Meet Peter the Toad

Each month I will introduce a new character from my work-in-progress, Heartless Hette, a retelling of The Princess who never laughed. I’ve already introduced the Princess, Sorcerer, Fool, Shepherd, and Healer (see the previous posts to get to know them). 

Today I’d like to introduce you to Peter the Toad.

***

“My lady.” The maid shook my shoulder. “Konrad is back.”

A vile scent assaulted me. I scrambled up, but the tree stopped me from going backwards.

The Fool stood too short a distance from me. His once bright clothing was caked in mud—foul, nose burning mud, as if someone had mixed rotten egg with smelling salts. His belled cap hung from his belt, and his curly hair was matted to his head. A thin layer of mud coated his face, streaked, as if he’d used a dirty cloth to wipe it.

I would have felt satisfied that he ended up coated in muck after he’d avoided it the day before, if it wasn’t almost certain we’d soon be in the same state.

“Is that the princess?” It was a new voice, croaky and the words ill-formed. “Or is she the more pleasant-faced one?”

No one was visible, save the mud-coated Fool and my maid. Late afternoon sun lent a golden glow to the edges of the stretching shadows. “Fool, what did you find, and who is with you?”

The mud on his face cracked as he grimaced. “I found a friend.”

He detached a clump of mud from his shoulder. It was a huge, warty toad that filled his whole hand. Its bulbous yellow eyes blinked.

“Good day, fair maidens,” it croaked.

My heart jerked like a gear had slipped. “Immutable truth: toads don’t talk.”

“Don’t talk?” croaked the toad. “Mostly. I haven’t met another in five freezes. He got eaten by a crow for talking too much. It’s lonely. I’m so glad this man came along. So which one of you is the princess?


Heartless Hette is open for pre-order!

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