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The King’s daughter was dying. Her frail body was simply too weak to sustain her life much longer. A desperate search began, as the king’s men hunted in vain for a doctor who could save the princess.

The king issued a proclamation. He who saved the princess would be made rich, would have titles and land gifted to him, and would be treated forevermore as part of the royal family. Many were tempted by this offer and made their way to the palace to attempt their cures.

They were so blinded by the rewards of success that they paid little attention to the price of failure. If the princess showed no improvement under their care, doctors were banished from the kingdom. If she grew worse, they faced execution.

The kingdom was first emptied of doctors, then of quacks and amateur pharmacologists. The wise men and women, being wise, generally stayed quietly in their villages, still providing advice and cures to the people they held dear and not volunteering their services to the palace. They felt that the life of one girl, however blue the blood in her veins, was not as important as the lives of the many they served.

The king had begun to despair, and was drafting a new law that would force the wise men and women to attend his daughter, when a man presented himself to the court. He was no doctor, no quack, not even considered to be a wise man, but he was a very clever man.

He asked the king if his love for the princess was for her heart and soul, or for her pretty face. The king pondered this strange question for a moment before answering that her heart and soul meant everything to him. The man bowed to the king and told him that, in that case, he could save the princess, but he could not do so at the palace. He must take her to his home.

The king at this point was willing to try anything, so he sent the princess, with an escort of maids and guards, to the man’s home. He waited anxiously, sending messengers back and forth to try and get an answer, but the messengers returned empty handed. After seven days, the king decided to go to the man’s home himself. If the princess was not cured, he would bring her home.

When he reached the man’s home, the king found him sitting outside in the sunshine, eating an apple. He was furious. He demanded to know why the man was not working on his cure for the princess. The man finished his apple before replying. He was relaxing because his work was done, he told the king. The problem had been simple, he explained. The king’s daughter had a body that was not strong enough to sustain her heart and soul, and therefore her life. The solution was equally simple. He had built the princess a new body.

He opened the door to his home, and the princess walked out in a hiss of steam. The king stared in amazement, then fell to his knees. He was speechless. She was perfectly sculpted in bronze, with emeralds for eyes and ruby lips. Her limbs moved on perfectly crafted gears. A light shone from behind her eyes as she spoke in a strange mechanical yet harmonious voice.

“Hello father.”

© Kari Fay

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