Once there was an ogre, and the ogre was as lovely as a redhead's song. This is very unusual for an ogre, because ogres are generally an ugly lot, warty and lumpy and with enormous noses that have great bunches of hair hanging out. But this ogre, whose name was Grind, was not. His nose was small and had no hair, his skin was smooth and his chin jutted ruggedly. You might think that it would be a good thing to be a handsome ogre, but you'd be wrong, I'm afraid. You see, ogre girls don't like a handsome ogre. Their idea of a good looking fellow is a big gruesome lout with a face like a frog's bottom and wrinkly, floppy ears that have never been cleaned and are filled with wax and spiders and breath so stinky that it would melt a metal shovel. So none of the ogre girls would kiss Grind, which made him very sad, because he loved kisses and dreamed of them and wrote poems about them, but only ever got them from his wrinkly old mother on his birthday, and while that was nice, it wasn't really the kind of kissing he longed for. The ogre boys weren't much help either, because they would tease Grind and call him names like "prettyface" and "cutiepie". They even had a mean song they would sing about him, like this: Grindy, Grindy, his nose is all tiny! Prettyface skin all smooth and shiny! Turn him over and kiss him on the hiney! Because of all this, Grind was a terribly angry ogre. He lived by himself in a cave in the Jagged Mountains and in his cave he would stamp about and crush rocks with his huge horny feet and roar a dreadful roar that shook the mountains all the way to Downsideup Village miles and miles away. And if any human was foolish enough to go near Grind's cave on a day when he was in his usual rotten mood, well, I'm afraid Grind would simply eat them up right on the spot without even bothering to take off their clothes or cook them. Which only goes to show you that even a handsome ogre isn't necessarily a very pleasant kind of person, and certainly not one you'd want to invite over to your house for dinner. Now, at the foot of the Jagged Mountains was the castle of King Ottoman, who ruled over the surrounding land. King Ottoman was a very short man, and he always wore his splendid crown because he was bald and didn't want anybody to know, but he was a good king and was smart and had wonderful table manners, so the people of the kingdom liked him and cheered whenever they saw him. King Ottoman, however, had a problem, and that problem was his daughter, Princess Vitrine. Princess Vitrine was tall as a lamp post and beautiful as a butterfly and had curly red hair, but she never, ever listened to her father. Indeed, she would rather have put angry cats in her underpants than do even one thing King Ottoman told her to. If he said hurry, she went slower than a sleeping tortoise; if he said go slow, she went faster than a five year old eating candy. Even if he told her to do something she really, really wanted to do, like go dancing, which was her very favorite thing in the world, she wouldn't, just to spite him. The king often sighed and said, "Why me?" and wished she'd grow up and stop being such a dreadful contrary child, but she'd been that way for years and showed no signs of stopping. One day, Princess Vitrine ran off into the Jagged Mountains with her red hair bouncing behind her because her father had told her to stay in the castle and sew. As she stamped and fumed up the rocky trail in her dancing slippers (which she wore everywhere) she suddenly came across Grind the handsome ogre. Luckily for her, Grind didn't see her, because he was busy practicing his kissing on a tall and very unlucky pine tree, which was about the only living thing in the mountains that couldn't run away when it saw Grind coming with his eyes all scrunched shut and his tongue stuck out (which is how the ogre thought one ought to kiss). The princess quickly ducked down behind a rock and watched Grind. She thought him so handsome that she was smitten by him almost before her heart beat again, and by the time it had beat a second time, she had decided to marry him and have hundreds of little ogre babies. She would have rushed up to him right there and fallen to her knees and cried, "Let me be your bride!", but the princess was wearing only her third prettiest dress, and she thought she should wear her very, very prettiest dress to meet her ogre husband for the first time, and maybe even that ruby necklace that went with her hair so well. Besides, it didn't seem wise to interrupt an enormous ogre kissing a tree, no matter how ruggedly his jaw jutted. So the princess crept very quietly back down the trail out of the Jagged Mountains and ran faster than a falling raindrop back to the castle to get her prettiest dress. As she burst in a whirl of excitement through the castle door, the king called to her, "Vitrine, where are you going now in such a hurry?" "I am going to get my very prettiest dress, Father," she replied, dashing for the stairs to her closet, "so that I can marry the ogre who lives in the mountains and have his babies." Now King Ottoman was a patient king and a good father who loved his daughter more than a summer day, but even he had finally had enough of her rotten behavior. "Oh no, you're not!" he cried, hastily jamming his crown back on his head (he had been polishing it in his lap). "Guards!" he yelled, "Guards! Lock the Princess up in the dungeon at once!" The Princess was very fast and she snatched her prettiest dress up and ran from the castle as quick as she could. But the king had many guards who were young and strong and fast too, and the guards had all been yelled at by the princess more than once or even twice. So for them, this was the happiest, best order they had ever got, and they ran even faster and chased the princess and caught her before she even got across the moat and grabbed her roughly to drag off to the dungeon. At just that moment, however, Prince Geoffrey happened to be riding past on his horse. Prince Geoffrey was not yet the strongest warrior in the land, having just begun his adventures at this time, but he was still as strong as three normal men and even braver than that, so when he saw the guards grabbing a lovely redhaired princess on the castle lawn and laughing a mean laugh, he leapt at once from his mighty horse and ran at them, yelling, "Let her go, you villains!" Prince Geoffrey thought that any men who would fight a girl must be cowards, so he expected them all to run away, but the guards really were quite brave and so all three of them drew their swords and ran to meet him, and the battle began. The three were good and fast, but the prince was strong and had a mighty shield, so though they surrounded him and poked and slashed, they could not hurt him. One of them managed to cut his arm a tiny bit, and he had just managed to poke a guard in the toe, making him yell, when King Ottoman, attracted by the bashing and clattering and yelling in his front yard, came dashing from the castle, his face all red and his crown all crooked, yelling, "Stop!" "King Ottoman, sir," Prince Geoffrey called (for he had heard about the good and bald king of this land and recognized him at once), "call your guards! These dastardly evil doers were attacking that lovely girl!" "You nitwit!" the king called back, "Those ARE my guards, and the girl my daughter! Stop your fighting!" "Oh," said the prince, and he put down his shield. "I am sorry about the toe, then," he said to the guard he'd wounded, who grinned and replied, "Aah, it's nothing; sorry for your arm!" and they were about to shake hands in a manly way when the king bellowed, "And just exactly where IS the princess, you dunderheads?". And they looked about, and up, and down, and one of the guards even poked his head into the moat for a peek, but quickly they all had to agree that the princess wasn't there any more. The king plopped down on the castle stairs and looked as sad as a puppy that's been scolded. "Well," he sighed, "I suppose I shall have to get used to ogre grandchildren, then," and a tear rolled down his cheek and splattered on the stone steps. Prince Geoffrey was shocked to see King Ottoman so upset, but he quickly learned the whole story, and then he laughed. "Oh, King!" he said, "Princess Vitrine may be quick and stubborn, but surely she's not faster than my noble horse! I shall catch her and bring her back here before you can say periwinkle poop!" and he leapt onto his horse with a clang of armor and galloped off towards the Jagged Mountains at once. Now Prince Geoffrey's horse was called Flash, because he was so fast, but even so, the love-struck princess was so quick that rabbits seeing her go past fainted clean away from amazement, and so the prince did not catch up to her until she had already reached the mountain cave where Grind sulked and grumbled. "Ogre!" she cried, "Oh, lovely ogre! Come out and meet your bride!" Grind, who had been trying to wedge one of his fingers up his tiny nose to get a particularly troublesome booger, came out from his cave. It had been some time since he'd had a human to snack on, and when he saw the princess standing there, his mouth began to water. "Yummy!" he grunted, "Lovely! Delicious!" The princess, of course, thought he meant how lovely she looked, not now lovely she'd taste, and so she blushed. "Oh, thank you!" she exclaimed, turning her face away, "you're so very sweet! Would you... like a kiss?" The ogre was struck dumb on the spot. A kiss? A real kiss? From an actual princess? The thought was so wonderful for him, so stunningly amazing, so thrilling, that he stood rooted to the spot. "Kiss?" he managed to mumble, thinking about how much softer the princess' face would feel than a pine cone. As he stood dumbfounded, Prince Geoffrey rode up on his exhausted horse with a clatter. "Foul ogre!" he roared, jumping from Flash's back, "prepare for a whacking you won't soon forget!" Grind swayed a little bit. "Kiss?" he muttered blankly, looking at the sky. Prince Geoffrey advanced, his sword shining in the sun, his shield strong. The ogre was twice as big as him, but he wasn't even slightly scared. "Aren't you even going to defend yourself?" he taunted. The ogre's eyes finally focused on Princess Vitrine. He saw her red hair and her long white neck. "Kiss!" he bellowed in delight, and lurched forward toward her. But the prince leapt in front of him and cried, "No kiss for you, ogre!" and swung his sword mightily, slicing into the ogre's belly. He finally had the ogre's attention. With a shout of anger, Grind snatched his knife from his belt and chopped at Prince Geoffrey hard enough to cut the pinkie finger clear from his left hand in one cut. Yelling and bleeding, the two bashed and slashed and smashed at each other in a furious rage, a frantic flurry of blows that sent splinters and shivers of broken rock and smoke all around the mountain, so hard did they fight. Even the clouds shook from the noise of their battle. But loud as they were, the princess was louder. "STOP!" she shrieked, and perhaps because she was a princess or perhaps because she sounded angry enough to split the sky in two, they did. "Couldn't I finish just one fight today?" Prince Geoffrey muttered under his breath, though seeing the princess' eyes flash he knew better than to complain out loud. "ME EAT HIM!" roared the ogre. "Not if you want a kiss, you won't," replied the princess icily, and the handsome ogre dropped his knife, though he muttered under his breath to Prince Geoffrey, "eat you... later!" "I heard that!" she said, and seeing Prince Geoffrey getting ready for another attack out of the corner of her eye, she added, "and I see that!" "Sorry," they both chorused bashfully, their heads down. Prince Geoffrey scuffed at the dirt with his foot. "But Princess Vitrine," he said, "he's an ogre!" "Do you really want to see me angry?" she said calmly, and the prince, brave though he was, hastily shook his head and was quiet. And so the princess led the prince and the ogre down from the Jagged Mountains to the castle bandaged up tame as a pair of dormice, though when she wasn't looking they stuck their tongues out at each other and made whacking gestures. The king was so amazed to see them all alive and so delighted to have his daughter back that he finally agreed to let her marry Grind, as long as the ogre promised never to eat any more people, which he did eagerly, because he still hadn't got the kiss he had been dreaming of for so long. The wedding was beautiful, and Prince Geoffrey was the best man, and they all danced and sang and drank and laughed. But the most amazing thing was when King Ottoman asked his daughter for a dance, and for once, for the first time in years and years, she did what her father wanted, and he was so happy that he didn't even care when his crown fell off. And in the end, of course, they and the children, who looked nothing at all like ogres and made the king's heart swell with pride, lived happily ever after.
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