Chapter 1: Cinderella
Once upon a time, in a faraway land, a young prince by the name of Marius Pontmercy lived in a lavish kingdom. All was well, until one day, the people rose in revolution.
Not knowing what to do, the king turned to his trusted advisor, who implored him to send his son off on a journey to rescue nine princesses.
"Once the young Prince Marius rescues them, then peace will reign in your kingdom once more."
And so Marius went to rescue the first princess.
He was to attend a ball and find the most beautiful girl, dance with her, and kiss her before the stroke of midnight. He found her, but before he could gather up the nerve to ask her to dance, it was midnight, and she was gone. He chased after her as best as he could, but all he found of her was one glass slipper.
With the help of the city guard, he went to the house of each guest of the ball to try on the slipper. One of the guards gave him a dubious look but just rolled with it; surely Prince Marius would be able to recognize the girl with just one look. Surely Prince Marius realized that many women could fit into that shoe, not just the first one. But he said nothing and let the prince go about his search his own way.
They went to house after house throughout the day, but no luck. Finally, they wound up at one house whose two daughters were obviously much too ugly to have been the princess Marius sought, but Marius insisted that they try the shoe on anyway.
To nobody's surprise and yet Marius's exasperation, no luck. Or all the luck.
They were about to leave when a drunken voice slurred, "Wait! I need to try it on, too!"
Marius stopped, turned, and with a bemused expression stated, "You, sir, are not a woman."
"Please do not mind him," said the mother frantically. "He's just our housekeeper. And a rather useless one at that."
"Let me try on the shoe!"
"This shoe is made of glass, and your foot will not fit."
Marius shot a glance at the guard, and the guard shrugged. The mother sighed. "Oh, please, Prince Marius, let him try it on. He will not shut up until you do."
Despite the man's large foot, the shoe fit.
Marius was speechless.
The man grinned. "Ha! I knew it! That spell might have gone away at midnight, but the shoe will always fit my feet! I was wondering where the other one had gone off too. Thank you, good monsieur!"
"Er... wait. Were you... a woman... last night?"
"Well, I'm a woman every night, as soon as the sun goes down and the spell disappears at the stroke of midnight. I was told I could break the spell if I kissed my one true love, which is what I was doing at the ball, but alas, he was not there."
"But I suppose I shall try again another night. Thank you, Prince Marius!"
Then Marius remembered what his father's advisor had said, and he gulped. Was he, perhaps, this man's one true love? He had to kiss him, and yet... he had to kiss all the princesses.
It made no sense, but he went for it.
"Wha-what are you doing?" cried the man, blinking at him in confusion.
"I... you were the most beautiful woman at the ball last night and I--"
"You thought I was beautiful?"
"And I'm on this journey to save the kingdom and I thought that maybe... I don't know..."
"A journey? May I come with you?"
The man smiled. "I think part of the reason I have not had any luck finding my one true love is that I am stuck here, cleaning and cooking for these ungrateful women when I could be out looking for the man I love! Please, let me come with you!"
Marius glanced at the guard again, who only shrugged again. Marius sighed.
"Very well. And you are...?"
Chapter 2: Sleeping Beauty
And so, with Grantaire, who indeed transformed into a beautiful woman in a sparkling silver gown as soon as the sun set, Marius continued on his journey. The mother and daughters were not sorry to see them go.
Marius wished he could say that the worst part of the trip was the constant smell of wine, but in truth, it was Grantaire's nonsensical ramblings that caused him the greatest headache. Every once in a while, he heard hints of this man that Grantaire called his one true love, but he understood that little better than anything else Grantaire had to say.
Finally, they arrived at a tall tower surrounded by thorn bushes and a huge dragon. This was where the second princess slumbered.
Marius bid Grantaire to stay put, and he drew his sword and charged in, screaming. The dragon, however, slept. This fact, unfortunately, Marius did not realize until he came within earshot, and the dragon awoke.
Marius's eyes widened, but he stood his ground. At least, he stood his ground until the dragon's tail sent him flying against the wall of the tower. Marius stood, shaking his head to see clearly, when he saw Grantaire come running towards him.
"Here! Let the Green Fairy help you!" And he tossed a bottle, which Marius shielded himself from with his sword.
The bottle broke and sprayed the liquid everywhere, and Marius was shocked to see that his sword now sparkled green.
The dragon charged again, and for some reason Marius thought it would be an amazing idea to throw the sword at it.
The sword pierced the dragon's heart, and the dragon fell to the ground in a cloud of dust.
Grantaire laughed. "That was lucky! Don't you have a princess to save?"
Indeed, Marius had the second princess to save, and he rushed up the stairs, Grantaire not far behind him. Finally, when they reached the room at the top of the tower, he opened the door to find said princess lying asleep in the bed, just as his father's advisor had told him. However, the princess was bald. And a man.
"This can't be right."
Grantaire nudged Marius in the ribs. "Aren't you going to kiss him?"
"I thought I'd be kissing a her."
"Apparently not." And Grantaire took another swig from a bottle that just seemed to have magically appeared.
Marius whined and approached the bed, staring down at the man upon it with a despaired look. Were all the princesses going to be men? But princesses were supposed to be women! And this was a particularly tall man! Marius sighed. Perhaps if he kissed this princess, he would wake up, and they could continue on their way.
So he did.
And nothing happened.
So he tried again.
"It's not working."
"What's not working?"
"I kissed... the princess... and she... he... isn't waking up!"
"Did you expect him to?"
And Marius had no answer. He sighed. Now what?
Grantaire approached, staring down at the bald princess while drinking. "He needs to come with us, right? Why not take him with us?"
"What, like kidnapping?"
"It's not kidnapping. You need to do this, right? And you're a prince! Or maybe he'll wake up if we shake him?" The princess did not. Grantaire shrugged and then swung him over his shoulders. "This will have to do. Come on, then. To the next princess!"
Marius sighed and followed Grantaire, but at the top of the stairs, the sun set, and he turned into the beautiful princess from the ball. The weight of the tall man was too much for her, and she fell over, the bald man tumbling down the stairs.
Grantaire cringed. "Oops."
Chapter 3: The Little Mermaid
Luckily, the bald princess was still alive and yet still comatose, and they continued on their journey. The third princess was said to a maiden of the ocean, and a kiss was supposed to make her able to walk on land.
"So you have to kiss a fish," said Grantaire as he pulled Prince Marius's horse with the bald princess tied clumsily atop it. She... he... had taken a tumble off of it five times already today, and Marius worried that the princess would eventually perish, or suffer from severe head trauma when or if he ever awoke.
"You don't believe in mermaids?"
"I don't believe you're having much luck with women so far. Plus, you're a piss poor kisser. Maybe that's the problem! Should I try kissing this one?"
"You are right. For it may be my kiss that breaks this poor sap's spell, but I am afraid he could not break mine."
"How do you know?"
"He is not my one true love!"
Marius rolled his eyes.
After another two days of travel, they finally reached the raging shores of lore. Grantaire immediately began to ramble about Triton, and Marius left him and the bald princess behind to scout for the maiden of the ocean.
His father's advisor had been unclear on this part of the journey. Was there a call Marius was supposed to use to lure the maiden?
Before he could try a song he learned from childhood, a huge wave crashed and pulled Marius into the deep of the water. He flailed; he did not know how to swim. Before the lack of oxygen could overtake him, he felt two arms wrap around him and pull him to the surface and then to the shore.
When he opened his eyes, he saw a naked man staring down upon him. Marius shot up, nearly head butting the man in the nose.
"Where am I?" he cried, but the scenery around him was that of a beach with waves rolling upon the sand. He looked down and saw that he still wore his trousers, and he sighed in relief.
Then, next to him, he saw the tail of a rather large fish. He yelped and jumped to the side. The wider angle of view allowed him to see that the tail of the fish was attached to the man.
Marius gaped. The merfolk were real after all!
"Forgive me, monsieur," said the merman as he scratched his nose. "I hope I did not spread my illness to you. I have come down with the most awful cold, but I could not float by as a man of the land drowned to his death."
"I... thank you, I suppose," said Marius warily. How does one talk to a merman?
"You suppose? Surely you did not mean to kill yourself!"
"No! No, that is not what I meant. I, ah, really do truly appreciate you saving my life."
The merman smiled. "What were you doing so close to these shores anyway?"
"I was, uh, looking for a maiden of the ocean, if you perhaps know who... she is...?"
"A maiden of the ocean? I am the merman of the ocean! Do you perhaps mean me?"
"No, a maiden. That is what my father's advisor said. I am to rescue a maiden of the ocean in order to help bring peace to my father's kingdom."
"There is no maiden of the ocean. I am a merman of the ocean in desperate need of rescuing, however! And I will certainly repay you by helping you bring peace."
Marius frowned. "There is no maiden?"
Grantaire laughed from behind Marius. "Looks like you have another man to kiss, Marius!"
Marius and the merman balked, but it was the merman who protested.
"No, no, no! That is not how I am to be rescued! I am in need to recover from my cold, but I cannot do that in the ocean, you see! And yet, I will not survive long on land like this. If you could help me grow legs, perhaps I have a chance to become healthy once more!"
"Well, Marius, you did say you needed to help someone from the ocean be able to walk on land."
"If he kisses me, he might catch my cold!"
Grantaire grabbed the bald princess and gently placed him on the ground. "Then kiss him! He's in a coma. He will not be able to catch your cold."
"I don't think that's how it works..."
"What's the harm in trying?"
And so the merman sighed and kissed the bald princess. To Marius's surprise, the bald princess opened his eyes.
"You," said the bald princess. "You are my one true love!"
And the merman, Marius noticed, was no longer a merman but a stark-naked human man. He smiled down upon the bald princess, who smiled widely back.
"And you are mine!" the merman cried. "I am Joly."
"And I am Bossuet."
"What is happening?" Marius moaned.
Chapter 4: Beauty and the Beast
Bossuet offered his coat to Joly until they entered a village where they could procure for him clothes that fit. Unfortunately, the journey was made little easier, for Bossuet had been asleep for many months and could not walk, and Joly did not know how to walk. Marius offered the horse for them to ride on, but both were persistent to learn.
Joly got the hang of it easily enough, but Bossuet faltered. For a moment, it looked like he remembered, putting one foot in front of the other with little stumble, until he forgot to look up and his head hit a thick tree branch.
They were finally walking without falling when the four reached a small village on the outskirts of the kingdom. After discovering that all the inns were full and Bossuet nearly getting run over by a horse and a baker's cart at the same time, Grantaire pulled them into the nearest tavern and ordered a round for everyone in the party.
"How is this supposed to help? Joly needs clothes," said Marius.
"Drinks first! On me!"
"There is a beast in the castle!" cried a man as he stormed into the tavern, absolutely petrified. "There is a beast in the castle, and he has taken a prisoner!"
Bossuet grinned. "Marius, did you not say that the next princess you need to rescue is a prisoner of a terrifying beast! Luck smiles upon you, my friend!"
Marius doubted it. He doubted it even more when the waitress spilled the wine all over Bossuet.
But the bald princess did have a point, but the murmurings of the villagers led him to believe that barging in after nightfall would not be the best of ideas. And so, he decided to wait, though lodging was still a curious issue. The sun set, Grantaire turned into a woman, and the drinks kept flooding to their table.
The next morning, Marius awoke from a slumped position on the tavern table. Grantaire, a man again, snored loudly beside him. Against the bar slept Joly and Bossuet upon each other's shoulders. Marius shook his head and instantly regretted it. He had never had a migraine so horrible.
The tavern door swung open, and a mob of villagers pointed at Marius. "You there! Prince!"
Marius froze. Were these people revolutionaries? They were here to kill him, surely!
"A woman who was here with you last night told us that you were going to save us all from the beast! Is this true?"
"Woman? Wha-oh. I, uh..." Marius cursed Grantaire in his head. Grantaire was not wrong, but to announce it to the entire village! "I... suppose I am, yes."
"Good! Then you must make haste and go now!"
"But what about my companions?"
And Marius found himself pushed onto the trail towards the castle with nothing but his sword.
So he was to do this alone. As he made his way on the trail, he realized that it was perhaps for the better. Joly and Bossuet had only just learned to walk, and Grantaire, though Marius was not unthankful for his assistance with the dragon, was too hung-over likely to be of any use. No, it was better this way.
Finally, he came upon a large castle with dark ominous clouds hovering around it. Marius gathered his wits and pushed open the rusty gate, hoping that he was not too late to rescue this princess and that perhaps he could manage to save her (or him) without having to confront the beast.
He entered the dark castle. The only light source was the orange glow from the far side of the room. Marius suspected that the beast was there but the princess was not, but he knew he had to check anyway.
Marius cautiously peered into the room, and indeed, there by the fireplace, was a ferocious-looking beast sitting in a chair. To Marius's surprise, however, he was listening intently to a man in glasses sitting on the floor. Was this the prisoner the villagers spoke of? Was this the princess? It could not be; he was in no apparent danger!
Marius shook his head. No. At least one of these princesses had to be a full-time woman!
Before he could pull away from the room to explore the castle, however, the man in glasses noticed him.
"You there! Citizen! Are you in need of assistance?"
Marius froze. Oh no.
"I, er, you see... I was sort of looking for... ah..." How could he explain that he was looking for a princess that the beast was holding captive without enraging the beast? Even if said beast looked completely placated.
"A princess!" cried Grantaire drunkenly next to him.
"How... how did you get here?"
"I followed you."
"You were passed out cold!"
"Hasn't stopped me before. I needed to know if this princess was my one true love and-" Grantaire sized up the man in glasses. "-well, I should say not this one. Oh, woe is me!"
The man in glasses was not amused, and the beast seemed to be following suit. Uh-oh. "Citizen, there are no princesses within this castle, and I have convinced this beast, who was once a prince, to release his power and, once he becomes human again, establish a republic for his district. Perhaps this will spread to the kingdom at large."
Marius was confused. "But... there is... much unrest in the kingdom, and..." What was a republic? Marius had never heard of such a thing!
"I have heard."
"... we need the help of the princesses to bring an end to the unrest. Nine of them. I have gathered three so far, and, well..."
"You are the fourth!" said Grantaire. "Go on then, Marius. Kiss him!"
The man in glasses balked. The beast bared his teeth. Marius wanted to flee.
"You-you know. I should really check on Joly and Bossuet. Just to see if, well, you know, they are alright..."
"Oh, they are fine! They went to buy Joly some clothes. And perhaps do some other activities." Grantaire winked. Marius did not want to know what he meant by 'other activities.'
The man in glasses put a hand on the beast's shoulder, and the beast calmed.
"I will come with you," he said, "if you seek to bring peace to the kingdom. Though I must warn you, it may not be what you expect."
"Done!" said Grantaire. "Now seal the deal with a kiss!"
The beast lunged, but the man in glasses held him back. "Easy, now, friend," he said gently. "There shall be no kissing."
The beast looked pathetically at him. "But... you are leaving me behind. Please do not go."
"I must, but I shall return when my journey is done. I hope you find your love, my friend, so that you may become human again soon."
The beast pulled the man in glasses into a hug. When they pulled away, the beast was in tears. Marius's mind spun.
"Well then, if you will give me a moment, I must collect my belongings. I am Combeferre."
Chapter 5: Aladdin
Marius gaped at the collection of Combeferre’s belongings. There were a handful of books, but more importantly, he carried with him weaponry of all sorts: a couple of pistols, a rifle, a sword, and Grantaire wondered out loud if he had more hidden within his trousers. This earned him a glare from Combeferre, but soon the three were headed back to the village to collect Joly and Bossuet, a heartbreaking roar from the beast trailing after them.
After the proper introductions were made, they quickly left the village before the people could ask Marius if he had truly been successful in vanquishing them of the beast. His return was enough confirmation, it seemed, for which Marius was thankful for, but he knew that it would eventually not be enough.
Marius told Combeferre what his father’s advisor had told him (though he decided not to tell Combeferre his true status or origin, for he felt that Combeferre would strongly disapprove), and Combeferre grabbed a book and flipped through it.
“I believe I know the tale of the next princess,” said Combeferre. “It is a tale from a faraway land. The princess marries a man who is of the streets after he finds a genie who makes him appear extremely rich and wealthy.”
“So… is she to be rescued from this man?” asked Marius.
“No. There is a sorcerer who is after this genie so that he may become the sultan, or king, as it were. This is only but one of the dangers of the monarchy, Citizen. If only one has power, everyone will fight and kill and deceive and betray until they have the power, and the cycle always repeats, and the people suffer for it.”
“That means your next foe is a sorcerer,” said Grantaire with a grin. “Best of luck, Marius!”
The trip to the next kingdom took about a month, in which Joly and Bossuet well established their adoring love for each other, Grantaire well established his role in constantly annoying Combeferre, and Combeferre proved to be an extremely knowledgeable advisor. He even tempered Joly’s worries that he was coming down with the measles. Finally, they reached a desert kingdom and established their temporary residence as they considered their next move.
They soon caught wind of the prince of the kingdom who was to choose a bride within the next three days. Many suitors had visited the palace, and while all had been rejected, none had ever come out.
“Your princess must be one of those,” said Combeferre. “We must go in and rescue her and free all the other princesses from the grasps of this prince. Perhaps in the process, we may be able to convince the sultan of the error of his ways, as well as the royalties we rescue.”
Marius began to wonder what Combeferre’s true motives were, but no matter. There was a princess who needed rescued, and hopefully she would be a she and the prince was not a sorcerer.
That night, the four men and one man-turned-woman scaled the palace walls and, thanks to Combeferre’s knowledge of palaces and castles, quickly found their way into the dungeon. To their surprise, there was not a maiden in sight. Or even a single human soul, at that.
“There is something suspicious afoot,” said Combeferre.
“Do you think it’s a trap?”
Grantaire grinned. “Perhaps the prince is making a harem out of these women. He just claims he refused the marriage so that more princesses come to him so that he can add them to his collection.”
Marius stared at Grantaire, appalled. “Who would do such a thing?”
“It is not an unfounded theory,” said Combeferre with a huff. “And it is worth investigating. Come, then, to the prince’s chambers.”
Despite Bossuet nearly knocking over a few vases, Joly sneezing and coughing the entire way, and Grantaire drunkenly rambling, they somehow reached their destination without getting caught. This just proved to Marius that this was, in fact, a trap, and he began to fret. Surely the prince/sorcerer knew that they were here and were planning to kill them!
Combeferre slowly opened the door to the prince’s chambers, and he sighed in exasperation. Marius took a glance inside and saw that indeed, there was a prince there, and he was surrounded by a trio beautiful women. To his greater surprise, the women seemed more than happy to be with him, cooing over him as he kissed up and down their bodies. Marius felt his face go hot.
Grantaire whistled quietly to herself, impressed. Joly poked his head through, and so did Bossuet. However, Bossuet lost his footing and fell on top of everyone as they crashed through the door.
The room grew silent. Now the prince definitely knew that they were here to rescue the women, and he was going to use his magic to—
“Well, now, we have some visitors!” said the prince with a jolly laugh. Marius did not sense any trace of malice, but sorcerers could do anything. “What can I do for you fine gentlemen?”
Combeferre was on his feet first. “We request that you release your prisoners.”
“I don’t have any prisoners.”
“My collection!” said the prince happily as he wrapped his arms around two of them, who rested their heads on his chest with pleased smiles. “They are not here against their own will, I assure you. Do you take me as some sort of monster?”
Marius stood beside Combeferre, keeping his eyes deliberately level with the prince’s. “You could have bewitched them!”
“Oh, I must say that he has done exactly that,” said the woman at his feet.
“I have declined their proposal for marriage, and yet they insisted on staying with me anyway,” said the prince with a grin. “Alas, my father will send them away in the morning when he learns that I do not want to marry them. He is growing desperate, giving me three women to choose from at once. Had I told him sooner, rest assured, these three beautiful princesses would have left by now.”
“Are you certain you must tell your father?” asked another woman.
“He will give me little choice, I am afraid.”
“Wait, let me get this straight,” said Grantaire from the floor, still grinning wickedly. “These women come here, hoping to win your hand in marriage, and you sleep with them, and then show them the door?”
“That isn’t what—oh my.” The prince smiled at Grantaire. “Now aren’t you gorgeous? Would you like to join us?”
“She’s a man under a spell,” said Combeferre bluntly. “And we do not have time for this.”
“COURFEYRAC!” cried a voice behind them. In burst the sultan, small and round, and he immediately shielded his eyes. “For crying out loud, boy, put on some clothes!”
“Because it is indecent! As well as you lying in bed with all three of the princesses you are supposed to choose from to marry!”
“Oh, Father, must we go through this again? I have no interest in marriage.”
“You have a responsibility to your kingdom!”
“I do not want it. It is such a backwards institution.”
Combeferre raised his eyebrows and a small smile tugged at his face.
The sultan’s face turned red with anger, and Marius realized that they were forgotten. He gestured to the others that now was the time to sneak away, but neither Combeferre nor Grantaire paid attention, the latter snickering quietly to himself at the scene before him. Luckily, Joly and Bossuet did, and they shrugged and backed towards the door with him. There were no princesses in need of rescuing here, clearly.
“You have to choose a bride in three days—” A bell tolled. “—two days! We are running out of princesses and time!”
Marius noticed that Grantaire was a man again. No one else seemed to.
“Then call up some of the noblewomen. The bourgeois women. I am not picky. In fact…” Courfeyrac smiled and pulled himself away from the women and headed straight for Marius, kissing him firmly on the lips. “… there you are, Father! Here is my bride! What do you say to that?”
And Marius wanted to die.
Chapter 6: Pocahontas
They had to make haste out of the palace, for the sultan was enraged and called for the arrest of Marius and his friends. Courfeyrac, naked, led them far and away and through the streets and finally into a small nook.
“I often hide here when I wish to escape. I never thought I’d use it when I actually escaped!” said Courfeyrac. “Now then, I have a fine wardrobe here that I do not mind sharing with you lot. All your choices in clothes are absolutely dismal. Marius, was it? You look particularly idiotic. Here, let me dress you all!”
Courfeyrac only succeeded with Marius, Joly, and Bossuet, for Grantaire was too drunk to care and Combeferre was much too resistant.
Marius found the clothes uncomfortable, but he did not know how to protest against Courfeyrac. However, he quickly fell asleep to the sounds of Combeferre and Courfeyrac, along with Joly and Bossuet, discussing more about the “republic” Combeferre had mentioned once before.
At dawn, the six, all clothed, quickly made their way out of the kingdom. By nightfall, Grantaire was a woman again and a camp was set up despite Bossuet’s failed attempts to set up a tent and a fire.
Joly was the first to retire for the night, saying that the trip through the desert had surely given him a new disease. Bossuet quickly joined him. Grantaire passed out from drink. Marius tried to sleep but Combeferre and Courfeyrac’s conversation distracted him. He pulled the pillow over his head, but a distant melody upon the wind kept him awake, even after Combeferre and Courfeyrac drifted off to sleep.
Marius took the pillow off his head and sat up, glancing around for the source of the sound. As he skimmed over the bushes, he thought he saw a pair of curious eyes staring at him. When he squinted to get a better look, they were gone.
Sleep. He needed to sleep.
Marius awoke the next morning to Combeferre already poring over a book for clues as to where they could find the next princess.
“Here in this forest,” he said as Joly and Courfeyrac prepared breakfast together and Bossuet and Grantaire clumsily packed up camp. “She should be here. Unfortunately, her tribe takes intruders upon their land with much suspicion. We need to be careful.”
And with that, one of the bars holding up the tent went flying high into the air, above the trees, and was nowhere to be seen. Bossuet cringed.
“Well. Maybe they would not have noticed that? Or see it as a threat?”
Then they were surrounded by camouflaged men with bows and arrows and spears pointed at them, and they found themselves taken prisoner.
“At least this way we should be able to find the princess easier,” said Bossuet, with earned him a glare from Combeferre, a sigh from Marius and Joly, and a snicker from Courfeyrac and Grantaire.
They were soon brought to a village made up of houses from animal hide. Many men, women, and children crowded around as they were brought to a man clearly in charge with a cloak over his shoulders that was decorated with the tails of raccoons. He looked stern and angry, and Marius felt as though their journey was about to come to an abrupt end.
“You,” declared the man. “You have come here onto our sacred land. You have been ravaging our crops, tearing down our trees, and destroying our earth. The area that surrounds us turns into a barren desert because of your intrusion.”
Suspicious, Marius realized, was putting it lightly.
“It wasn’t us!” he said without thinking. “We… we only just arrived here, and we come seeking—”
“It may not have been you, but it was your people, and we will tolerate it no longer.”
“But we come here seeking a princess!” cried Joly.
“And you wish to take this princess away from us. Thieves!”
“Please, sir, hear us out—”
“Take them away! At sunrise, we shall see them executed for their crimes!”
“But do we not deserve a trial? This is unjust!” said Combeferre, but the loud roars of the crowd around him deafened his words.
They found themselves tied up inside a tent and against a pole as the night fell upon the village. Yes, Marius knew, their journey was over. What did not help his spirits, despite their best intentions, was Grantaire, Bossuet, and Courfeyrac’s jovial singing, which caused one of the guards stationed outside of their tent to bark at them more than a few times. This did not deter them.
Marius hoped Combeferre would say something to them, but from what he could tell from the corner of his eye, the man was deep in concentration. Maybe he was conjuring up a plan! He was the reliable sort.
“Have you thought of something?” he said as softly as he could while still making sure he was heard over the singing.
“Hm?” said Combeferre. “Oh. I’ve loosened my bonds a while ago. I am just considering how we can get past the guards and retrieve my weapons. We’ll have to be careful from here on out while we seek out the princess. They seem particularly protective over their princess.”
“It is true, they are, and it is most annoying,” said a soft voice. Marius turned to see a feminine-sort of man… or perhaps a masculine-sort of woman given his luck… entering the tent. The singing quieted but didn’t die. “I strongly advise against trying to escape right now. Even after everyone has fallen asleep, more than just those two guards will be awake.”
“Who are you?”
“Pardon me. My name is Jehan. I am the son of the chief, and the princess that you seek.”
Joly grinned hopefully. “So you will free us?”
Jehan nodded. “But not tonight. I will help you, but please, trust me, I cannot do it until the morning.”
“In the morning we will be executed,” said Combeferre, “unless you have a plan.”
“I do. Just trust me, and please do go along with it. And then I shall accompany you. But until then, stay here, and stay quiet.” Jehan shot a pleading look at Grantaire, the only one who was still singing. She did so, not at all sheepish, and shrugged and drifted to sleep.
“Alright,” said Combeferre. “We will trust you.”
Marius was less inclined to, especially when Jehan left the tent with a wink in Marius’s general direction. Though the others were able to get to sleep, he found that he could not, and it brought him little relief that Combeferre could not either.
Finally, the morning came, and the six of them were dragged roughly out of the tent and into the daylight. There, the chief awaited them with a staff in his hands that had a large rock tied relentlessly to the top. Marius looked around wildly for Jehan, but there was no sign. Had they been tricked last night?
As they were prepared for the execution, the chief gave a speech that Marius did not quite understand. Finally, a voice cried out:
And there was Jehan at long last.
“My son!” said the chief, and Marius sighed. Of course this princess was a man. Of course. A feminine-sort of man, but still a man.
“Please do not do this, Father. They have done nothing wrong! They are but simple travelers who came the wrong way.”
“They said they came here for you!”
“They came here looking for me because I had helped them when they first arrived,” said Jehan. “I helped them hunt and cook and survive, and I taught them the ways of our people as a way to help bridge the gap between them and us. There is no need to kill them, Father, for killing will only lead to more killing.”
Combeferre smiled. Was he impressed yet again, Marius wondered. Jehan certainly weaved a fine lie as only a storyteller could.
“My son,” said the chief, unconvinced. “Stand back.”
“Just because you have made friends with these men—”
“I have done more than make friends with them,” said Jehan, and he turned and pulled Marius into a passionate kiss. “I have fallen in love with one of them. If you are to kill them, you must kill me, too, for I cannot and shall not live without him.”
Marius could tell that it took all of Grantaire, Courfeyrac, and Bossuet’s effors not to burst out laughing. Even Combeferre looked terribly amused.
Marius wondered why this was his life.
And somehow, that did the trick, and the chief let the men go and celebrated them as members of the tribe and his family.
Why was this his life?
Chapter 7: Mulan
After a feast in Marius’s honor, during which Marius felt extremely uncomfortable, Jehan announced that he will be departing with the group in the morning and will not return for a very long time. At dawn, before they left, the chief pulled Marius to the side and asked him to take care of Jehan, and he called Marius, “my son.”
Marius wondered how he wound up with two fiancés. Courfeyrac, however, was greatly amused, and during the journey made great friends with Jehan, even after Jehan apologized to Marius about the stunt he pulled. Marius told him to forget about it.
Marius greatly wanted to forget about it and everything else that had happened since he left the comforts of his father’s castle.
As they approached the next kingdom, Combeferre asked Marius about the next princess. Disguised as a warrior, the adviser had told him, to hide her true identity. This meant, Marius hoped, that this princess would actually be a woman, but he was wary about placing any bets on that.
Grantaire, on the other hand, was more than willing to place a bet that the princess would yet again be a man. The others quickly joined in. Courfeyrac sided with Grantaire, and Joly, Bossuet, and Jehan placed their bets that the princess would surely be a woman. Joly seemed to do it out of pity for Marius, Bossuet had no money and so took up Joly’s bet, and Jehan had the notion that they were entering a kingdom where women were not allowed to fight, but this princess wanted to save her kingdom and so disguised herself as a warrior to become a hero.
“But then why would she need rescuing?” asked Grantaire.
“Jehan didn’t need rescuing,” Bossuet pointed out. “He rescued us.”
“Do you suppose this next princess will wind up rescuing us, too?”
And then they placed bets on that.
Marius wondered why all of them couldn’t just be women, especially when Combeferre furtively placed his own bet, whispering it only to Courfeyrac. Courfeyrac grinned mischievously. Marius had a bad feeling about this.
They arrived to the next kingdom in no time. In fact, Marius felt that they had arrived too soon. This fact was confirmed when all the townspeople looked upon the group with suspicion and whispered to each other excitedly.
Marius was about to ask if it was too late to place a bet on whether or not they were to be rescued when a well-built woman approached them curiously. “What are you lot doing here? Shouldn’t you be out in the fields working? It’s that time of year where all men must.”
“Forgive us, madam, we are only simple travelers seeking out an old friend,” said Combeferre politely. “We are not familiar with your ways.”
“Hmph. So it would seem,” said the woman. “Come with me, then. No inn will take a group of traveling men as anything more than a haggle of prostitutes and you will be turned away, if no one calls the guards on you first.”
As she led them to her apartment, Marius wondered about the society that they had just walked into. As he peered around, he saw that it was mostly women, not men, who lined the streets and went about their business as men did in his kingdom. It was the women who were dressed in armor. And the few men that Marius did see were dressed simply and hauled around large woven baskets of goods on their backs. Some were accompanied by women.
When they settled in the woman’s apartment and made their introductions, Lou, their hostess, and Combeferre launched into a discussion about her society. It was a matriarchy, ruled by an empress, and the men were not allowed to do more than farm, sell their goods, and raise the children, while it was the women who fought, pursued academics and politics, and performed in theatrics and storytelling.
Grantaire said exactly what had crossed Marius’s mind in that instant. “It seems as though the princess you seek will be a man after all!”
Marius should have guessed as much, and the money was exchanged among those who had placed bets. When Combeferre gathered his share of the money, Marius knew that Combeferre knew all along what they were walking into. This was confirmed when Combeferre and Lou began debating men’s rights, women’s rights, and equality among the genders.
Courfeyrac joined in readily, as did Jehan, Joly, and Bossuet, while Grantaire, with Lou’s permission, raided her cabinet for wine that he shared with Marius. Marius partook and quickly passed out.
He awoke to a gruff looking man staring down at him, and Marius panicked.
“Who are you?!”
“Whoa, easy now!” said the man in an all-too familiar voice. “Sorry, I forgot you fell asleep before I revealed myself.”
Marius blinked. “Lou?”
“Actually, it’s Bahorel. And I believe I’m the ‘princess’ you seek? Combeferre told me that you’re looking for one who disguised himself as a warrior to hide his true identity. Well, that would be me. I am made to fight, you see, not work in the fields all day and raise brats. So I wear a wig, and I shave—” Bahorel made a face at that. “—and I have to watch my figure to pass myself as a woman. It is hard work, let me tell you! I will be more than happy to come with you lot so I don’t have to put on fake breasts just to wield a sword.”
Marius just stared as the others woke.
“But I cannot come with you yet. You see, I am also part of an underground resistance, and tonight is the night we launch our coup. You have no obligation to help us, but I have to see this through before I can help bring peace to your kingdom.”
“I will help,” said Combeferre.
“As will I,” Courfeyrac agreed.
Everyone chimed in except for Marius and Grantaire. Marius knew he had little choice but to join them. When Bahorel informed them that they all had to wear disguises, Grantaire immediately volunteered.
“This I have to see!”
“You’ll have to wear a disguise, too.”
“No, I won’t. If we go after sundown, I turn into a woman, remember?”
And so it was decided.
Marius hated his disguise. The corset was much too tight and he could barely breathe, the fake breasts were awkward, and the wig was itchy. As he shifted uncomfortably in it, he noticed that the others did not mind theirs so much. In fact, Jehan seemed thrilled to be wearing it, Courfeyrac was dreadfully amused, and Joly, Bossuet, and Combeferre took it in stride. Grantaire only laughed and declared:
“Only Jehan passes for a beautiful woman! The rest of you are absolutely hideous!”
“You’d look worse if you didn’t magically turn into one after the sun went down,” Combeferre shot back.
Grantaire shrugged, and the group met up with the other women as they trudged through the sewers to reach the palace. However, when they reached the palace, they found that they had walked into a trap, and a vicious battle ensued.
During the chaos, Bossuet’s wig was knocked off, and everyone immediately stopped fighting and gaped.
“A man! A man fighting!”
“Take him prisoner!”
For once, Marius and Combeferre saw eye to eye when their gazes met and the same thought went through their head: why were they focused on this, of all things, in the middle of a coup? And why was it both the resistance group and the imperialists who were calling for Bossuet’s arrest?
Joly ripped off his wig and stood beside Bossuet. “I am a man too! Your resistance is full of us. I thought we were fighting for equality for all citizens!”
“Indeed!” cried Bahorel, who appeared before them with the empress in hand, his disguise gone and a pistol to the empress’s head. “Look, friends, for I have brought you our tyrant. Will you throw away everything we fought for because I am not a woman, either?”
The women exchanged looks. Then the imperialists dropped their weapons and surrendered, and the rest of the coup proceeded without another hitch. The men were able to shed their disguises, and the rebel women apologized.
“Women and men must both be equal,” they said. “Bahorel, we trust that as you travel, you will see to it that this message be spread?”
“You may count on it,” said Bahorel, knowing full well that the opposite was true outside of the empire, soon to be republic: that women were not yet equal to the men, and it was the women’s rights that needed to be fought for.
Combeferre smiled. “Friends, we have found ourselves a powerful ally.”
And Marius finally realized that perhaps the peace that these princesses sought for his kingdom was not the peace his father expected. Marius did not know how he felt about that.
This thought was lost when everyone forked over their money to Combeferre, who had single-handedly won the second half of the bet. The only people who were going to be rescued this time, Combeferre had said, were the citizens.
Marius was pretty sure Combeferre cheated.
Chapter 8: The Princess and the Frog
Bahorel quickly acclimated to not having to hide his gender any longer. He let scruff grow, he barely left enough meat for the others, and his voice deepened as he guffawed and sang with the others. He and Grantaire became friends the instant he shared his absinthe, and Marius was certain that he will never know the glory of silence again.
Within a fortnight, they made their way to the next village. They stopped at a diner for supper as they discussed the next princess.
Grantaire burst out laughing when Marius told them what his father’s adviser had said. “So you have to kiss a frog!”
Marius made a face. “I am not kissing a frog.”
“No, no, the tale is about a frog prince,” said Joly. “So we have to find a princess to kiss a frog!”
“I do not think it will be easy,” said Combeferre. “First we have to find the princess and then the right frog. Perhaps we should split up to find both?”
“Where would we even start?” asked Jehan.
“Can we not just find the princess and go? Are frogs really necessary?” asked Marius, though he already knew the answer. And so he was ignored.
And so, as the waiter came to set down their plates, they split up into two groups: Combeferre, Jehan, Bahorel, and Grantaire would seek out the frog, and Marius, Joly, Bossuet, and Courfeyrac would seek out the princess.
The waiter overheard this and suggested that they go to the nearby bayou to find frogs. He also gave them warnings about the creatures they would find there and how to deal with them.
“You seem quite experienced,” said Combeferre. “Could you join us?”
The waiter shook his head. “I have to work here through the dinner rush, and after that I need to help unload the cargo ships before starting my bartender shift.”
“Why so many jobs?” asked Bahorel, impressed. “And when do you sleep?”
“I sleep when I can,” said the waiter with a shrug, “and I work all these jobs so that I can pay the rent, maybe someday go to school. But that is a pipe dream. It is hard enough making ends meet with three jobs.”
“I understand,” Combeferre said solemnly. “Thank you, friend, for your help all the same.”
After dinner, they split up, but Marius’s group had no luck. They found an inn and sent Courfeyrac to tell the others where they were.
Marius flopped into his bed and promptly fell asleep. He woke up in the middle of the night to the face of a particularly ugly-looking frog.
And Marius screamed.
He stopped when he heard Grantaire’s feminine laughter, and Marius glared at him. “Grantaire, that is not funny!”
“You are like a little girl!” she said as she coddled the frog. “Is it the slime? It’s the slime, isn’t it? Frogs can’t hurt you, you know!”
“I am not afraid of frogs,” Marius snapped.
“Then kiss it!”
“See! You’re afraid!”
Marius pursed his lips, keeping his narrowed eyes upon Grantaire’s grinning face. The frog ribbited. Finally, he came up with a retort.
“Why don’t you kiss it?”
Grantaire shrugged. “Because I’m not afraid of frogs.”
“Well, neither am I!”
“Then prove it. And do it on its mouth.”
Marius, knowing that Grantaire would not let this go, shut his eyes tightly and very swiftly put his lips on the frogs’ and quickly pulled away…
… only to find himself much, much shorter and staring up at a towering yet awed Grantaire.
“What?” Marius tried to say, but instead a, “Ribbit!” fell out of his mouth.
Marius thought Grantaire was going to die laughing. He hoped she did.
The next morning at breakfast, Grantaire carefully brought Marius to the table. After protests that a frog was not appropriate to bring to a meal, Grantaire explained what had happened the night before, still trying his hardest not to burst out laughing again.
“Are you sure you were sober last night, Capital R?” asked Bahorel with a quirked eyebrow.
“No, and that means it really happened!”
Combeferre sighed and stood. “I will go find Marius.”
Marius tried to call after Combeferre, but only the frog’s croak came out. He wanted to frown, but he found that he could not. In fact, the night before, when the fact that he was now a frog finally sunk in, the only way he found to properly express his emotions was jump wildly around the room, ribbiting and croaking and quite frankly wanting to run away and never come back. Fortunately, Grantaire had shut the window and the door and kept Marius in a jar for the rest of the night.
“Is it really Marius?” asked Joly as he leaned in extremely close to Marius’s face. Marius wanted to flick his tongue at him. Too close!
“Marius isn’t in his room,” said Combeferre. “Grantaire, do you know where he is?”
“On the table!”
Combeferre glared at Grantaire, but it was Jehan who came up with a solution.
“If the frog is Marius, he must be able to understand us,” said Jehan. “Marius, hop to me if you are indeed Marius.”
This was stupid, but Marius knew that they had to believe that it was him, for who knew what would happen to him if they thought him to be an ordinary frog. So he did as Jehan asked. Jehan took Marius into his hands with a great big smile.
“See? Grantaire is telling the truth! Marius is our frog prince!”
Marius was not thrilled at all by this turn of events.
The group then decided that the next logical step was to find the princess to kiss Marius, but they had no idea where to start. Not that Marius would have been able to help, either, but some of the suggestions and ideas they followed through on he thought was, as Courfeyrac often described his choice of wardrobe, absolutely idiotic.
First, Joly and Bossuet went out with Marius and asked the unsuspecting crowd if they would like to kiss a frog. Everyone either scoffed or laughed or screamed and turned away. Then Courfeyrac tried to charm women into kissing Marius with a promise that all their dreams and wishes would come true, but they wound up kissing Courfeyrac instead. Jehan approached men with the same promises, but he was largely ignored. Combeferre, in the meanwhile, did the best thing Marius thought anyone could do, and that was researching the people in the town and determining who would, in fact, be the princess they were looking for.
At dinner, they were waited on by the same waiter, who shook his head at their efforts.
“The only way you can get anyone to kiss a frog in this town is to get them nice and drunk.”
And that gave way to Grantaire and Bahorel’s effort, which was the most successful. They took Marius to the local watering hole and asked the drunken men to kiss him, and they all did, though it was in vain. Marius was still a frog by last call.
The waiter was a bartender at this particular tavern, and as the patrons cleared out he allowed the group to stay as he washed the glasses and wiped down the counters.
“That is unfortunate,” he said. “Have any of you tried kissing him?”
“I’m afraid that would not work,” said Combeferre. “This is our method to find the person we are looking for. While I believe we could break the spell, it would do us no good.”
“Maybe we’re going about this all wrong,” Joly suggested. “There is a mayor here, right? Does he have a son or daughter who we can approach?”
“He’s a bachelor. No child to speak of.”
“Not that he would welcome an audience with you, anyway,” said the waiter. “I doubt he will be re-elected. The way he raises taxes in this town, and for no reason that he is sharing with us!”
“At least you have the option to see to it that he does not run the town again. Not everywhere has that luxury,” said Courfeyrac.
“Maybe Marius needs to find his one true love!” Grantaire cried.
Combeferre shook his head. “That’s not what he was told. It was simply that he needs to be kissed by a princess. There was nothing about love.”
“Doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t let Marius choose. Surely he must have a better idea than us,” pointed out Bossuet.
The waiter put away the final glass and sighed. “I hate to see you fine people deliberate on this problem for so long, and especially with so many unwilling participants. May I try kissing your friend? It is early enough in the morning that I must have surely lost my own mind.”
“If you wish,” said Combeferre.
Marius, quite used to being kissed by drunkards all night, welcomed the sober kiss though he hated that it was yet another man.
He hated it even more when the spell was broken and he was a human again.
The waiter blinked, taken aback, as the others stared. “I… suppose I must have been the one you were looking for, then. For what it is worth, friend, I have no intentions of marrying you.”
Grantaire laughed. “No worries there. Marius is already engaged to Courfeyrac and Jehan!”
Marius buried his head in his hands. Why can’t at least one of the princesses be a woman already?
Chapter 9: Tangled
The waiter’s name was Feuilly, and upon hearing the journey they were on, he was more than eager to join them. His bosses were hesitant to let him go, but after a few words, for which Marius was not privy to but Combeferre was, they were on their way.
Marius grew concerned and turned to Grantaire.
“Do you know what a republic is?”
Grantaire shrugged. “You’re better off asking the others. They’re certainly more riled up about it than I am. I just want to find my one true love.”
And so Marius asked Courfeyrac, who launched into an oratory about the injustices of the monarchy and how the people are ignored by those in power, and what a republic would entail.
“But I don’t understand. You are a prince, too,” said Marius, confused.
“And so I know it better than most, and so should you! The people suffer, Marius. They suffer and kings and sultans and empresses have little interest in helping them if it causes them great inconvenience. Why do you suppose your people are in revolution? You gathered us together to bring peace to your people. They will not be in peace for as long as the monarchy is in place.”
“My father does what he can.”
“It is not enough, now, is it? Why are your people discontent? Have you ever once thought about it?”
Marius had not, and so he was quiet in thought the rest of the trip.
They reached a lone tall tower at the edge of the forest. Combeferre quietly told everyone to stay hidden in the bushes, and they ducked as they watched the scene in front of them unfold.
A middle-aged woman stood at the foot of the tower and angrily screamed up to the window at the top, “ENJOLRAS! Let down your hair this instant!”
“Enjolras, I am warning you!”
The woman huffed and stomped over to the other side of the tower. Combeferre and Feuilly distributed weapons as they watched the woman tear the bricks off the tower and throw open the door the hid beneath. When she entered, Combeferre and Feuilly led the group to the door and they followed her inside.
“Enjolras, I am quite tired of your—” She cut off abruptly, and the men had only just caught up. They stayed hidden, peering around the corner to witness.
Marius’s heart nearly leapt with joy. A woman! A woman at long last! And with beautiful, long golden hair and dazzling blue eyes! Never mind that she held a dagger to her hair, bunched in a fist as she stared defiantly at this woman, no. Finally, he had the chance to rescue a real princess who was a real woman!
And then she spoke. “Ah, so there are the stairs, Mother.”
Marius’s heart sank. She was no woman. She was a man.
Of course. Why did he ever think otherwise?
“Enjolras, put down that dagger. Now.”
“Remove yourself from the door and let me pass.”
“Absolutely not! I am your mother, and you will do as I tell you!”
“Not any longer,” said Enjolras, drawing the blade closer to his golden locks. This earned him a distressed gasp from his mother. “I will no longer cater to your whims. There is a greater world out there, and I must be within it. People are suffering and have risen up in revolution, and I cannot stay content and safe in this tower, just so you may use my hair to keep yourself young and immortal.”
His mother tried a gentler approach. “Oh, Enjolras, you mustn’t listen to the ramblings of drunks lost in the woods—”
“Drunks are horrible liars, Mother. And it was not just from them that I heard this news. The clippings I request from you, the books I receive from you… have you ever stopped to wonder why I ask these gifts from you when you go out into the world?”
“But it is too dangerous for you!”
“No, Mother, it is too dangerous for you. If I die, then I die in pursuit of a better world. But you will grow old and die from old age and in bitterness. And you will always fail in your efforts to keep me locked up in here. I am meant to be out there, and you cannot stop destiny. Behold, Mother, behind you: my reinforcements!”
And without hesitation, Combeferre, Feuilly, Courfeyrac, and the others emerged from hiding and trained their weapons upon Enjolras’s mother. Only Marius and Grantaire did not, for Marius was unsure what was going on and Grantaire looked star struck, for a lack of a better word. And yet, Marius slowly followed suit, hoping that there will be no bloodshed of a distraught mother.
“Enjolras! Who are these people!”
“Men of the revolution, friends of the abased,” said Enjolras, though he was no longer looking at his mother. Marius followed his gaze to see that he was looking directly at Combeferre, who stared back, as though the two were in telepathic communication with one another. Had they met before? “So step aside, Mother.”
“But you will die!”
“I may. I accept this fate, and you are long overdue in accepting yours. For that reason, and to be sure that you do not follow me except to join us in fighting for the rights of all men and women…”
And Enjolras took the dagger and sliced it through his hair cleanly. The woman screeched in horror. Marius gaped as she quickly turned into an old, graying, wrinkling woman, and then finally to bones and dust.
“You—you killed your own mother!” he cried, staring at the pile of remains on the floor.
“She was not really my mother,” said Enjolras. “She was my kidnapper, my captor, and yet my window to the outside world. She was a witch who could not accept her mortality. It is unfortunate that this happened to her, however. I had hoped that she might see my side. And though the length of my hair would have been ridiculously inconvenient for the impending battles, it may have also saved lives. Alas, she chose her fate, as I have chosen mine.”
To his credit, he did look a little distressed. Marius was unsure how to interpret that or how to feel about that.
“But I thank you, friends, for arriving when you did,” Enjolras continued. “I hope you will forgive me for bringing you into this.”
“Forgiveness is not needed,” said Combeferre, holding up a hand. “I see you already know why we’ve come.”
“Of course. They speak of you, you know. Prince Marius and Les Amis de l’ABC. That is who you are, correct?”
Marius slowly nodded, intimidated by the bright blue eyes bearing down on him. “Ah, yes, that would be me—us. I am Marius. And these men are Combeferre, Courfeyrac, Joly, Bossuet, Jehan, Feuilly, Bahorel, and—” He frowned. Where was Grantaire?
“Capital R, what are you doing?” cried Bahorel.
Marius turned to see Grantaire taking Enjolras’s hands into his own, a bright smile on his face and his eyes twinkling. His voice shook as he declared, “I have found you at long last! My one true love!”
Chapter 10: Viva la Revolution!
That night, the ten travelers sat around a campfire and regaled Enjolras with the adventure they had been on so far. Grantaire mostly talked about his curse and how Enjolras could break the spell, to which Enjolras only smiled politely, and briefly mentioned how Marius came to free him from his stepmother and stepsisters. When Enjolras seemed unimpressed, Grantaire launched into a detailed and exaggerated oratory about their exploits against the dragon that guarded Bossuet’s tower.
From there, however, the rest of the princesses told their tale: Joly and Bossuet meeting and falling in love, Combeferre’s successful exploits in convincing a beastly prince to change his kingdom to a republic peacefully, Courfeyrac’s collection and his intention to bring a republic to his own kingdom someday, Jehan’s village, Bahorel’s successful coup, and Marius turning into a frog.
Enjolras smiled. “It sounds like quite the eventful trip, and with many successes to bring a republic around to all the suffering people! Hopefully we may do the same with Marius’s kingdom.”
Marius had no idea how to respond to that, so he didn’t.
“Enjolras, would you like me to trim your hair?” asked Feuilly. “Excuse my bluntness, but it is a little sloppy. I have worked for a time in a barber shop.”
“I can do it!” Grantaire volunteered. Marius was sure he was the only one who heard him. Her.
“Of course, Feuilly,” said Enjolras with a smile.
Grantaire pouted. Marius patted her on the back gently.
The travel home was all too long and yet too short for Marius. He dreaded the events to come: what did the princesses intend? Did his father’s advisor know that this was going to happen? How did he know about the princesses to begin with?
But the group stayed lively. Joly and Bossuet were more in love than ever. Courfeyrac, Bahorel, Grantaire, and Bossuet made sure there was never a quiet moment. Enjolras, Combeferre, and Courfeyrac engaged in conversation about the republic they wanted to form. Combeferre and Joly talked matters that Marius could not comprehend. Enjolras and Feuilly often conversed about Feuilly’s hometown, among other things. Jehan nearly frolicked among the trees. And when Grantaire wasn’t trying to impress Enjolras, he ogled him instead.
One night, after everyone had gone to sleep, Marius quietly asked Grantaire, “I don’t understand. Why have you not kissed Enjolras yet if he’s your one true love? Don’t you want the spell to be broken?”
“Alas,” said Grantaire so loudly Marius feared the others would wake, “not all happily ever afters can come as easily as Joly and Bossuet’s! It appears that I must also win him over. I wonder what a man like him would ever want with a man like me, but he is my one true love. I will do whatever is necessary to prove myself to him!”
And so Marius dropped it.
Finally, they arrived at Marius’s home, where the revolution still raged like wildfire. Though it was Marius’s kingdom, he did not know the streets like Feuilly knew streets, and so it was Feuilly who safely led the group to the castle.
Combeferre declared it a necessity to meet the king’s advisor and perhaps meet with the king himself, though it was likely too late for that. The advisor was the one who sent Marius on this errand, and surely he knew the course of action that they were to take.
“But you want to start a republic,” Marius whispered as they entered the castle and searched for the advisor. “How do you know that his goals are aligned with yours?”
“We are Les Amis de l’ABC,” said Enjolras. “He knew of us enough to give you direction on how to find us. He is either going to have us executed on sight, or he will aide us.”
“And what if it is execution?”
“It won’t be. For your father’s advisor is Robespierre, is he not?”
“Ah, my boy!” cried Marius’s father, and Marius stared in shock at the sight in the advisor’s office. There were many armed guards around, and Robespierre’s head sat bloody on the desk. “You have come at last, and with the nine that are destined to overthrow our rule. Guards, arrest them and have them executed at once!”
“Don’t be a fool, Marius! They would see both of us dead!”
“Your crimes will not go unanswered!” declared Enjolras, but before he could draw his weapon, Combeferre placed a hand on his shoulder and the nine Amis disappeared.
The king was furious. “After them!”
As the guards made haste, Marius stared agape at his father.
“Father, how could you—”
“Robespierre wanted to see us gone! You will see, boy. With the deaths of Les Amis, the tide of revolution will cease, and peace will reign again in the kingdom!”
That night, Marius sat at the dinner table and played with his soup, lost in thought. He hoped his friends fared well. There was no shouts about any beheading, so he knew that the guards had not caught them. He wondered if he should have run with them, but he wondered if he could turn his back on his father, even if he murdered his advisor, even if his people had found need to turn against him.
A young servant boy approached Marius to bring him his next course, and Marius noticed that the child was much too skinny and sickly. His eyes were sad, and he trembled as he set the plate on the table.
Marius’s heart went out to the boy. He dug his hand into his pockets to pull out candy he had bought from Feuilly’s hometown.
“Here you are,” said Marius with a grin. “It’s really good. I think you’d like it.”
The boy began to smile, but the king appeared then and snatched the candy out of the boy’s hands. “Back into the kitchen!”
Marius was horrified. “Father!”
“Son, you are above dallying with kitchen boys!”
“No, I am not, and neither are you! We are all people, the same as they are!”
The king matched Marius’s expression. “What have the Amis done to you?”
“Enough!” said Marius, and he, too, fled the castle to find his lost companions, hoping that they would forgive him.
His dash through the streets was stopped short by the sight of a huge wall of furniture. In front of it were the king’s men. Behind it, Marius somehow knew, were his friends, the princesses.
He quickly turned into an alleyway to try and find a way around. That was when he bumped into Jehan and Bahorel.
“Marius! There you are! We were worried about you!” cried Jehan.
Marius could scarcely believe it. “You… were?”
“Of course! We thought you were right behind us. Imagine our disdain when you were not! But we could not go back, not right away. We needed to aid the people, and so Feuilly designed and erected this barricade! Is it not simply amazing? But, come! We do not need to launch this rescue effort after all! Bahorel and I were sent to fetch you. Let us go back!”
And so they did, where the nine princesses eagerly welcomed Marius back.
“You were right, Enjolras, Courfeyrac, Combeferre, everyone,” said Marius. “The king must be stopped. We can only bring peace with revolution when we see to the needs of the people. I fight with you!”
Pleased, Enjolras and Combeferre invited Marius to join the circle of strategic planning. All of the princesses were there, ready for battle, except for Grantaire, who was drunk. He was also a woman, as it was past sunset, but he seemed content enough staying by Enjolras’s side.
“I have learned through my studies that the king fears us because it is through our rescues and our stories that his power can be taken away,” said Combeferre. “Once this happens, he will be easily defeated. Why this has not occurred yet, however, is a mystery. All of us are assembled. We have played out our roles.
“I have met and befriended the Beast. Enjolras has seen to Mother Gothel’s demise and escaped the tower. Courfeyrac—”
“I have had my magic lamp rubbed quite a few times,” said Courfeyrac with a grin.
Combeferre shot him a glare. “Feuilly has kissed the frog prince, Bossuet is no longer in eternal slumber, Joly is no longer a merman captive of the sea, Bahorel has rescued his people, Jehan brought peace between his people and ourselves, and Grantaire has fit his foot into the glass slippers.”
“But he is still under a spell,” Marius pointed out.
“That spell is not part of his story. It is nowhere in the writings. Courfeyrac, do you perhaps have a magic lamp? A real lamp, and not your penis?”
Courfeyrac mocked disappointment. “Alas, but I do. The genie had already granted my wishes, however, and he will no longer answer to me.”
Marius decided he did not want to know what those wishes were.
“Very well. Now, Jehan—”
“Wait a minute, wait a minute,” slurred Grantaire wickedly. “Is your story not about falling in love with the Beast, Combeferre? A friendship cannot be enough!”
“It will suffice.”
“No, it has not!”
“We do not have the time to travel back to Combeferre’s hometown to see to it that a romance blossoms between him and the beast,” interjected Enjolras. “If we cannot find what else might be holding us back from breaking the king’s power, then we must rely on the power of the people.”
Marius made a face. “The king’s advisor told me that I had to, well…” He cringed. “He told me I had to kiss all of you. I… have not done that. Perhaps that is the missing piece.”
“Oh, alas, Marius, but Jehan and I will be so jealous if you were to kiss the others,” mocked Courfeyrac happily. “But I suppose if you must, you must.”
When no one else objected (though Marius was met with a couple of scowls), he closed his eyes to prepare himself. It should not be so difficult. After all, he had already kissed Grantaire, Bossuet, Courfeyrac, Jehan, and Feuilly. That was more than half! And there was no Beast to eat him for kissing Combeferre this time. He felt guilty at the prospect of kissing Enjolras, however, especially when—
Marius’s eyes flew open and saw the Amis in a frenzy, hastily grabbing their weapons as Grantaire fell into Enjolras’s arms, an arrow through his chest. Marius gasped and turned his head to the top of the barricade, where he saw his father with a bow in his hands and a wicked smirk on his face.
“All nine of you must be alive, and now one of you is dead,” said the king. “My power shall never be taken away from me now!”
“Father, how could you?!”
“Marius, you have disappointed me, but I will give you one last chance. You have one hour to join my ranks and be my son once more. Think carefully, my boy. With only eight Amis, the revolution is doomed to fail, and I will see no mercy to any traitor, not even you.”
And then the king was gone.
As Marius turned to the dying Grantaire, his heart sunk into a deep despair, but not for the omens the king had spoken. It could not end this way! It could not!
“Grantaire, stay with us,” said Enjolras softly. Combeferre and Joly rushed to his side, but one look and they knew it was no use.
And then she—he was gone. Silence fell over the barricade. Marius felt his eyes brim with tears.
Enjolras first kissed Grantaire’s forehead, and then he kissed her lightly on the lips.
And then Grantaire was enveloped in a bright light.
When the light vanished, she was no longer a she but a he, the same man they all knew him as, and he smiled up at Enjolras with a large, ecstatic smile.
Enjolras matched the smile, and everyone rejoiced.
Later, they discovered that Combeferre was right: that still was not enough to break the king’s power, and Marius’s time was up, and the attack had begun. As more and more people on their side of the barricade took wounds or were killed, Marius began to grow desperate.
Finally, he did the only thing left for him to do.
First he went to Joly. With an apologetic look to Bossuet, he kissed him.
Next, he went to Combeferre, who looked as though he did not know which he despised more: the distraction or the kiss.
Then he approached Bahorel, who, when they met eyes, knew what Marius was up to and took a few seconds to prepare himself. Then Bahorel was the one who kissed Marius, but Marius figured it counted.
Finally, he saw to Enjolras who grimly nodded. They both looked to Grantaire, who did not look pleased but raised his wine bottle anyway.
After that, the king lost his power. The guards began to fall. Some even turned against the king and each other.
Before much longer, the day was won.
And they lived happily ever after.
Chapter 11: Happily Ever After
The king was put on trial and executed for his crimes against the people the very next morning. Marius was now king, and as soon as he was crowned he immediately abdicated and had the princesses implement the new government: a republic, at long last. This spread throughout the kingdoms and provinces, and everyone was able to go their separate ways.
Joly and Bossuet returned to Bossuet’s tower and made a comfortable home out of it. With Jehan’s help, they removed the thorn bushes and planted a lush garden. The bottom half of the tower was dedicated to Joly’s medical practice, a passion that Combeferre had helped him develop during his time on land. The top half was their bedroom, where many more passions were explored nightly.
Joly sometimes visited the shore from where he came for nostalgia’s sake, but he did not miss his underwater home. He made two claims to this: that he was less sick on land, and Bossuet. Everyone was more inclined to believe the latter.
Combeferre returned to the Beast, who had met a charming young girl from the village who was enough to break the spell. The Beast begged Combeferre to stay with them, promising him the vast library all to himself, but Combeferre only stayed long enough to help the Beast establish the new government before he returned to aid the Republic at large and to stay at Enjolras’s side.
Courfeyrac, like Marius, became sultan upon the death of his father and then instantly abdicated. And then he continued his collection with his “magic lamp.” He, too, eventually returned to aid the Republic.
Jehan returned to his people, where they were able to maintain the peace. He was chosen as the representative of his tribe, a position he accepted wholeheartedly, but he always kept a journal and pen at his side to chronicle his adventures. To this day, bards sing the epic poem that transpired from it.
Bahorel also returned to the empire that was once an empire and now its own republic. Equality among the genders was fully established, and Bahorel never had to wear fake breasts again. He became a general, but he found himself having to step down after one too many brawls in pubs. He often missed his friends, and so he traveled frequently to visit them, leaving behind fistfights in his wake.
With the support of his friends and the townspeople, Feuilly ran a campaign against the mayor of his hometown and won in a landslide. After being reelected one too many times, he finally retired as one of the most celebrated men of all time. He was a hands-on mayor, and then a hands-on citizen, always willing to help out directly around the town whenever needed. It was only after retiring, however, did he finally get the education he always longed for, and he went on to do many more great things.
Enjolras and Grantaire stayed together in Marius’s land. Grantaire found passion in art, and Enjolras was key in the success of the new Republic, especially when Combeferre and Courfeyrac came to join him. A rumor quickly spread that Enjolras’s kiss could heal any wounds, a claim that Combeferre quickly and without Courfeyrac’s “help” deterred. However, the rumor was very true, and Combeferre wondered if Grantaire’s injuries were truly accidental.
Eventually, the injuries stopped coming. This coincided with the first time Enjolras and Grantaire shared a bed together, a fact that Combeferre would rather ignore.
Marius married a nice young woman and became a lawyer. Though the people wanted him to represent him in the new government, he refused.
“Perhaps my son may choose to join politics,” said Marius. “But I officially deny any royalty titles for any of my family members and my descendants. Nobody in my line shall succeed in ruling this land as a kingdom again.”
Then he quickly and happily disappeared into a quiet life.
And a kingdom never rose in revolution ever again.