“I’m boiling in here,” Lucas said, lifting his visor higher over his head. “It’s not easy wearing armor in hot weather.”
Princess Pulverizer frowned. Lucas had no right to complain. She’d give anything to be wearing armor in this—or any—weather. All Princess Pulverizer had ever wanted to be was a knight in shining armor.
Not that Lucas’s armor was particularly shining. It was more like rusting
. But still . . .
“It’s definitely warm out,” Dribble the dragon said. “Even hotter than my flame!”
Dribble was exaggerating, of course. But it was
a hot day. And to make things worse, there was a terrible stink in the air. Where was that coming from, anyway?
The princess sniffed under her armpits. Yikes! The stink was coming from her
. Quickly she lowered her arms to hide the stains forming under her armpits. Caw. Caw. Caw.
Princess Pulverizer looked up to see three gray-and-white birds fly by. “How about we find a nice sea breeze?” she suggested.
Dribble looked around. “I don’t see any water. Just dirt and grass.”
“There must be a beach over those hills,” Princess Pulverizer said, pointing up at the birds. “Where there are seagulls, there’s usually a sea.”
“I could go for a swim in the ocean,” Dribble said.
“Not me,” Lucas said. “I’m a terrible swimmer. But I would
like to go somewhere cooler.”
“Then it’s settled,” Princess Pulverizer said. “Follow those birds!” “We’ll battle storms, hoist the sails, and pray we stay afloat. For we are sailors all our lives and loyal to this boat.”
When she and her friends reached the beach, Princess Pulverizer spotted a ship and some sailors. They were cleaning their ship and checking the sails for rips and tears. As they worked, they sang joyfully. “Sail, sail, sail the ship. To where, we do not know. A sailor’s life is in the hands of winds that always blow.”
“Hey! I know that song,” Princess Pulverizer said excitedly. “The sailors in Empiria sing it all the time.” She began to sing along. Loudly
. “Sail, sail, sail the ship . . .”
The sailors stopped singing and stared.
Dribble shook his head.
“What?” Princess Pulverizer demanded.
“Well . . . it’s just that . . . I mean, it’s not your fault . . . ,” Lucas stammered.
“What my little buddy is trying to say is, you can’t sing,” Dribble told her finally.
Princess Pulverizer scowled. “What do you mean I can’t sing?”
“I mean you’re off-key, out of tune, and have no rhythm,” Dribble replied.
“But you have other talents,” Lucas assured her.
“Lots of them,” Dribble agreed. “You do quite well at fencing, for instance.”
“And climbing trees,” Lucas continued.
“You think fast and have clever ideas,” Dribble added.
Princess Pulverizer stopped scowling. Those were
important talents. Especially for someone who wanted to join the Knights of the Skround Table someday. Which was the very reason Princess Pulverizer was out here in the broiling sun in the first place. She was on a Quest of Kindness, searching for a good deed to do. Like a real knight.
When Princess Pulverizer had first asked her father, King Alexander, if she could go to Knight School, he’d flat out told her no.
But she hadn’t given up. She’d begged. Pleaded. And even given her father her special face: the one where she cocked her head to the side and crossed her eyes. That never
failed to help the princess get her way.
And sure enough, the princess was able to convince King Alexander to let her go to Knight School—exactly as she’d expected.
Just not right away.
Which she had not
King Alexander would only let Princess Pulverizer enter Knight School after she went on a Quest of Kindness and completed eight good deeds.
Princess Pulverizer had now been on her Quest of Kindness for what seemed a very long time. With the help of her new friends, Lucas and Dribble, she’d done a lot
of good deeds.
Like outwitting a wily wizard.
Winning out over a wicked witch.
And uniting a family of unicorns.
In all, the three friends had completed seven good deeds. Along the way, the princess had learned all about teamwork, selflessness, and kindness.
Now Princess Pulverizer was excited to find an eighth good deed to do—the last on her Quest of Kindness. Knight School was so close she could smell it.
But she could also smell herself. And she was stinky. Yuck.
The princess reached into her knapsack and pulled out her hand mirror. Sure enough, her face was filthy, and her hair was matted and greasy.
As Princess Pulverizer stared at her reflection, the image changed. She no longer saw herself as she was now. Rather, she saw herself with a sword drawn, and her legs poised to advance on an unseen enemy.
The mirror was showing Princess Pulverizer what the future held. Which was no surprise, because that was what the magic mirror always did.
Unfortunately, the magic mirror didn’t tell the princess where or when she would be in a sword fight. Or whom she would be fighting.
Could this be a practice fight, taking place in Knight School? She certainly hoped so.
But in order to make that happen, the princess had to find one more person to help so she could complete her quest for good deeds. There just didn’t seem to be anyone around but those sailors. And they didn’t appear to be in need of any assistance.
At one time, the princess would have been pushing her friends to move on so they could find another good deed to do right away. But Princess Pulverizer was trying hard to learn patience.
So perhaps the quest could wait while they cooled off in the ocean.
“I’m going in the water,” she told her friends. “Who’s with me?”
“In a minute,” Dribble said, scratching his shoulder. “I’ve got this itch on my back that I can’t reach.”
“I got you.” Lucas began scratching Dribble’s scaly green back.
“Thanks, little buddy,” Dribble said.
“Hey,” Lucas said as he scratched. “Your wings are getting bigger!”
“You really think so?” Dribble asked excitedly.
“Definitely,” Lucas said. “Maybe that’s why you’re so itchy. Do dragon wings itch when they grow?”
“I don’t know,” Dribble replied. “I can’t wait to have my grown-up wings, though. Then I’ll finally be able to fly.”
Princess Pulverizer yanked off her boots and started toward the water’s edge. But before she could dip even a toe into the ocean, she heard more singing.
This time, though, the song wasn’t familiar.
It wasn’t joyful.
And it wasn’t coming from the sailors.
It was a woman’s voice. And it was beautiful.
Also very, very
sad. “Set me free to swim in the sea. To flutter and float away from this boat.”
“Do you hear that?” Princess Pulverizer asked Lucas and Dribble.
Lucas and Dribble stood quiet for a moment. “Set me free to swim in the sea.”
“It’s a cry for help,” Princess Pulverizer said, pulling her boots back on.
“I guess we’re not going for a swim,” Dribble told Lucas.
“We’ll swim after we’ve freed whoever’s singing,” Princess Pulverizer assured her pals. “Right now, we have a good deed to do!”
“Someone is trapped in a fishing net!” Dribble exclaimed as the three friends arrived at a small cove. There, they found the singer of the sad song, struggling to free herself from a prison of knotted ropes floating on the water’s surface, not far from land. The ropes appeared to be attached to the nearby ship.
“Poor woman,” Lucas added.
“That’s no woman,” Princess Pulverizer told her friends.
“Sure it is,” Lucas insisted. “Look at her face. And her hair. And her . . .” “Tail,”
Princess Pulverizer finished his sentence. “She’s a mermaid.”
mermaid?” Lucas asked in amazement.
Of course I’m real,” the mermaid bellowed in an angry, tough voice. “Whoever heard of a fake
mermaid? Sheesh.” She began combing her hair with a pearl-covered comb.
“I’m sorry,” Lucas said. He looked at her curiously. “You don’t talk
like a mermaid.”
“What’s a mermaid s’posed to talk like?” the mermaid demanded.
“I don’t know,” Lucas admitted. “I’ve never met a mermaid before.”
“Yeah, well, I never met a kid in a rusted tin can before,” the mermaid replied.
“It’s not a tin can.” Lucas sounded hurt.
“That’s his armor,” Dribble explained. “It’s just old.”
“And small,” Lucas said. “I think it shrank in the last rainstorm.”
“Armor doesn’t shrink,” Dribble told him. “You’ve grown. Soon I won’t even be able to call you little
The mermaid stared at Dribble for a long moment. “Yo, dude,” she said. “Are you a dragon?”
“He is. But you don’t have to worry about him,” Princess Pulverizer replied. “He uses his fire to make grilled cheese.”
?” the mermaid asked.
“You’ve never heard of grilled cheese?” The princess was surprised. “It’s cheese melted onto toasted bread.”
“It’s not like we eat a lot of bread underwater, you know,” the mermaid snapped back. “It gets kinda soggy.”
Well, that made sense.
Dribble nodded. “You’ve never had grilled cheese?” he said. “I feel bad for you.”
The mermaid shook the ropes that were holding her captive. “That’s
why you feel bad for me? Seriously?” she said, rolling her eyes.
Dribble didn’t answer.
“The name’s Meri, by the way,” she continued.
“I’m Princess Pulverizer,” the princess introduced herself. “This is Dribble, and that’s Lucas.”
“Pleased to meetcha,” Meri said. “Sorry if I’m staring. I don’t get to see too many land folks up close. We’re s’posed ta stay away from ya. Now I know why.” She pulled angrily at the ropes tied all around her. “When I get outta here, I’ll never swim near a ship again, I swear!”
“How did you get tangled up in that net?” Princess Pulverizer asked her.
“Pirates,” Meri explained, pointing toward the side of the large ship anchored in the cove. “This net is tied to the side of their ship.” She splashed around angrily.
Princess Pulverizer looked up. She’d been so focused on Meri, she hadn’t noticed the droopy black-and-white flag with the skull on it hanging from a pole way up on the ship’s deck. At least the princess thought
it was a skull. There were so many holes in the flag, it was hard to tell. Also the paint was peeling, the wood was warped, and the sails were sagging. It was the saddest pirate ship Princess Pulverizer had ever seen.
It was also the only
pirate ship Princess Pulverizer had ever seen.
The princess was so excited, she could barely contain herself. She was standing barely three feet away from an actual pirate ship!
“Why would pirates want to capture you?” Dribble asked.
“Captain Bobbie thinks I know where to find sunken treasure,” Meri said. “Pirates love
treasure. They won’t set me free until I take ’em to it.”
“At least they figured out a way to keep you in the water,” Lucas suggested.
“Yeah, well, they do kinda need me alive if they want me to talk,” Meri barked back. “Sheesh.”
Ordinarily, Princess Pulverizer might have leaped to Lucas’s defense. After all, he was only trying to find some sort of bright side to Meri’s situation. But truthfully, Princess Pulverizer wasn’t really listening anymore. Her mind was elsewhere.
Sunken treasure! Pirates! A mermaid! What an adventure this was turning out to be.
you know where the sunken treasure is?” Princess Pulverizer asked excitedly.
Dribble shot her a look. Oops.
That hadn’t been very knightly. “I’m sorry,” she quickly added. “I meant, if you know where it is, why don’t you just tell them?”
“I don’t want ’em thinkin’ they can go around capturin’ mermaids to find treasure,” Meri explained.
Princess Pulverizer nodded. “Very wise,” she said as she held her sword at the ready.
“Hey!” Meri exclaimed in fear.
“Don’t worry, I’m just using this to cut you free,” Princess Pulverizer told the mermaid.
“A kid like you knows her way around a sword?” Meri sounded surprised.
“I’m quite skilled.” The princess waved her weapon dramatically in the air. “I used this very sword to defeat a famous knight. He’d kidnapped my friends and others. No one else was able to beat him. Whole armies had tried. But during our . . .”
“Oh brother,” Dribble groaned behind the princess’s back.
“She could go on awhile,” Lucas warned Meri.
“I will use this same sword to free you,” the princess continued. “Easy peasy
. In three—no, make it two
—strokes, I’ll release you. And then . . .”
Suddenly, Princess Pulverizer felt something sharp poking her in the back. “What the . . . ,” she began.
“Yikes!” Lucas shouted.
“Uh-oh!” Dribble exclaimed.
“Avast, landlubber!” said a fourth, unfamiliar voice. “Make another move and I’ll keelhaul ye.” Huh?
Princess Pulverizer had no idea what that meant. But she knew it wasn’t good.
Copyright © 2020 by Nancy Krulik; Illustrated by Ian McGinty. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.