortog was a
little disconcerting. Ugh, she thought and dived into the cool water of the
When she resurfaced, she heard male laughter
and the rustling of bushes. She whirled in the water, looking for its source.
Three young men (a Blumaroo, a Kau, and a Zafara) burst through the shrubs and
stepped up to the water's edge, joking and passing around a bag full of sweets.
"How many people do you think come back here?"
wondered the Kau. "I wonder how that pretty Lady Evelyn would like this place...
"I'm sure she would, but she wouldn't ever come
with you; she won't even look at your face, Ernie. Remember?" The Blumaroo guffawed;
he was dressed as a Squire but seemed to be an equal to his noble friends. Ernie
threw a handful of Lilies at him.
"Ernie, Monet, stop that! Could you beat at
each other when I'm not here to see it?" the Zafara asked. A very handsome Zafara
he was too, Lelia observed.
"Princess, you might want to wipe that drool
from your lip," Vlad whispered from behind her, his laughter barely suppressed.
"Why don't you try and get a kiss?"
She continued watching the well-dressed courtiers
but still tossed Vlad a curt, "Why don't you try to get a smooch yourself?"
She sighed. "Don't you think they look like they're visiting the King, Vlad?
Vlad?" Her bodyguard was already in the water and swimming toward the visitors.
"Vlad!" she croaked and swam after him.
"You are too high-strung, Tony," Monet the Blumaroo
remarked to the Zafara. "How about we play a little game of Truth or Dare without
the Truth side of things?"
"Great idea," Ernie agreed, eyes twinkling madly
with mischief, "and it's our turn. Tony, we dare you to --" he paused to consult
the Kau, "-- to kiss a Mortog!"
"What!" Tony exclaimed in disgust. "You guys
have to be kidding! I am not going to kiss some poor, dumb Mortog just so you
can watch me be slimed by its insides."
"That's pretty much the point," Monet replied.
"So go on, pick one. Oh, look, here's one now," he added and picked Lelia up
out of the water as Vlad scrambled onto the grassy bank.
Monet shoved her right in front of Tony's face.
Vlad stared, hoping that a kiss would break the spell upon them. Please let
this be our way out, he thought.
Everyone held their breath as Tony's face drew
closer and closer until SMACK! Monet and Ernie fell over, clutching their
sides while laughter erupted; Tony fell over too, because something invisible
pushed him. He watched as Lelia transformed awkwardly back into her original
form. It was a strange sight to see; first her eyes bulged then her nose then
her long hair sprouted -- everything grew back to their regular size while encircled
by ropes of misty dust that twisted and twirled.
"Ulch," she said, examining her hands. "I felt
all slimy. Thanks!" Her beaming smile did not penetrate the shock of what her
saviours had just seen. "What? Do I have something on my face?" She peered into
the water to study her reflection and saw nothing wrong, until her eyes fell
"Whoa! This place must be full of princesses!"
Ernie shouted suddenly, the shock abruptly wearing off. He clambered to the
pond's bank, searching for the perfect Mortog.
"There," Lelia said, pointing to Vlad.
"This one will change into a princess?" he asked
but didn't wait to hear the answer. He planted his lips on Vlad's and threw
him up in the air to avoid the magic dust. "I'm Ernie, by the way," he said
"I know, I heard you guys talking," she told
them. She turned to face Tony. "I thank you --"
"Ack!" Ernie yelled before she could finish.
"It's a guy!" Vlad was sprawled on the ground, returned to his normal Gelert
self. Ernie, however, was vigorously wiping off his lips.
"You'd think," Vlad said, sitting up and brushing
the grass off his shirt, "the dust would give you a smooth landing but noooo."
"-- Thank you so much," Lelia continued. "I
don't know to repay you but one day I will. I promise."
"All I ask is your name," Tony offered, a hopeful
look on his face.
"My name is Princess Lelia, and the Gelert is
my bodyguard, Vlad."
Vlad stood up on cue and bowed. "Thank you,
kind strangers, you have no idea how long we've been living as Mortogs."
"Have you been here for a hundred years?" Monet
"No," Vlad said shortly, "it's just that we've
been here longer than we would have liked. Now, to the castle!"
"Oh, right, Mother and Father must be wondering
where I've been all these years," she reflected.
"We --" Tony jabbed his friends "-- would be
honoured to escort back to your home, Your Highness." He bowed gallantly over
"Thank you very much, that would be most helpful,"
she consented, a smile radiating her face. "By the way, where are we?"