The Flame Princess No More
By Henry J. Cobb
[Adventure Time is the creation of Frederator Studios for Cartoon Network. This work is done without their knowledge or involvement. -HJC]
Why couldn't he just leave me alone?
I peeked around the boulder I was hiding behind. There was Finn, bending down to examine the tracks I had left. I was so sure that I had covered them this time. He looked up at me and I saw the bandages he had applied to his face and arm, to cover up the burns I had inflicted on him.
"Flame Princess!" He held out his good hand.
I turned and ran, the best I could. My flames were now so depleted. He had hounded me for days without rest. I marveled at his endurance, in his condition, then put all my attention into making my way through the rocks ahead of me. Here on the edges of the Fire Kingdom there was nothing to burn to recharge my flames, but soon I would be home.
I stopped. His hound Jake was running up in front of me carrying a bucket. It sloshed ominously.
I turned back towards Finn and gathered my flames. "So that's your plan. You mean to douse me to death!"
"No, Flame Princess." Finn grabbed me.
I blasted him with what little remained of my fires. His clothing caught fire and burned away as he screamed.
"Finn, no!" Jake tossed the contents of the bucket onto us.
I screamed as the water ate away at me, but now I was so weak I could not resist it. This time there was much less pain, but instead I felt numb and so very weak. I collapsed in Finn's arms and he collapsed under me.
I felt so chill. The only warmth available was from Finn's body and I instinctively snuggled up against it. I closed my eyes, too weak to move. Is this what death was like? But no, I continued to draw breath. I rested there for a minute in his arms, his warm breath on my shoulder.
I found the strength to look into Finn's face. His bandages were gone, but his skin was unblemished. I ran my hand over his cheek that had been so burned, along his arm that had been so damaged, down his chest. He was completely undamaged and totally nude. For the first time I saw a boy without any clothes on, and he was pressed up against me.
I noticed that my garments of ember were gone, washed away by the water. In spite of the chill in the air I pushed away from Finn's slacking embrace, rolled over to a sitting position, then stood and summoned my flames to recreate my dress. Nothing happened.
"Flame Princess?" Finn continued to stare up at me, at my nude form. He blushed.
"Don't look at me!" I reached out with all of my strength to blast him with my fire. Nothing happened. My strength exhausted, I fell, into his arms, and into darkness.
Sometime later I awoke to the sounds of a small fire and the smell of smoke. I opened my eyes and saw I was in a cave of some sort. There was a fire near the entrance and Jake was cooking something over it.
I turned to the sound of Finn's voice. He was sitting next to me, without a shirt on. I glanced down and saw that he was at least wearing pants.
"What have you done to me, Finn?"
"I didn't do nothing, I swear. I didn't even look at you, I mean after you fell asleep. It was Jake who dressed you."
"Dressed?" I pushed down the blanket I was lying under. I wore a thin shirt that was long enough to reach down to my thighs. I ran my hand down it and felt some sort of thin shorts under that.
"Sorry, but I only had one change of clothes in my backpack. So I had to split it. I swear I didn't look."
"What was in that bucket?"
"Cyclops tears." Jake brought over a bowl with a spoon in it. "The way Finn was getting burned I figured he was a goner without it. Sorry about splashing your highness."
"How dare you!" I raised my hand to burn him, but no flames arose. I stood and turned to the cave entrance. I saw that it was raining outside. With nothing left to lose, I walked out and stood under the rain.
The water did not cut through me. All I felt was a chill as it ran down my body.
"Flame Princess!" Finn ran to me and wrapped his arms around me.
Once again I instinctively accepted the warmth of his body and leaned against him.
"Come back inside, you'll catch your death out here."
"Let death claim me." I didn't look at him, but I didn't resist either, as he led me back into the cave and sat us down by the fire.
Finn picked up the bowl and raised a spoon of the soup to my lips. Soup?
So called food made up mostly of water? How absurd. But I drank from the spoon anyway. It's warmth comforted me and I was so very hungry.
Finn raised another spoonful of the soup and I drank that down as Jake draped the blanket over our shoulders. Then I grabbed the bowl from Finn's hand with both of my hands and quickly drank the rest down. I felt no pain from introducing water into my body. Just a gentle warmth. Again I snuggled up against Finn as I sought the warmth of his bare chest to counter the chill of my damp shirt.
"Are you okay, Flame Princess? Do you want some more?" Finn took the empty bowl from my unresisting fingers and handed it to Jake.
"Stop calling me that." I closed my eyes as I snuggled against him, too ashamed to even look at what I was doing. I was acting like a small miserable creature, seeking what little warmth it could find. "I am obviously no longer the princess of the Fire Kingdom. Just call me Sholeh."
"Sholeh. It's a beautiful name for a beautiful princess."
I blushed and pushed away from him. I stared at his yellow hair, a sign of great strength amoungst the fire folk. I shook the image of his nude form from my head. "Didn't you hear me, fool? I am a princess no longer. I have seen what has happened to you water folk when they have wandered into my Father's kingdom. They have burned like this!" I leaned forwards and pushed my right hand into the flames under the soup pot.
"Flame Princess! I mean Sholeh. No!" Finn grabbed my shoulders and pulled me back against him. Then he stopped.
I looked down at my right hand. I was holding a piece of the fire in my hand. It wasn't burning my flesh. I didn't feel any pain at all, but I was just holding it. The flame started to die down as there was no fuel for it to burn. I pushed my strength into it and it brightened. Then I tried to draw it back into my body. The flame flattened against my palm but refused to enter. I closed my fist over it to snuff it out.
"Wow, Flame- er Sholeh. You do have fire powers."
"A pale flicker of my true flames." I stared into the tiny cooking fire as he sat down behind me and extended the blanket over us again. Once more I leaned back against his slight warmth.
"Sorry about the inconvenience, Sholeh. My boy Finn here gets carried away at times." Jake looked out at the sky then continued without looking back at us, "The rain will end soon. Will you be returning to your kingdom?"
"Not like this."
"Where will you go?" Finn's breath ticked at my ear as he spoke.
"It does not matter." I rested my arms on his arms that he had around my waist.
"Then come with us, to our house."
I found myself nodding then reached out my arm. "Another bowl please."
After the storm passed we rode on Jake's back back to their treehouse. It was an unfamilar mode of transport for me, as I had always moved under my own power before. Finn wrapped his arms around me to help keep me stable as I held the blanket wrapped around us.
At the house Finn introduced me to BMO, as Jake prepared dinner. Finn showed me a video game. I played for a few minutes then put down the controller and walked over to the window.
"Sholeh?" Finn walked up behind me and put his hands on my shoulders.
I reached up and put my hands on his. "I used to be able to cast fireballs from these fingers."
"Yeah, I saw, it was great. You went pow, pow, pow, pow, pow. That's why I thought you'd like that game."
"Such greatness is denied me now."
"No!" He turned me around to face him, and lowered his arms to encircle my waist. "I've seen lots of wizards cast fireballs, and they weren't ever made up of fire themselves. They didn't have your head start, with your ability to carry fire in your hands."
"What happened to them?" I looked into his blue eyes. The color of cool water or the very hotest stars.
"Well, I killed most of them." He looked towards the kitchen and raised his voice. "Jake, do we know a wizard who can teach Sholeh how to do fire magic?"
Jake walked in with a covered pot and placed it on the table. "The best one I can think of has been dead for a thousand years. Do you think she'll do it?"
"What?" Finn was startled for a moment, and then it dawned on him. "Yeah,
Marceline knows some fire spells."
"The Vampire Queen?"
"You know her?" Finn turned back to me.
"She came and visited the Fire Kingdom five years ago. Everybody was so afraid of her. I tried to run out and see her, but Father had me locked up in that lamp you found me in. Is she really that dangerous?"
"Naw, she's a radical babe who likes to play games. She's cool, but she still spooks Jake, for fun."
"It sounds like you've had lots of fun with her."
"Oh, yeah. We've had lots of fun times."
I turned to Jake's warning tone of voice. "Yes?"
"Don't misunderstand Finn. For what he thinks of Marceline, she might as well be a guy named Marshall Lee. He doesn't really see her as a girl."
"But I once saw all her girl parts, before I saw all of Sholeh's. By accident. Both times. I swear!"
"Did you ever kiss her?"
"Naw, I don't do things like that."
"He's wanted to kiss Princess Bubblegum, since forever."
"You know Bonnibel of the Candy Kingdom?"
"Oh yeah, I've saved her lots of times. She's kissed me on the cheek, for thanks."
"But never on the lips?"
"Naw, she's been pushing me away lately."
"So no girl has kissed you on the lips?"
"Not that I can remember."
I leaned forwards to briefly touch my lips to his. "There. Now one has."
I left Finn standing there stunned by the window and turned to the table. "That smells delicious, Jake. What is it?"
"I don't know."
"Didn't you just make it?"
"Yeah, but I got the recipie from an old book, from before the Great Mushroom War. The title was missing from that page. Finn likes it, so I thought you would too."
"I call it Jake's special stew." Finn joined us at the table.
After dinner the boy and his dog showed me around their house.
Finn stopped at the top patio, a boat perched on the highest branch, and as he looked out at the sunset he said to me, "Are you sure you want to learn magic?"
"Yes, what use am I otherwise? Without my powers."
"No, don't say that. You're great, just the way you are."
"A powerless princess is just a trading pawn in the bigger game. A trophy to keep in a lamp in the middle of the court. We had all heard the story of the great warrior of the grasslands. I can see why my father jumped for joy, to be able to trade a troublesome daughter for a mighty ally."
"No!" Finn grabbed my hand and held it to his chest. "Do you feel that?"
"That's the power you have, the power to make my heart dance. But, if magic will make you happier then I will do whatever it takes to get it for you. It's time. Let's make that call." He turned to the ladder.
"Can't we call out from here?"
"No, on the phone."
Finn led me down to the main room and spoke into a device there. "Hi Marceline, it's me Finn. I brought the Flame Princess home. She says her name's Sholeh and she wants to learn Fire Magic. So please come on by when you get this message."
"When she gets the message? Who were you talking to?"
I wondered how it was that Finn knew so many secrets of the Land of Ooo,
without knowing a single spell. I held back a yawn.
Finn looked over to me. "Oh, sorry. You need a good night's rest. No point waiting around for Marceline. It can be several nights before she checks her messages."
I followed him back to his room and he picked out another long shirt and undershorts for me. "Sorry about the selection. We can go over the bridge to the Candy Kingdom tomorrow. Princess Bubblegum has got all sorts of fancy girls clothes."
He then led me to the bathroom and showed me how to work the shower.
"You wash with water?"
"Yeah. Oh, sorry, water. Ummmm."
"No. I am a water creature now, so I must do what I must do."
He left. I undressed, stepped into the shower and let the hot water splash over me. It was a novel experience and not at all unpleasant. I applied soap, rinsed that off, then turned off the water, stepped out of the shower, myself off, and got dressed again.
"Oww!" Finn shouted from the shower. "Sholeh, you used all the hot water!"
"Why would I use cold water?"
"Yeah, I guess. No worries, I can take it." He showered for a third the time I had, then came back to the bedroom in his pajamas. He grabbed a blanket and pillow from the closet and turned to the ladder.
"Where are you going?"
"I'm going to go sleep on the couch. My bed ain't fit for a princess, but it's all I have to offer you tonight."
I lay down on the bed and held the blanket up. "Sleep here."
"It's cold out on the grasslands at night and thanks to you I don't have my fire powers to keep me warm. So you will, with your body."
"But, we're a boy and a girl. We can't sleep together."
"And why not?"
"It ain't proper."
"Jake, if Finn tries anything improper tonight, bite him."
"Will do, your highness." Jake didn't stir from his bed in a drawer and didn't look over at us.
"What?" Finn asked his friend.
"Sorry, Finn. Best do as she says. We wouldn't want her family to angry at us. That's why I went to get the cyclops tears. Burning is such an ugly way to die."
"How did you make him cry? Did you hit him?"
"Naw, I just told him a real sad story and his tears came down in a gusher."
"Oh, what was the story about?"
"It was about a buddy of mine who chased after a girl who only burnt him."
"I'm sorry about that. Now, Finn, get in this bed. I won't bite, but I am freezing."
"Alright, alright." Finn lay flat beside me with his arms to his sides.
I reached over to drape one of his arms around me, then snuggled back against him. He seemed tense, but in a few minutes I had drifted off to sleep.
I slept better than I had for years, without the pursuit of the past few days, and without the constant anxious stares of the court on me every moment. That was until I was awakened by the sound of laughter.
"Huh?" I turned over and sat up, disentangling myself from Finn's right hand which had reached over me to clutch at my chest and his left hand which had reached under to grab me by the waist and pull me against him.
There was a figure floating in the darkness of the room. She snapped her fingers and candles alit all over the room. From the stories I had heard this could only be Marceline, the vampire queen.
"Huh?" Finn sat up and rubbed the sleep from his eyes.
"Well, well, isn't this a comfortable scene." Marceline gestured and the blanket scooted down to our feet. Then she transformed her nose into bat nostrils and sniffed the air. "And what's this? You've turned Sholeh human? How did you do that, Finn?"
"Don't tell her." I reached over to put my hand on Finn's shoulder.
"Uh, I'm not sure about all the details."
"Don't bother lying to me, Finn. Just keep quiet and spare yourself the embarrassment. So, Sholeh. I can see why you might desperately need magic powers. Are you willing to pay the price for them?"
"Stay out of this, Finn. This is not between you and me. It's between me and her royal highness. Sholeh, are you prepared to pay my price to regain your high office? You don't need to you know. Just stay like this and Finn will always be rushing around to rescue you."
I frowned at her. "What is your price?"
"A price fit for royalty. Droit du seigneur."
I knew the term, but I doubted that Finn did. "I won't let you have Finn."
"I've told Finn many times that I'm not interested in him, that way. My greatest weakness isn't sunlight, it's redheads. That's why your father so urgently locked you away and kept you under constant guard after I visited your kingdom. He needn't have bothered. At eight you were too young, but now..." She drifted over the bed, reached down to grab my chin and turned my face gently from side to side. "Let's just say I love the new look. With you around, Bonnibel will need some new hook to capture my interest."
I swallowed. "Is that all, just one night?"
"That's not even half of it, and how much do you think you can learn in just one night? I will possess you, body, blood and soul. I will reach into the furthest depths of your mind and heart and I will shape you to my whim. There will always be a part of you in me and a part of me in you. And whenever I fancy, I shall return to taste of you again. On those many nights to come I will gladly share you with Finn, either beside you,
or looking out through your eyes. That is my price. And for that price I will teach you the greatest secrets of magic. I do this not to be cruel,
but I know the many perils of the greatest spells, and the only way I can ensure that you do not step over some horrible line, is to wear your feet myself."
"I..." I stared up into her terrible eyes and caught the faintest hint of the dangers she spoke off.
"Hush, sweet princess." She held one finger up to my lips. "I will take no positive answer tonight. I will wait until you have judged the situation to your complete satisfaction. I will require only your complete subjugation and uncondtional surrender, without any reservation on your part. It will take a while for you to come around to that. So please,
enjoy the human condtion, while you can. As a further bonus you can be assured that no demon will ever be able to take possession of you and turn you against Finn, for the demon who will have complete possession of your soul bears him no ill will at all. So think carefully over my offer while I fly off to tell your father that his daughter is safely in the custody of my henchman." She laughed again and the candles were all extinguished by a sudden gust of wind. Then her laughter faded away to silence.
I searched the shadows with my eyes for several minutes and then I heard Jake's quavering voice say, "Is she gone?"
"I can see why you fear her."
"No." Finn grabbed my shoulders and turned me to face him. "Marceline likes to play these games. She wouldn't hurt a friend of mine."
"This is no game, Finn."
"She's got to have her reasons for this."
"I can guess as to what they might be."
"Hold me, Finn."
He did, but it wasn't as comforting this time. I lay there with him snoring in my ears for a few hours before finally falling asleep again. My dreams that night were filled of visions of Marceline forcing me to do horrible things, to a horrible delight that filled my soul.